Bull vs Girl.


Arturo Di Modica holds a model of his Charging Bull sculpture during a news conference Wednesday, April 12, 2017, in New York. CREDIT: AP Photo/Craig Ruttle.

The artist of the Charging Bull sculpture wants the ‘fearless girl’ removed, and so do I.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Di Modica’s attorney Norman Siegel argued that Fearless Girl infringes on Di Modica’s artistic copyright by “changing the creative dynamic” of his original work and ask that it be removed and placed elsewhere in the city:

“Very simply, we request, respectfully, that the Fearless Girl statue be removed. We’re not asking it to be banned… Gender equality is a very serious, substantial issue. It’s permeated throughout our society. For years, civil rights people have fought for gender equality… So that’s a real issue. None of us here today are in any way not proponents of gender equality. But there are issues of copyright and trademark that needed to be and still need to be addressed. So, remove her and place her somewhere else in the city.”

[…]

Fearless Girl is cloying, corporate feminism sponsored by a company that only has three women on its fourteen person board of directors. Only 28 percent of State Street’s senior vice-presidents are women, as are a measly 23 percent of executive vice-presidents. In defense of those stats, the company’s head of public relations told the Huffington Post that those numbers are “better than zero.” Can’t argue with that kind of logic. Who says women are bad at math?

So Fearless Girl is a cutesy signifier that signifies nothing, an accessory for selfies. She doesn’t challenge any preconceived notions about what girls can do or be; girls have long worn skirts and ponytails and played outside. Fearless girls are adored and celebrated in literature, popular culture, and life. It’s once girls become women that all their ambition scans as irritating instead of spunky, as off-putting instead of endearing. The same society that roots for ambition in girls is one that that socially, professionally, and politically punishes ambition in the women those girls will become. It’s women, not girls, who have pesky needs and opinions and goals and sex drives and reproductive organs that make their ambition too problematic to accept.

Oh, I could not possibly agree more. That girl irritated the hell out of me from the start. What, exactly is radical about a young girl in a dress? The image itself is stock straight out of the 1950s, ponytail and flared skirt. Might as well have done her up in a poodle skirt. That aside, my major problem with it was that it was a girl. The protests, the marches, they were about women. Adult women, who in the United States, are still treated as barely above chattel, and who every single day, face a fight over their right to live with the full rights accorded to men. Do we have bodily autonomy? No. Are we paid equal wages? No. Is violence against women taken seriously? No. Is there widespread parental leave and accommodation? No. Are male parents treated the same as female parents? No. Is harassment taken seriously? No. And on it goes. You can idealize girls all you like, you can tell girls they can do anything they like, but what is the point of that when they run smack into the reality of being a woman? And what about the actual reality of growing up girl? It’s not all sweet, rosy, and flying high with ambition as represented. Young girls hit the wall of rooted misogyny very early. Just ask any parent. Parents of boys are just as challenged, as they watch their sons absorbing deep rooted toxic sexism and toxic masculinity. It’s a constant fight, and it’s not one which will get any easier unless we tackle these issues head on, clear-eyed, with a focus on reality.

I don’t really care why the “fearless” girl is removed, as long as she is, and I do take Mr. Di Modica’s point. His art work should not have to suffer at the whim of a piece of marketing fluff straight out of the 1950s. Go away, fearless girl. Give me a call when you’re all grown up.

Full story at Think Progress.

Comments

  1. says

    As it turns out, when Di Modica first installed his statue, he did so illegally. The only reason it’s there now is because of public outcry when it was being removed. His appeal to legalities here strikes me as somewhat hypocritical.

    He’s also concerned that girl is making the bull look villainous, which is nonsense because this is Wall Street and the bull is already villainous. This just brings it into stark relief.

    So while I agree with the problematic aspects of Fearless Girls, I have to disagree with calling for its removal.

  2. says

    Yes, I know that, it’s in the article. Well, there’s room to disagree with Di Modica, I don’t find that there are “problematic aspects” to the girl, it’s a fucking problem, full stop, in my view.

  3. says

    Hmm. I say let is stand. There is a message there. It’s not one which either artist intended, but it’s a good metaphor for the effects of unbridled capitalist greed: no matter how fearless that child may be, realistically speaking, she is powerless and is about to be gored to death.

  4. Allison says

    The article I read said that he was insisting that the Bull represented “freedom, world peace, strength, power and love.” If you believe that one, I have a nice suspension bridge to sell you, real cheap. He also claims that the girl statue “changes the context” to something negative. Sorry, the “context” of being in the Wall Street area already makes it pretty obviously represent an industry that is angrily goring and stomping to death anyone and anything in its path.

    Personally, I like the fact that it’s a little girl standing up against the bull, maybe because I can more easily identify with a little girl than with a grown-up fighter. (I’m not a fighter. Ladies’ auxiliary, maybe.) It’s not just the tough Freedom Fighter women that the Wall Street sharks are fleecing, it’s probably more the people who aren’t in a position to fight back who get run over. Oh, and those of us who are more like little girls at heart than Rosie the Riveter or Jeanne d’Arc vote, too. (And manage our own investments….)

