“Some idiot has drawn ladybits on the Queen Victoria statue on College Green.”
— Bertram Fiddle (@BertramFiddle) January 7, 2016
Bristol street artist “Vaj Graff” is behind the graffiti, which appeared on the 127-year old statue on 7 January. This isn’t the first time she’s “corrected” art and signage in the city, 120 miles west of London.
“Queen Vic was a power woman,” she told the Bristol Post. “She was the original feminist and she was proud. All I did was show her how she wanted to be seen. What’s so offensive about that?”
Here’s the problem: Her Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India was many things – as the title implies – but “original feminist” was not one of them. Not by any stretched, steampunked, anachronized definition of the word.
This is a woman that called the suffrage movement a “mad, wicked folly” and opined that one high-born suffrage woman “ought to get a good whipping.” While many in the women’s rights movement at the time held her up as an example of what a woman could be if given the opportunity, Victoria saw her role as female sovereign as “an anomaly” and more than a decade into her reign wrote that “I am every day more convinced that we women, if we are to be good women, feminine and amiable and domestic, are not fitted to reign.” She was fervent in her belief that she, like all women, needed to be guided by a strong man. Her extended mourning after the death of Prince Albert was both a genuine display of grief and a way to step out of her public duties.
Victoria took very little pleasure in any aspect of womanhood. Women, she once wrote, were “born for Man’s pleasure and amusement,” and that was that. A veteran of nine pregnancies, she came to hate the very sight of heavily pregnant woman, and continually compared pregnant and breastfeeding women to a variety of barnyard animals. She was appalled by social reformers who tried to educate woman on contraception, believing it encouraged immorality and prostitution. She rarely showed affection to her children, constantly finding fault with them while simultaneously demanding their complete loyalty to her needs.
And a woman who didn’t think other women should not train to be doctors or nurses because they’d have to look at genitalia would not let her bush fly on the Bristol green.
As graffiti goes, the addition of “ladybits” to the statue is funny, but also a bit sad. In the end, those parts of her anatomy didn’t make Queen Victoria feel strong or smart; they made her feel “feeble” and trapped. Like all queens, she knew the deal. Her body was only valuable for what came out of it: a male heir for the throne.