Who Does "Fearless Girl" Stand For?

(Originally posted: May 19, 2017)

Photo: NYTimes.com

Photo: NYTimes.com

BOWLING GREEN, NEW YORK, NY- In the area of Bowling Green in New York City, two art pieces confront one another. On one side is the Charging Bull by artist Arturo Di Modica. The Charging Bull faces a controversial statue recently put there by State Street Global Advisors (SSgA); the Fearless Girl. Both statues have a story behind them, and to many, Fearless Girl is the rebel. She has her hands on her hips, a smile on her face, and confidently stands up to the Charging Bull. Not all feminists agree Fearless Girl is defending anything important to women, and Di Modica himself has filed a complaint against her, which leads to the question “What is the real message behind Fearless Girl?”

Fearless Girl got installed on International Women’s Day. Residents, tourists, and politicians take photos with her, while others disrespected the bull with obscene gestures. According to SSgA, Fearless Girl was made to encourage the financial district to have more women in leadership roles. Artist Kristen Visbal decided on the image of a little girl to represent that confident women are raised at a young age. The plaque by the statue’s feet reads “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.”

So what is this problem with this sweet looking little girl? To start off, Fearless Girl has changed the artistic message of the Charging Bull. Arturo Di Modica has the bull installed in 1989 as a gift for New York City after the 1987 stock market crash. Charging Bull represents the strength of the financial district and is considered guerilla art. It was rebelliously placed under a Christmas tree two streets from its current location. Di Modica sees Fearless Girl as an “advertising trick.” SSgA states that “Fearless Girl is a compliment to the bull, which represents economic strength.” Di Modica does not see it that way and is creating a court case for the removal of Fearless Girl. The bull was a symbol of being against the financial system, which Fearless Girl is funded by. Now with the two facing each other, that symbolism is inverted.

Fearless Girls’s attachment to SSgA is the second problem the statue faces. Lynn Blake, executive vice president of the corporation states that “Fearless Girl is there to represent her role as a leader, to stand an equal footing and to play a powerful role in expanding economic prosperity for the world.” Although SSgA had good intentions for the statute, the corporation has a horrible reputation. A recent article from The Village Voice exposed SSgA for profiting off of war. They make billions in creating missiles, including “the mother of all bombs” that was dropped in Afghanistan last April. SSgA is also known for scamming home owners with their mortgages.

Greg Fallis, writer and photographer, expressed his anger about Fearless Girl to Fortune Magazine, especially about the plaque by the feet of the statute that reads “...SHE makes a difference.” SHE is a pronoun and the perfect cover up for SSgA’s Gender Diversity Index. The Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) uses it as a ticker in NASDAQ. “ Fearless Girl is an example of how commercialization can take something important and meaningful- something about which everybody should agree- and shit all over it into a commodity.” Fallis says. The plaque was removed and replaced by another one a few feet from the statue. It now summarizes when Fearless Girl was installed, how it is sponsored by SSgA and the New York City Department of Transportation Art Program,  and makes no mention of the ETF ticker. SSgA comments it did not replace the plaque due to pressure from Arturo Di Modica or the correlation of SHE, but to inform people of the statue’s significance.

So what is Fearless Girl really standing for? Feminists agree that although the artwork itself is inspiring, Fearless Girl is funded by the wrong side of the fight. Women are needed in leadership roles, especially in the financial district where 95 percent of executives are men, but how can Fearless Girl express leadership from a corporation that has its hands dirty? What example is this to young girls everywhere? She is a subtle advertisement for SSgA and takes away the message from the Charging Bull. Yet, many see her as a symbol of hope for a new generation of women.

After seeing the statue for myself, I believe Fearless Girl is not a symbol for women. She represents the complex situation of having a voice heard, but misunderstood. She has the right intentions, but the wrong resources. Fearless Girl is supposed to stop standing by International Women’s Day next year, but let’s see if the bull knocks her down beforehand.

Sources

  1. “Fearless Girl Is Not Your Friend.” Pinto, Nick. The Village Voice. 25 April, 2017. Website. 25 May 2017. http://www.villagevoice.com/2017/04/25/fearless-girl-is-not-your-friend/

  2. “Why The Fearless Girl Statue’s Controversial ‘SHE’ Plaque Was Removed.” Wieczner. Fortune. 17 April, 2017. Website. 25 May, 2017. http://fortune.com/2017/04/17/fearless-girl-statue-nyc-plaque-she-nasdaq/

Photo: NYTimes.com.

Note: Fearless Girl was moved to her new home, in front of The New York Stock Exchange building.

Last Updated: July 26, 2019