Here’s an article that I wrote for OTV Magazine when the Fearless Girl first appeared on Wall Street.
These days it’s all about the Fearless Girl, that adorable little figure secretly installed in lower Manhattan by an investment firm to celebrate (and advertise) its “Gender Diversity Index” fund. The 250-pound bronze statue by artist Kristen Visbal, stands head held high, shoulders squared, hands on hips, in the direct path, and in brazen defiance of the most famous beast on Wall Street, the Charging Bull. The four-foot-tall effigy has certainly made her presence known.
The little child and the telltale swooshing of her dress and ponytail informs onlookers that she has just arrived on the scene; but her high-top sneakers are rooted to the cobblestone insisting that this little lassie is here to stay. The diminutive figure is a symbol of female power, a message to every girl that from now on, nothing, not even an 11 foot, 7,000-pound charging bull, can prevent her from reaching her fullest potential no matter the field, no matter the norms and restrictions of the past.
There has been an outpouring of enthusiasm for this little sculpture and its colossal reproach of the present sorry state of misogyny and glass ceilings that dominate, especially in the world of finance. Since her arrival on Bowling Green an endless parade of parents can be seen live-streaming videos of their daughters posed by her side, copycatting the hands-on-hips stance, aiming to convey a matching attitude of confidence. A family pilgrimage to the southern tip of Manhattan represents nothing less than one generation’s promise to the next that the hopes, dreams, and ambitions of every child are not only attainable but worthy of society’s unwavering, and unconditional commitment to a level playing field for all.
Of course, this instantly iconic statue is not popular with everyone. For some, it feels dangerous, irresponsible, and gratuitous to foist an undeniably naïve child in the direct path of a frightening, out of control, testosterone fueled raging bull. Armed with only her admirable gumption, this child is not prepared to fight the fight.
She has not spent decades battling her way into board rooms only to be overlooked for her less educated, less experienced, and less qualified male colleagues. Why would an image of a pre-pubescent waif ever be used as a symbol of women’s equality? Would the world embrace a statue of a fully realized, fully actuated woman sporting a custom-tailored Boss power suit, with fists planted firmly on her hips?
Likely, that statue would be derided as threatening to men and as glorifying an overly-ambitious bitch who dared to stand up and say to the world “I got this.”
But that’s not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about the bull. I feel bad for the poor creature. For 28 years, he stood alone on an otherwise unremarkable traffic island, a symbol of hope and strength and possibility for the economic future of our nation. Arturo Di Monica’s guerilla art installation was so popular when it made its original debut on Broad Street that one week later the city moved it to its permanent residence anchoring lower Manhattan.
The Charging Bull is an imposing figure of bulging ribs, sculpted muscles, massive sharp horns, a wild tail, and enormous anatomically correct testicles. From every angle, this beast represents power and virility. He leans back on his haunches, body angled to one side as if ready to leap off the cobblestone and charge up Broadway, demolishing any car, bus or vending cart caught in his path.
For almost three decades, this creature and his unapologetic display of machismo was one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of New York. But then, last month, under the cover of night, a little bronze girl was artfully installed in such a way that instantly morphed him from a positive symbol of fortitude into one representing all that is wrong with Wall Street, the world of male domination, and the tyranny of power.
The poor bull.
He has not changed. He is simply a bull, doing what bulls do. Sure, he is known as the charging bull, but he has been rooted to the same place for years – so rooted in fact, that generations of pranksters, miscreants, unevolved frat boys and true believers have rubbed his gigantic cojones to a glimmering shine. If he hasn’t attacked anyone after all that inappropriate touching, how much of a menace could he possibly be?
I know that’s not the point. I understand that the bull is merely a symbol and symbols change with time and circumstance but my heart still goes out to the newly vilified creature. I keep wondering how he must feel when the throngs of tourists turn their backs on him to snap photos of his new rival. Which is worse, being branded a bad guy or being overshadowed by a precocious child he could eat for lunch were he not a vegetarian?
It has been announced that the Fearless Girl will remain where she stands for one full year. After that, she will be removed and likely given a permanent home on her own corner somewhere in the Big Apple. The bull will once again stand alone. But even in her absence, will he ever be viewed the same way again? Will a lingering shadow of mistrust hang over his bronze form? Will he ever be beloved as he once was? Is it possible to resurrect the hope and optimism he once represented when we now realize that he was never intended to be a symbol for everyone?
I find myself mourning the loss of his innocence. Yet, I am moved by the impact that one tiny statue has already had on the psyche of all who have paid their respects. And if one unblinking child, standing in stark opposition to the ferocious beast that is Wall Street can eventuate real and meaningful change then I willingly embrace the sacrifice of the stellar reputation of a once exalted bull.
I pray that the Fearless Girl will grow into the Indomitable Woman, able to reach her full potential as a valued and respected equal member of society. If not, if it turns out that Wall Street remains unchanged and the Fearless Girl is remembered as only a brilliant publicity stunt, then the blood of an innocent, albeit bronze, creature will be on all our hands.