Fearless Girl will now be courageously staring at the Charging Bull until at least early 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week. The statue, despite its popularly with selfie-taking tourists, has proven divisive—some argue that Fearless Girl is a powerful symbol for girls and women ("a reminder to all women that no dream is too big," Public Advocate Letitia James declared), while others contend she infantilizes feminism. But let's stick to the facts, ma'am...
The fact is that a global corporation with a gender diversity problem commissioned this statue as a publicity stunt—the State Street Global Advisors plaque may be just out frame in all the selfies you're seeing, but it's still there on the ground Fearless Girl stands upon. We asked street artist Hanksy about the installation, and he suggested all corporate branding be removed in order to solidify the stronger statement now being placed upon the statue by the masses.
Initially I thought it was a very well done and thoughtful public disruption. The statue's placement and her stance, along with the current social/political climate, connected with people on a bunch of levels. But as the story began to unfold, true intent began to reveal itself. The money behind it, the corporate branding. Goddamnit. Just another advertisement.
Did she lose a bit of her luster? I think so. But messages have an ability to reach further and go beyond a well-placed logo. If Fearless Girl were to remain, I'd hope all corporate branding would be removed. Leaving the girl to stand on her own. Which is the way it should be.
This could work. Replacing the fictional young girl with a real historical fearless woman could also work.
But are people flocking to the statue even aware that it was put there for any other reason than a feel-good photo op? And is it possible their appreciation for Fearless Girl is actually turning it into something more significant than a mere corporate ad?
We went over there last week to let the tourists huddled around it know about its true origins. Before Mayor de Blasio posed with the statue and extended her lease, Fearless Girl was only meant to be a very temporary advertisement, and now this little statue has become a big moment in this year's NYC timeline.
One woman, Sarah, was unaware of where the statue came from, telling us, "Well, that's really interesting. It's sort of hypocritical. But... coming off of the loss of Clinton, and all of the stuff around Trump, I think it's a time when people are searching for meaning. And so even if the intention was a marketing gimmick, people are flocking to it because they want to find meaning in something in such a crazy time."
Bob Patschke, visiting the city from Wisconsin with his wife and 11-year-old daughter, was also unaware of the statue's promotional purpose. When the plaque was pointed out to him, Patschke was unfazed#8212;"The fact that they're doing that means they're making a statement towards empowering women to break into that market. That doesn't necessarily mean that that company is keeping women out of their company, but they're always going to do what's best for them. I don't see any issue with that." The company has only five women on their board (out of 23).
To that, Lisa Matthews, a 46-year-old visiting from Louisiana, declared: "I'm not a big affirmative action fan. I think if you can do the job, you should be hired. I don't think there needs to be a certain number of women just because they're women, or a certain number of minorities just because they're minorities. I've been a woman business owner for 21 years and I've never felt discriminated against. My profession is 75 to 80 percent male, I don't feel like my sex has ever been held against me." Matthews's son posed with Fearless Girl while wearing a MAGA hat.
Amanda O'Brien, visiting from New Mexico with her mother Roberta, was not bothered by those who bankrolled the statue—"I think the gesture might have seemed a little empty, but all of the traction that it's getting is really great. I think as more people come to see this kind of attraction, it opens others' eyes to having more women on boards of these large companies. It's opening a lot of eyes."
Turhan Clause, 52, a Union iron worker from Niagara Falls, posed with the statue so he could send a photo to his teenage niece. "There's a lot more to it," Clause said, "I'm a Native American, and we've been oppressed with that Dakota Access pipeline, and in my opinion the President was very disrespectful, the way he spoke about women. A lot of our Native women went to D.C. a month ago to try and protest. I have a niece that's about 17 years old and she's up and coming in leadership in her own. She went to the Dakota Access Pipeline to protest. She's been at youth and elders conferences. I'll be sending her the pictures. It represents just a little bit more of equality."
As Nick Pinto at the Village Voice summed up, "However much State Street may profess to care about women in positions of corporate executive power, its track record doesn't suggest that it cares much about the sort of women who rely on pensions to survive their later years." They also could not confirm if they would be adding more women to their board, which further suggests this statue — so long as it comes with State Street's logo — is an empty gesture. Let Fearless Girl stay, let her stand as a strong symbol to women, but it's time to remove the plaque.
Additional reporting by Scott Heins.