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'Fearless Girl' statue stands proud despite scrutiny

by Tegan Mazur - Copy Editor
Thu, Apr 27th 2017 09:45 pm

Wall Street, land of the free and home of the brave. No, wait, that's not right. Wall Street, land of the stocks and home of the money. Yes, that's much better. Wall Street is a name that is almost synonymous with money and wealth. Part of that powerful association is the famous bronze statue that adorns the street. 

The "Charging Bull" statue which has stood where it is today since 1989 has been a symbol of the unstoppable fighting spirit of the financial world. Recently, a new installation has been added of a small girl standing in the path of the bull's charge. According to The Atlantic article, "Why People are so upset about Wall Street's 'Fearless Girl'" by Bourree Lam, over 40,000 people have signed a petition to have the new installation of the girl removed immediately.

What strikes me first is that the statue is only scheduled to be up until 2018 anyway. It takes a lot of anger and pettiness to want something that is temporary gone like this. Art is certainly a complicated subject. Where science is a game of principled objectivity (when done right): electrons behave a certain way, gravity acts at the same speed as light, a cell with a defective oncogene will become cancerous; there are right and wrong answers. Art is its antithesis. 

Art is the expression of emotional subjectivity. The best example of this, I think, is cloud watching. When I look at a cloud I can see the shape of a dog with wings, while you look at the same cloud and see Jerry Springer on a unicycle, there is no right answer to such a situation.

People can fling about their opinions from dawn till dusk about what the "Fearless Girl" represents. That will change nothing. You see a facsimile infantilized feminism; I see an artful play on what has become a mainstay of Wall Street. There is no right answer.

That being said, I think there is a resolution to be had. 

First, I believe that artists have the right to a degree of sovereignty over their own art, but I don't think it totally applies here. Whether or not the artist likes "Fearless Girl", the "Charging Bull" artist was commissioned to make art for a public setting. A public setting is not the place to put art that you have specific ideas about. The public space, anywhere, is meant to change with the times. As society changes, so does the public space it creates. By default this normally changes the art that exists in that space.

As for those who believe that it stands for a symbol they don't like or that it was just a cheap stunt I have this to say: no. If you have a problem with capitalism being connected with art, then boy, do I have some bad news for you! If you can't learn to enjoy art sometimes as it is and not how it was brought into this world then you are going to have a really bad time in the art world. Certainly there are exceptions to every rule, but you get the point.

As for the arguments that it promotes some sort of unproductive infantilized feminism, I'd love to say that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but I know better. However I will say that something as simple as this "Fearless Girl" is akin to a cloud. 

There is such a broad range of potential interpretations that it is foolish to imply any one is more prevalent than the thousand others. To be fair, The Hyperallergic article, "The Sculpture of a "Fearless Girl" on Wall Street Is Fake Corporate Feminism," by Jillian Steinhauer makes some very good points. On the subject of the piece celebrating women she said, "Here's an idea: You want to actually celebrate women? Hire them and pay them as much as their male peers."

While I agree that "Fearless Girl" is not the pure notion of feminism that it was created to inspire, I believe that it is still worthy of merit. If you think a bronze statue is going to change the world for women, you're dead wrong. The purpose of art is many and varied, but one of them is to inspire. 

That is what "Fearless Girl" does, she doesn't stand out there every day to close the wage gaps in this country all by herself, she is there to give women on Wall Street and elsewhere a little confidence boost, a little inspiration to change the world. That's what art does.

Social change is not won by art, though it often receives renewed vigor from it. Artists have control over their work, but only to a certain degree. "Fearless Girl" is a symbol with many possible interpretations. Now everyone stop getting your knickers in a twist and just enjoy the pretty statue!


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