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Born in Tameside, Greater Manchester, to a long line of cotton mill workers, in the same year that Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister, Victoria’s childhood shaped both her interest in economics and her ear for the voices of marginalised women. After a state school education in Oldham, Victoria earned an undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Cambridge, followed by a Masters degree and a DPhil from the University of Oxford. She returned to Cambridge as a Fellow in 2009. In 2014 Victoria commissioned a nude portrait by Anthony Connolly, exhibited at The Mall Galleries in London. After the media controversy that followed, Victoria wrote in The Guardian that she aimed 'to raise questions about the depiction of women.
Victoria writes of the portrait that: 'Having seen many female nudes in galleries across the world, I've been struck by the paucity of those including reading matter. It is as if – at least implicitly – depictions of intelligence and of women’s bodies are incompatible. I hope to show that behind every naked woman is a thinking being and that society should resist the division of women into “bodies” and “brains”. Whilst some seem shocked by an academic woman being depicted in the nude – despite the numerous nudes hanging on the walls of galleries – I wish to challenge the assumption that a woman's value and respect should rest on her bodily modesty. A woman should not be assumed to be stupid or trashy simply because her body has been “seen”. Through my naked activism, I’ve become increasingly aware of women criticising other women for what they choose to do with their own bodies. It’s a problem that spans many areas: from shaming women based on what they choose to wear – be that covering up or being ‘too revealing’, as I saw whilst growing up in Oldham – to attacking the work of “grid girls” and glamour models, and, as in the case of sex work, pushing for policies and changes in the law that increase the dangers and stigma faced by the most marginalised women in our society. It is intellectually elitist, hypocritical and unfair that women who monetise their brains are celebrated and looked up to, whilst women who do the same with their bodies are denigrated, spoken down to and denied equivalent rights and freedoms. The basic but fundamental mantra "My Body, My Choice" needs to be at the heart of feminist thinking. For that to happen, women themselves must start to judge other women in a more open-minded way, including by casting aside what is often an internalised "male gaze”: believing that what some men may think and feel should dictate what a woman does with her own body. We need freedom not only for our brains, but also for the bodies that house them.'
oil on board
H 69 x W 69 cm (E)
on loan from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters
Signed and dated