Molly Malone statue: Tradition criticized for disrespectful behaviour


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Molly Malone, a local folk heroine known for selling cockles and mussels in “Dublin’s fair city,” has had a bronze statue made in her honour since 1988.

Depicted as a young woman in a traditional Irish dress pushing a cart full of seafood, the statue outside the Dublin Tourist Office has been a part of Suffolk Street since 2014. Prior to that, the statue was placed on Grafton Street.

The statue, created by Irish artist Jeanne Rynhart, is a familiar spot for tourists to take photographs with. But there is a peculiar practice in place – touching the figure’s breasts. The tradition of touching the Molly Malone statue for good luck is steeped in mystery, with no clear evidence as to its origins. However, this practice has now become controversial.

While some people are following the tradition, others find it to be a form of disrespect. And people now are taking necessary steps to provide Molly Malone the respect she deserves as a woman.

A Campaign to Revive Respect for Molly Malone

A student named Tilly Cripwell, who busks near the statue started a campaign to put an end to this misogynistic custom.

Tilly Cripwell’s campaign encourages respect towards the statue, recognizing it as a symbol of Irish pride and patriotism rather than an object of mockery.

The standard set is one where abusing women is normal, even traditional … I walk by the Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square every day. You don’t see people rubbing his crotch for good luck.

Tilly Cripwell, a Trinity University student

The “leave Molly mAlone” was another campaign led by Cripwell. It is an essential step towards fostering a more respectful and considerate attitude towards public art and women.

“The majority of people will touch her boobs for good luck,” the 22-year-old musician said. “That’s a misogynistic tradition.”

In comparison, other public statues like Oscar Wilde’s are not subjected to such treatment, highlighting the double standard on which Cripwell commented,

“I walk by the Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square every day. You don’t see people rubbing his crotch for good luck.

Tilly Cripwell

It is important for visitors to understand that this behaviour is disrespectful and contributes to perpetuating harmful stereotypes towards women.

The campaign emphasizes the significance of treating all public art and symbols with care and respect, encouraging a more considerate approach towards cultural heritage.

The initiative by Tilly Cripwell follows multiple instances of vandalism to the Molly Malone statue last year.

In September 2023, someone inscribed the phrase “Please don’t, TY” on the statue’s bronze bust, echoing an earlier act of defacement in August when “7 years bad luck” was scrawled on the sculpture.

The local authorities in Dublin particularly the Dublin City Council are also investigating the whole matter.

Efforts by Dublin City Council

Dublin City Council recognizes the potential harm caused by handling the artwork, which could lead to damage or wear, on which they commented,

Dublin City Council is aware of the reports concerning people touching the Molly Malone statute. It is not beneficial for any work of art of this kind to be handled and this may cause wear or damage.

Ray Yeates, arts officer at Dublin City Council

The council emphasized that it is not beneficial for any work of art of this kind to be handled as it may negatively impact its appearance and longevity.

Critics argue that the degradation and disrespectful behaviour towards the statue perpetuates the normalization of abusing women in society.

Dublin City Council has not yet announced any specific actions against the groping tradition but continues to monitor the situation closely.

Visitors are encouraged to appreciate Molly Malone’s story through various forms, such as the song or visiting the museum dedicated to her life.

Call for Change: Respecting Cultural Symbols

Treating Molly Malone’s statue with care and respect can help set an example for future generations to learn from and admire the rich history and culture of Dublin.

It is time to reconsider the tradition that may have once brought good fortune but now contributes to perpetuating disrespectful behaviour towards women.

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