Who’s Afraid of a Big Bad Bull? Fearless Girl? No way!

Not this fearless girl apparently.

fearless girl

A 130cm statue of a small girl facing off the famous Wall St Bull has been causing a lot of controversy lately.

It was put in place by investment firm State Street Global Advisors (SSgA) as an advertisement for their index fund which comprises gender-diverse companies that have a higher percentage of women among their senior leadership.

The plaque below the statue states, “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.” Which seems innocuous until you realise “SHE” is both the descriptive pronoun and the fund’s NASDAQ ticker symbol.

fearless girl plaque

There are many reasons it is controversial and if you’d like to read more click here for this article which explains why.

I’m going to focus on one aspect, discussed here by photographer Greg Fallis…

Appropriation.

fearless girl faces down the bull

The artist of “Charging Bull”, who by the way installed the statue without a commission and without permission in 1989 clams the “Fearless Girl” statue should be removed because it has “infringed on his own artistic copyright by changing the creative dynamic to include the other bold presence”.

Arturo Di Modica

Sculpture Arturo Di Modica

He cries out, “That is not a symbol! That’s an advertising trick. My bull is a symbol for America. My bull is a symbol of prosperity and for strength.”

I don’t mind the appropriation actually.

Fearless Girl – Ostensibly an Advertisement

I think of it this way. A private citizen (artist) placed a piece of sculpture on public property without permission.

Now a private (company) has done the same thing. Does an individual have more right to do that than a company?

It is ostensibly an advertisement but it is subtle . Without knowing the backstory it will be interpreted as it stands in exactly the same way that I saw the bull multiple times, photographed myself in front of it, and assumed it was a publicly commissioned piece of work.

Anything more fearful?

Fact is there is little in the modern world more fearful than staring down the relentless wave of money spewing forth from the money markets and if a little girl can stare that down all power to her.

fearless girl

Instagram via @federicavalabrega

When looked at from this perspective, with fresh eyes, it is inspiring.

The bull stands still in her bravery, seemingly unable to move.  Waiting to see what happens next.

So I understand why an old man who defiantly installed the statue 3 decades ago would think it takes away from the symbolism he intended.

But I actually don’t think she takes away from the bull at all. In fact, controversially perhaps, I think that all that argument serves to empower is the fact that she needs to be there.

Nothing is static.

When the bull was placed there maybe it needed to be a symbol of the power and longevity of the markets.

But now time has moved on. We have witnessed and experienced the havock the market can unleash upon the world when they are unfettered. When there is nothing to restrain them. Just as in reality a bull would actually do enormous damage if allowed to rage without any control in the world.

Regardless of what it is supposed to symbolise it is a Bull in the middle of the stock market district so it should be accompanied by an opposite and opposing force, originally I thought a Bear.

If all it takes is a small (fearless) girl do do that, so be it. The bull might just benefit from having that energy addressed to it.

It’s certainly been popular.  A petition to make it permanent has gained over 40,000 signatures in its first week. And not unexpectedly girls have been lining up to have their photo taken with it.

Surely today, the benefit of the symbolism of an empowered young woman facing down an extraordinary force might just outweigh the ego of an aging man who built a statue a few decades ago.

Nothing is Lost

The bull is fine.
He hasn’t lost his power because the girl is there.
Nothing is taken from him. He is not compromised.
There is no need for him to be subdued by the girl, replaced by the girl, or indeed made placid by the girl.
He just has to learn how to wield that power in a more sustainable way.
Until everyone is at peace we can not live in a world without power, without strength.
But we do not always need to wield it.
There is space for both of them.
She brings more power to him, not less.

Just like standing in front of a tank and not moving, sometimes someone has to take a stand. If it’s a little girl so be it.

And who cares if it is a piece of marketing? Wasn’t Di Modica just advertising himself by placing it there in the first place?

My only concern is that this might stimulate a plethora of statues popping up all over the world.  But for now, all power to Fearless Girl.

