Posted by: alexacampbell15 | March 15, 2018

Fearless Girl

For anyone who is unaware, there is a rather controversial statue that has resided on Wall Street for just over one year as of last week. This statue is called Fearless Girl, and it was designed by Kristen Visbal and commissioned by one of New York’s Financial District giants, State Street Global Advisers. This short bronze statue depicts a young girl standing in front of Wall Street’s infamous Charging Bull, her hands placed on her hips and her feet spread apart in utter defiance of the Financial District’s traditionally staunch sexism. As a supplement to the power of this statue, a plaque between her feet reads “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes the difference.” Clearly, this fantastic work of art portrays a blatant message of not only women in leadership, but women in power.

As we’ve discussed in class, power has often been viewed in a rather negative light by women, regardless of age, background, or industry. In Chapter 4 of Wilson’s Closing the Leadership Gap, women were more likely to run for powerful political positions when other people recommended it, which is quite the opposite case for men. Furthermore, many women leaders feel that displaying their ambitions and successes is “unladylike” or “egotistical” whereas, when men discuss their goals and accomplishments, they are respected for being “driven” and “passionate.” Why the differences between the genderisms of power? There are several different psychological and sociological explanations for this disparity, mainly due to the associative traits that are highly adherent to gender (i.e. women are expected to be more submissive and men to be more domineering).

In regards to leadership, power plays an important role within the styles and applications which leaders adhere to within their line of work. Of course, followers are significantly important in the function of leadership and, without the followers’ respect and recognition of a leader, the leader loses their power and, eventually, their leadership. Thus, women face a critical discrepancy as they approach the powers connected to leadership roles: taking on conventionally masculine roles while being expected to uphold conventionally feminine traits. The dissonance which this conflicting position creates is known as the double bind, meaning women often struggle in trying to balance their masculine roles and feminine identities. This double bind is apparent in a plethora of industries and leadership roles, but is probably most blatant in careers that are typically male-dominated or masculinized.

Going back to Fearless Girl, this representation of women as leaders on Wall Street shatters numerous stereotypes that have been pervasive within the Financial District since its conception. Women on Wall Street – or in financial careers in general – often face the struggles of making a name for themselves within a highly masculine environment. Joining an old boy’s club is disproportionately difficult as a woman, especially when other disenfranchised social identities are tacked on, such as youth or ethnic background. Trying to become a successful leader within such a field is even more difficult; gaining the respect of mostly-male followers while striving to impress mostly-male superiors is a daunting task. However, with the help of anti-discriminatory legislation and an expanded availability for women to become more educated with economics and finances, Wall Street has seen an overhaul in the stereotypical male paradigm which has dominated the industry for decades.

Fearless Girl represents this struggle – and fights against it. Looking straight into the eyes of the Charging Bull, this young girl symbolizes the courageous acts and groundbreaking measures which women have undertaken for years just to gain equal status as Wall Street employees. However, Fearless Girl‘s narrative stretches beyond these gains and serves as reminder for adolescent girls that, by being fearless and ambitious, they hold the power to become the leaders which they aspire to be, no matter what kind of future path they intend on taking. This statue has remained both a controversial and inspirational topic across many platforms that reach beyond the streets of New York’s Financial District, and will hopefully continue to do so. In fact, the initial time frame for the statue’s installment was only one week, which was extended to thirty days, and eventually, for an additional year. Unfortunately, the extension has reached an endpoint, and the future of Fearless Girl remains uncertain. Regardless of her fate, though, she has represented the waves of women’s voices and activism in the fight to take on leadership in today’s world.

Here’s a link to a neat interview with Kristen Visbal, who made the statue:

http://www.philly.com/philly/business/personal_finance/Fearless-Girl-Speak-Sculptor-Kristen-Visbal-to-Raise-Funds-For-Girls-Inc-of-Delaware-Speak-May-18.html

Wilson, M. C. (2007). Closing the leadership gap: Add women, change everything. New York: Penguin Books.

