By JAYNE CHUNG
On Wall Street, a young girl with her hands defiantly on her hips calmly stares down a raging bull ready to charge. The statue, named the “Fearless Girl,” was created by sculptor Kristen Visbal and installed the night before March 8 to celebrate International Women’s Day.
“The project is about girl power,” Visbal said in a message to corporate boards on Wall Street, the majority of which demonstrate an obvious scarcity of women members. “That we are here, that we are heard, that we are permanent.” The statue, which has earned praise from figures such as Chelsea Clinton and actress Jessica Chastain, highlights the message through its plaque: ‘‘Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.’’
The bronze carving marked the first anniversary of the Gender Diversity Index SHE, which tracks companies that are gender diverse. The initiative was founded by the investment firm State Street Global Advisors, who commissioned the Fearless Girl as a symbol of female empowerment and a call for greater gender equality in the workplace. State Street also announced that it had adopted new guidelines to urge approximately 3,500 public companies in which it invests to increase the number of women on their boards.
Originally a temporary month-long installation, the statue’s enormous popularity and 40,000 signatures on a petition has allowed the Fearless Girl to remain until February of 2018.
Despite its widespread support, the statue has also faced large backlash by critics, from the creator of the Bull statue, Arturo Di Modica, who dismissed the statue as a fake corporate marketing tool by a gender-oriented company, to the Daily Wire, a conservative news site that scoffed at the statue as a show of “defiance against virtually non-existent misogyny.” Di Modica assured that he was not spurning gender equality, but that he heavily opposed the Fearless Girl’s continuation because he thought the piece corrupted the artistic integrity of his “Charging Bull,” which symbolizes the prosperity of the American economy.
Though Di Modica’s complaint is understandable to a point, his accusation of the company’s intentions is unfounded. After reading that Di Modica was upset by “Fearless Girl,” Visbal expressed her distress to the New York Post and praised the sculptor’s artistic abilities as “exceptional,” an obvious indication of the other party’s lack of ill-intention. Furthermore, his actions to remove the statue bring his recognition of the meaning of artistry into question. The bull, which he claims is negatively portrayed as antagonistic and aggressive facing the supposedly helpless young girl, is in reality just that to women– according to Business Insider, a staggering eighty percent of Wall Street executives are male, suggesting that the beloved raging capitalism that he supports largely does not recognize women. By focusing only on the portrayal of his own statue, which he originally installed illegally without a permit, Di Modica fails to move past the traditions of a bygone American economic structure and to realize the impact of Fearless Girl on modern society and a changing world.
The current Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, mirrored the sentiment in a tweet that simply said, “men who don’t like women taking up space are exactly why we need the Fearless Girl.”
The decision to use a young girl to represent the ambitions and goals of grown women has been lamented by those who do not realize its genius. Though the goal of the piece was to encourage greater gender diversity in the financial world, those without knowledge on the meaning of the “Charging Bull” still see a young girl demonstrating awe-inspiring bravery in the face of clear hostility. Young girls who walk by the “Fearless Girl” stop to link arms with the statue and are encouraged to be fearless themselves and stand up against their own bulls, gender inequality and discrimination.