To Market a New Season of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ Hulu Is Temporarily Mounting 140 Statues of Female Figures in New York City

Statues dedicated to historical men outnumber those of women 145 to five in New York City.

A one-day public art installation,
A one-day public art installation, "Shape of History," from The Handmaid's Tale features 140 statues of women, temporarily balancing the number of monuments of men and women in New York City. Photo courtesy of Hulu.

The hit television series The Handmaid’s Tale, based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, paints a bleak future where women are forced into motherhood by a theocratic regime. Now, on the occasion of the show’s third season, which premiered on Hulu earlier this week, the streaming service has staged a one-day public art show to highlight an example of real-world gender inequality: the just five states depicting historical women in New York City compared to the 145 statues depicting men.

The exhibition, which is the brainchild of Hulu and CNN’s branded content studio, involves placing 140 mirrored statues of female figures at Madison Square Park until 8 p.m. today. Meanwhile, actresses wearing red handmaid dresses and white bonnets will pass out flyers about the gender disparity at the sites of two of the city’s statues of women—writer Gertrude Stein in Bryant Park and Golda Meir, the sole female prime minister of Israel, at 39th Street and Broadway.

“We thought that it was really unfortunate and a stat that should be brought to light, given history and the countless ways that women have helped shape our country and fought for equality,” Michal Shapira, senior vice president of news content partnerships and ad sales for Ignite at WarnerMedia, told AdWeek.

The mirrored statues at Madison Square Park’s Flatiron Plaza, titled “Shape of History,” are arranged in a semi-circle. Viewers can see themselves in the reflective surfaces, while the figures’ lack of identifying features represent women’s historic invisibility.

Throughout history, women have been more commonly portrayed in statuary as allegorical figures, such as the Statue of Liberty; fictional characters, such as Alice in Wonderland; or generic angels, nymphs, or other female figures.

Guest interact with an art installation, designed by Paula Scher and Abbott Miller, and book giveaway celebrating Hulu's </eM>The Handmaid's Tale</em> at the High Line on April 26, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Hulu.

Guest interact with an art installation, designed by Paula Scher and Abbott Miller, and book giveaway celebrating Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale at the High Line on April 26, 2017 in New York City. Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Hulu.

Fortunately, the city is already working to correct the issue. Artists Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous are building a monument to Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, in Prospect Park. It’s the first statue from the women.nyc initiative, which has announced plans to build monuments honoring Billie Holiday, Helen Rodríguez Trías, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, and Katherine Walker. And the Parks Department is erecting Central Park’s first state dedicated to historic women, of suffragette leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

This isn’t the first time that Hulu has staged public art event to market The Handmaid’s Tale. The show celebrated its first season with an installation at the High Line designed by Paula Scher and Abbott Miller, which involved handing out 4,000 free copies of the book.


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