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Responses

  1. Alexa,

    I really enjoyed reading this post and I loved the interview you attached. Visbal included some really interesting features in the interview that, although I was familiar with the statue itself, had not recognized or thought about before. For example, the use of a girl to illustrate women in power in the future and the lack of belligerence to signify working together. I hadn’t really considered how small elements like those contribute to the overall significance of the statue and how they may play into the context the statue is operating within. I also found it interesting that the girl in the statue is not reaching forward and grabbing power, she is simply standing by the power she already has. Even in the artwork associated with this movement, the woman is not the aggressor, she is simply holding her own against the bull charging at her. Much like her statue, Visbal doesn’t “grab power” in her interview. She undoubtedly has gained power through her artwork, but she still illustrates classic feminine answers to praise or comments about her important role. She says she is “overwhelmed…wants to get back to business as usual…had no idea how big” this would all get. Even now, she doesn’t really want to stand up for the work she has done and the movement she has contributed to. Isn’t it interesting that in artwork our true feelings and beliefs may emerge, but we still fall back on those deeply ingrained societal expectations when the time comes.

  2. This was a very interesting and enticing blog to read. I had heard of the “Charging Bull” Statue; however, I never knew about the recent addition of the “Fearless Girl” so I did some more research after reading this post! I found that the sculpture of the symbolizes “the power of the American people” and represents a “strong stock market.” Once the Fearless Girl statue was placed, the sculptor of the bull felt disgraced and stated that the girl “unfairly implicates his creation.” < This is the individuals of society that we have to deal with. They do not respect the meaning, the focus is solely on the spotlight being take off their work. They don’t want to share the power. During my research, I also found that a temporary “Peeing Pug” statue, was placed below the Fearless Girl to shame the woman for “invading the bull’s space” All of the comments made and actions taken in this situation represents what women are put through when striving for equality or reaching for power.

    The Fearless Girl stands, chin held high in a superhero like stance to visualize the fulfillment of power. This child stands strong ready to conquer the bull by the horns which sends an inspiring message to the females, young and old, of the world. We need to grab the power every chance we get rather than stray away from it due to the fear of uncertainty or failure. If we do, as a whole population, we will have the ability to defeat the three and a half ton beast that we are faced up against.

    https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/100814/charging-bullthe-brass-icon-wall-street.asp

  3. The Fearless Girl statue will remain in our hearts and minds for a long time. The statue should remain on Wall Street in place as a testament for young girls everywhere to aspire to reach their goals and fight for gender equality. It portrays a positive message against the aggressive, authoritative hustle of Wall Street. According to the sculpture’s artist, Kristen Visbal, the statue represents girl power, that “we are here, that we are heard, and that we are permanent.”

    I think the backlash against the Fearless Girl statue shows exactly why it should remain in place. In an earlier class, we talked about how people do not fear change, they fear what they could lose. When the Fearless Girl statue was resurrected, Arturo Di Modica, the sculptor of the charging bull, and some of his colleagues, were deeply offended. While they expressed that the Fearless Girl statue is invading the space of the Charging Bull, the statue actually stands several feet away from the bull’s presence. In retaliation, another sculptor created a dog urinating on the girl, the same one mentioned by Sarah. Other retaliations included lewd interactions with the girl. Why are some people afraid of a small four foot tall statue of a girl standing with her hands on her hips and her ponytail flying in the wind?

    It only makes sense that they are not afraid of the statue, but of the message that the statue holds. When any minority fights for equality, it is often met with a backlash from the hegemonic majority. For Wall Street, the hegemonic majority is the symbol of strength in a male-dominance sector. Julissa Arce, a former Wall Street executive, writes in Fortune magazine “the presence of the new statue threatens the creator of the bull in the same way that the very presence of women on Wall Street and in executive positions threatens the status quo of male-dominated leadership across America.”