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Written by Peter Spann

fearless girl charging bull peter spann

Peter Spann – Film Maker | Director | Business Coach | Writer | Public Speaking Coach | Presenter | Investor.

© Copyright: 2017 Peter Spann – All rights reserved

1 reply
  1. Leisl
    Leisl says:

    That really is fascinating and a very tricky issue – on that I agree entirely.

    I actually think both of them are harmed or held back in this setting…

    Both have every right to be there (or none at all, as you pointed out – why would it be different for an individual or a corporation), so it’s not really about that.

    I think it’s a mistake to attempt to sort this out by applying our own interpretations of the works and insisting on the ‘right’ way for them to be viewed / understood or whether they do or don’t need an opposing force. We will forever disagree if this is the way we tackle it. But it’s hard to see past the art imitating life here.

    Finally, after all this time, a little girl comes along and has the ‘courage’ to engage this bull in her own dialogue. without the backstory and while they’re only statues all the ‘power’ goes to the girl… She arrived last. She set her own tone. She makes her accusations. She is standing in his way, demanding a response, a change. I think it’s interesting that She needs the bull for her power but He has no need for her. In fact, she changes him and his inherent purpose – she accuses him and does him a disservice.

    But I don’t think she holds intrinsic strength as it can be so easily stripped away. If charging bull was replaced with a bull that is resting and placid, who has ‘evolved’ perhaps and is not raging or hot headed, who has also grown over the last few decades, she loses her power entirely. The same happens if the artist were to just come and take him away (which I hope he does if his creative rights cannot be asserted.)

    That she gains all her power at the expense of his is my issue with this… That without him, she is nothing. I am speaking in terms of the artworks here but there are interesting parallels.

    So personally, I do feel that fearless girl shouldn’t be allowed to play off charging bull, thereby changing its meaning and intent to inform her own.

    To appropriate another piece of art to such an extent, to convey your own (marketing dressed as social) message, seems like poor taste and ethics to me. And it’s entirely unnecessary. (Not blaming the artist but the fund here.)

    My issue is entirely about the integrity of the art. it is the responsibility of an artist to manage that. People can and will make up their own minds about meaning but the artist is understandably interested in delivering their work as intended and I can entirely understand why di Modica is upset about the new context his work has been placed into.

    I feel very much for the ‘ageing man’, who is now unable to fully respond to this. And who never set out to make art in the name of disempowering women but is forced to answer for it nonetheless in simply trying to maintain the integrity of his work. It’s a good question ‘what is the bull afraid of?’ I would suggest it is definitely not a child, but if di Modica can speak for him, it seems it’s perhaps his integrity. He’s afraid of losing his integrity, and if the scene were to be unfrozen in time, that would potentially be one squashed (stupid?) child. She compromises him. Now he is on the brink of something dreadful and yet that was never his intention.

    The fearless girl is beautiful, she doesn’t need to denigrate the bull to have her own power. But then, so it goes in life, sadly.

    In fact, I believe she is more powerful staring down a universal fear than a (historical) fear of man/discrimination (thereby perpetuating the issue she aims to eradicate. Set in bronze.) surely there’s a building she could stand atop or even a mad traffic situation or whatever .. there would be hundreds of contexts to place her in where her resolve and power could be highlighted without needing to take away from another piece of artwork.

    She has potential to also become an icon herself. More likely, IMHO, if she is representing the powerful feminine in a more timeless and eternal way. This will pass and then what? She’s staring down a relic that historians need to explain.

    I believe they should both be respected and respectful. They’re both powerful, they’re both beautiful. So why don’t they stand alone and own that?

    Apparently fearless girl’s creator admitted feeling sorry di modica’s iconic work was now a source of mockery. I think that says a lot from the artist herself.

    I believe the plaque was also removed… perhaps a little proof that it is slightly uncool to make this about an investment fund.

    Reply

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