In the dark hours of 3 a.m. on Tuesday, March 7th – the day before International Women’s Day – 6 workers gathered in Bowling Green Park to put up a statue that would become a New York City icon in a matter of days. The ‘Fearless Girl,’ which faces Wall Street’s iconic ‘Charging Bull,’ has garnered a lot of media attention in a short amount of time, but it is important to remember that her purpose is to be much more than just a tourist attraction.
Sculpted by Kristen Visbal, the 4 foot-tall bronze girl stands in a defiant pose with her hands on her hips and her chin up. Her simple dress and ponytail look like they are blowing in the wind, but her position is firm; she is uncompromising in her stance. To the sculptor, the statue says, “a woman can be delicate and petite but strong.” The companies behind the stunt are McCann New York and its client State Street Global Advisors, which are using the statue in order to make a statement about the male-dominated industry of finance. In a statement to Adweek, president and chief executive officer of SSGA Ron O’Hanley said of the statue:
We believe good corporate governance is a function of strong, effective and independent board leadership. A key contributor to effective independent board leadership is diversity of thought, which requires directors with different skills, backgrounds and expertise. Today, we are calling on companies to take concrete steps to increase gender diversity on their boards and have issued clear guidance to help them begin to take action.
However, SSGA’s statement has not avoided criticism. Their message is questionable at best, since their 11-person board only includes three women. Another question critics are asking is, why a little girl? Why not a woman?
In an op-ed piece for Forbes, Christina Wallace addressed her complicated emotions regarding ‘The Fearless Girl.’ She writes about a “nagging” feeling inside her that makes her question the sincerity of the statement, as fearless girls seem to be more socially acceptable than fearless women. She writes:
That nagging is the recognition that the world supports fearlessness in girls. But somewhere on the road through adolescence and into womanhood we are told to put those akimbo arms down by our sides, lest we make a mess like a bull in a china shop. It is suggested that we should take up less space, soften that defiant look into a more amenable smile, and trade those sneakers for heels, because heels are considered polished and professional, even when painful and wholly counterproductive for getting things done.
For entirely different reasons, Arturo Di Modica – sculptor of the ‘The Charging Bull’ – has also taken to criticizing the new statue that faces his. In an interview with MarketWatch, he blasted the statue, saying “That is not a symbol! That’s an advertising trick.” To Di Modica – who put up the golden bull following the 1987 stock market crash as a symbol of American resilience – ‘The Fearless Girl’ is a “vandalism” of his original work because it redefines the bull as an oppressor. He balks at the comparison between the two statues, as his was a “guerrilla stunt” not permitted by the city, while ‘The Fearless Girl” is a “corporate marketing effort” by State Street.
Marketing stunt or not, the statue has left an impact on the city. Although it was initially only meant to stay up until April 2nd, women lawmakers have advocated for a permanent place on Wall Street for the statue. New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney is just one example, as she said:
This statue has touched hearts across the world, with its symbolic depiction of the resiliency of women. Here we have a little girl facing a charging bull. Yet she is determined, she is strong, she is defiant.
Council Member Margaret Chin agreed with Maloney, calling ‘The Fearless Girl’ an “inspiration.” She said that the statue, “sends an important message of hope to generations of girls who will grow up with confidence knowing that they too will succeed and thrive in a male-dominated sector and career.”
Mayor de Blasio is on the side of Maloney, Chin, and countless other advocates, and he has decided that the statue will remain until at least February 2018. De Blasio told the New York Daily News:
In her short time here, ‘The Fearless Girl’ has fueled powerful conversations about women in leadership and inspired so many. Now, she’ll be asserting herself and affirming her strength even after her temporary permit expires – a fitting path for a girl who refuses to quit.
Her stay has been made possible through the Department of Transportation Art program, which has granted the statue a long-term permit to stands directly on their property.