    If we remove the statue now, people may not remember why it was resurrected in the first place. It would also be a reminder that women cannot be resilient in their daily lives or that they are not strong enough to face new ones. Its removal also might send the message that Wall Street, and America, is not ready for female leadership.

    I really loved your post and I find the Fearless Girl statue awe-inspiring every day!

    fortune.com/2017/03/26/fearless-girl-statue-wall-street-bull-location-sexism-goldman-sachs/

  4. Hello everyone, I found this post very interesting to talk about after the discussion of women in leadership and power. Over the course of these past few weeks I have been interviewing women in these male dominant roles and asked about their successes and relationship to various aspects of leadership. As I read Visbel’s interview and details about this statue it stands as prominent outline on the change that has happened and what must come. As I have learned most women are not comfortable with the idea of power, and as I interviewed prominent women leaders they also struggled to grasp or say they did have power. The small details of this statue show that this fearless woman is standing up for herself but, it lacks actual power. The statue has the young woman with her hands on her hips standing in the way of society. Visbal speaks on this saying that this statue was right up her alley working for Girls Inc. and she wanted to address were woman have come but, there is still a long road ahead. I certainly thinking that many aspects of the glass ceiling of women being able to attain power have broken, but there needs to be more women willing to do the hard work to be comfortable with the idea of power.

  5. I found this post to be very inspirational, as is the statue. As we all know, there is a substantial issue in women seeking leadership roles and power within male dominated fields. In addition, as was mentioned in the post, often times powerseeking is described in a negative light when it applies to females. I think it is an extremely positive message to see a symbolic representation of calm and inherent power in girls and women, that is innate in birth. I think one of the best ways to combat societal bias is to increase the pervasiveness of positive images of women and power. The more we can normalize the idea of empowered women, the more it will empower women in reality. In order for it to no longer be the norm for women to be afraid to seek power, we should increase the amount of times we associate power, leadership, and femininity until equality is reached.

  6. Alexa, I just wanted to say that I thought this blog post was extremely well-written and engaging to read. I had heard of the Fearless Girl statue, and I’ve read a few different perspectives on it. The creator of the bull statue did intend for the statue to stand for the power of the American people, and the stock market as a whole, and so to that extent I do understand how the creator might be offended if the placing of the “fearless girl” statue has made the statue mean something else, something negative: the strength of the American MEN, the “testosterone-fueled” Wall Street, because of the “fearless girl” orientation (how it’s standing in opposition). As a separate point, I think it’s ironic how much of the percentage of the billion-dollar industries traded in the stock exchange are typically “feminine” industries, like cosmetic companies. It is an interesting conundrum, how men are owning and trading stocks whose worth is determined by the female consumer…an interesting microcosmic representation of leadership in America.

  7. I love art and actually had no idea this statue existed. I think art has an way of communicating a stern message while still being unthreatening. What was interesting to me from your post was the fact that the time the statue was supposed to remain kept getting extended. This leads me to believe that a majority of people are becoming more comfortable with the idea of women in leadership and that they wish it would stick around. I think that it is important to give artists and their work the attention it deserves especially when the message it portrays connects with society on a progressive level.

  8. Thank you Alexa for pointing out this statue to us! I think this is such a cute way of spreading the message to little girls that we CAN do it and that we are strong enough to be the leader at the top of a company. I think that there is no reason for this statue to be controversial as the artist left it at a respectable distance from the Charging Bull statue. Additionally, in the interview , the artist mentions that she put the statue up under the same circumstances as the Charging Bull: in the middle of the night with a temporary permit. I understand Di Modica’s perspective on how he believes the addition to his art alters its meaning, but that is art! Art is infinitely organic and the meaning is held in the eyes of the beholder. He should be more understand that his artwork is now contributing to a good cause, rather than just displaying the strength of Wall Street. This new message will reach more people and positively change more lives. Art is a beautiful thing and is, in my opinion, the best way to spread a strong, yet peaceful, message. We should all continue to make art to inspire movements around the world such as gender equality in the work place.


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