WILL they or won’t they? The fate of a 10ft bronze of Margaret Thatcher planned for Parliament Square is undecided. Citing “monument saturation”, the flouting of a 10-year posthumous standstill period, and the threat of leftie vandals, planning officials have recommended a refusal ahead of Tuesday’s vote. The Iron Lady has already lost out on being the first bronze woman in the square, as Turner Prize-winner Gillian Wearing’s statue of Millicent Fawcett, the mother of the women’s movement, has already been given the nod. While the statue of a suffragist is an obvious win for women’s often overlooked part in history, I think allowing both to take their space among a coterie of important blokes could have some merit. Proving that women are just as capable of affecting change, both good and bad, as the men we publicly lionise.

Both Fawcett and Thatcher radically changed Britain, affecting the lives of millions – one undeniably for the better, the other arguably for the much worse. There’s something about the tension between the two women’s legacies – between celebrated and scorned – and its potential to disrupt the stagnancy of the square that has appeal.

I’m sure those of us on the left could think of innumerable better ways to spend the £300,000 given the enduring costs of Thatcher’s legacy, so let’s forget the price tag for the moment. Let’s imagine Mrs May’s Magic Money Tree has shaken a few leaves loose for the hypothetical exercise. What if both women were allowed to stand?

Both women offer us the opportunity to pluralise how we remember and represent women, albeit in different ways. While both women have radically different legacies, a statue of each could help wrest the historical narrative away from the incumbent old, rich men.

Think about the statues we see every day in our towns and cities. By the analysis of Caroline Criado-Perez (the feminist behind the Fawcett statue campaign), the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association database shows just 2.7 per cent of female statues are not of historical women or royals. Women are rarely statued, generally speaking, and if they are it’s in very different spirit to the statues of men.

In among the regal men, the men on horses, the scientists, the pious saints and bleeding Christs, the only statue of a woman I can recall seeing with any regularity was the Virgin Mary. Mythical, and symbolic of unimpeachable perfection. There’s nothing for young girls to strive for in unattainable virtue and religious iconoclasm. At least boys can look at most public statues and see confirmation of their capabilities. Girls can’t so easily insert themselves into a similar fantasy where we might do something worthy of memorialising. While we could probably give birth in a barn if pushed, immaculate conception and ascension to heaven are less achievable.

As women and girls, we don’t often see our likeness standing tall, with expensive materials bankrolled because our achievements are deemed worth remembering. When men occupy public spaces, they’re celebrated for their victories and their deeds. Even if their legacy is tainted, like Winston Churchill for example, they get their statues. When we encounter women in public spaces, they’re on billboards and ads. Men get set down in history; women get to sell us things. Typically, when figures of women are permitted to encroach on public spaces it’s never sui generis, but as a stand-in everywoman, representing something virtuous – that is, if they’re not Hellenic goddesses, wives, angels or royals. Our most celebrated, photographed and discussed female statue of recent times, Fearless Girl, is a case in point: women are rarely remembered as real people in public art. They’re imaginary or fictional, used to represent a sentiment, or to stand in for a group.

WHEN I saw pictures of my 14-year old cousins standing beside Fearless Girl, I was struck by their excitement. They’d taken a trip to New York with my aunt, and visiting the statue was a highlight for all of them. They shared multiple pictures of themselves beside her, even though she was a fictional representation. It made me realise how rare it is that we see the achievements of real women celebrated publicly. Imagine if girls like my cousins had more opportunity to stand beside images women they could learn about and learn from? Having a physical reminder of women’s achievements and their potential could be hugely empowering.

Where I live in Edinburgh, there are more statues of animals than women. I’d relish being able to walk through town and see women’s achievements memorialised, to see people posing for their holiday snaps besides our great women. I’d even smile at tourists rubbing them for luck. I’d love to be able to point them out to my children and tell them about how important their contributions were to society and have that backed up by equal space in the public record. We have so many great women worth remembering – Elsie Inglis, Flora MacDonald and Katharine Marjory to name just a few – who could rightfully take their space alongside our venerated men.

Having a statue of both Thatcher and Fawcett in the same place could shake things up. They could start conversations, spark imaginations, remind women that wherever they lie on the political spectrum, they can achieve things worth remembering. They’d serve as a reminder that women have both shaped and scarred our country as our “great” men have too.

And though I’d never endorse Thatcher and her policies, she is a symbol of female power, if not a feminist one. Some women undoubtedly would find encouragement in that. For the rest of us, she’d be a reminder of who she left behind.

Two statues would be a small start, showing us that women are just as capable of earning their spot in our history and in our public spaces.