The Case Against Wall Street's Fearless Girl

Greg Fallis ponders over the discussion and controversy around Fearless Girl, the statue that was placed in front of Wall Street’s Charging Bull, in a blog post that made the rounds on social media:

Recently most of the Fearless Girl discussions have focused on the complaints by Arturo Di Modica, the sculptor who created Charging Bull. He wants Fearless Girl removed, and that boy is taking a metric ton of shit for saying that. Here’s what I said that got me spanked:

The guy has a point.

It’s a concisely written piece that wastes no time getting into the arguments, and goes through the various factors at play, the main one being how each piece came about.

On Charging Bull:

Back in 1987 there was a global stock market crash. Doesn’t matter why (at least not for this discussion), but stock markets everywhere — everywhere — tanked. Arturo Di Modica, a Sicilian immigrant who became a naturalized citizen of the U.S., responded by creating Charging Bull… The thing weighs more than 7000 pounds, and cost Di Modica some US$350,000 of his own money. He said he wanted the bull to represent “the strength and power of the American people”. He had it trucked into the Financial District and set it up, completely without permission. It’s maybe the only significant work of guerrilla capitalist art in existence.

And on Fearless Girl:

Unlike Di Modica’s work, Fearless Girl was commissioned. Commissioned not by an individual, but by an investment fund called State Street Global Advisors, which has assets in excess of US$2.4 trillion. That’s serious money. It was commissioned as part of an advertising campaign developed by McCann, a global advertising corporation. And it was commissioned to be presented on the first anniversary of State Street Global’s “Gender Diversity Index” fund, which has the following NASDAQ ticker symbol: SHE. And finally, along with Fearless Girl is a bronze plaque that reads:

Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.

Note it’s not She makes a difference, it’s SHE makes a difference. It’s not referring to the girl; it’s referring to the NASDAQ symbol. It’s not a work of guerrilla art; it’s an extremely clever advertising scheme.

Of course, the cleverness lies in its appearance of being guerrilla art. Some, including myself to an extent, would call it an act of deception.

However, the question of whether or not the piece should be taken away remains unanswered at the end of Farris’ piece. It seems to me a lose-lose situation, since the piece represents different things for different groups of people.

In my mind, Farris’ piece instead draws attention to a more fundamental issue – the value systems in today’s society. Farris points out that Fearless Girl draws its significance from Charging Bull, which in turn draws its significance from sensation and controversy.

From halfway around the world, reading about Fearless Girl when it was first placed in front of Charging Bull was a feel-good story that felt momentous, like something significant had been accomplished. But at the end of the day, Fearless Girl is just a symbol – a powerful one that raised discussion, but it shouldn’t just end at discussion. There needs to be action.

Discussion only creates so much progress towards solving the issues the statue draws attention to, gender equality in particular. Doing that deals with corporate culture, and culture in general. That takes getting everyone to not just be informed or talk, but to make the right choices, and to do so consistently. And that takes time.