  5. says

    Enlightening, in the sense that I certainly won’t see women refusing to be infantilized, reduced, made powerless, and seduced into thinking a marketing trick is strength in my lifetime. Shame.

  6. says

    Daz:

    no matter how fearless that child may be, realistically speaking, she is powerless and is about to be gored to death.

    Every day life for most, and especially for women. Now, if the statue had been a woman, staggering back from being gored, and it lacked the little advertisement plaque attached to the girl, that would have been a stunning and remarkable statement. Alas.

  7. says

    Allison:

    Oh, and those of us who are more like little girls at heart than Rosie the Riveter or Jeanne d’Arc vote, too.

    Of course they do. No one is saying that all women need to be bad ass warriors, that misses the point. The point here is representation. First, the girl is a misrepresentation, as it was a bit of dishonest marketing by a wall street firm that does not treat women fairly when it comes to employment, but they certainly want the cachet of looking feminist.

    Then there’s the same old problem of representing all women as children. This has been a problem since forever, the idea that women never truly achieve adult status, hence the need for a man to rule them. Then, as Daz pointed out, facing down a charging bull is damn stupid. (I’ve been around bulls, it really is.) So, representing women, we have the “all American” girl -- 1950s ponytail, skirt, and of course, white. A child who is acting impulsively, emotionally, and rashly, a firmly misogynistic viewpoint of women which has been a standard for thousands of years, and is still with us.

    Today, I’ll be posting about a recent move of Trump’s, authorizing individual states to kill off Planned Parenthood funding, which is going to affect a whole lot of women, in bare bone basics, like contraception. I do not want to be continually represented as a thoughtless child who runs on irrational emotion and nothing else. I do not want to be continually represented as a child who is in desperate need of control by a ‘rational’ man.

  8. Allison says

    I guess we’ll have to just disagree. I respect your right to wish for a statue that better represents your view, especially since the world needs warriors for justice. There are certainly enought warriors (or should I say thugs) for the right of the strong and well-connected to prey upon the weak.

    But I can’t help thinking of the famous Emma Goldman quote: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” (Yes, I’ve read that it’s a paraphrase. So sue me….) For me, being able to be the little girl that in part is who I am is an essential part of feminism, and a feminism that only values the strong and “masculine” is not one I’ve ever been willing to be part of.

    I am not a warrior, but I have spent my whole life resisting. (Not that I want to make myself out to be a hero — I resisted because I couldn’t do otherwise.) All of my childhood I resisted everything Teh Patriarchy could do to crush the childlike, gentle, spontaneous part of my essence, the better to make me into the kind of thug it needed to keep its structure going. I resisted its attempt to destroy me to the point that whether I suicided would be a moot point (though it came close.) I survived and made a life for myself and never internalized the Patriarchy’s brutal value system. And now I resist simply by going out in the world as an visible member of a group that those in power seek to make illegal and eradicate (as they have succeeded in North Carolina.) That the little girl part of me has survived (however scarred) and that I can still value it and identify with it is a kind of victory for me. For many of us, simply surviving as ourselves is an enormous act of rebellion.

    I also can’t help thinking of the African-American community. We publicly honor the heros of the Civil Rights movement, but that community has had many, many quieter heros over the centuries, people who resisted the constant degradation heaped on them by the white power structure. They had children, raised them with self-worth, supported one another, made their art, their music, their stories, their ministries, thus helping one another retain their humanity and insuring there would even _be_ an African-American community to fight for and claim rights (and keep on fighting for them as best they can and as the circumstances warrant.) What has always impressed me has not been how many succumbed to degredation over theyears, but how few.

  9. says

    Allison @ 9:

    From where I sit, it’s not about representing warriors. That’s what the little girl is all about, “look, fearless warrior in a skirt here.” I don’t want a warrior represented, I would have liked a woman represented, if there had to be anything there at all.

    As I tried to say, every single day, women face degradation, the stripping of our autonomy, the refusal to be paid a fair and equitable wage. Every single day, women who are parents have twice the battles of men who are parents, and twice the responsibility. Violence against women is not taken seriously, even though every day, there are women being beaten and abused. Every day, every woman has to deal with sexism and rape culture. And so on. You don’t need to be a warrior to be represented by a depiction of an adult woman.

  10. rq says

    So probably due to stuff at work, I was thinking a lot about children, women and violence today, and because of yesterday’s reading, this bull vs girl statue connection. I read the ‘this guy has a point’ article and I read the article that says ‘no, this guy does not have a point’, and here’s what got me: neither mentions the girl vs woman aspects Caine brings up here. And suddenly it became important, because as it stands, that little girl? She’s not daring that bull into anything, or staring it down, or being superior to it in some way. She’s a child, and she’s playing a (scary and dangerous) game of chicken. If that bull charges, chances are, she’ll laugh and leap for the space in the fence that she’s still small enough to fit through, and escape. And that’s all it is, a stupid game played by a child. Is this how we want women portrayed?
    I, personally, would get a lot more tension out of this arrangement if it was a grown woman standing before that bull -- maybe with a coiled whip in hand, maybe hand outstretched in a calming gesture, maybe something else, but that grown woman would represent an adult, consenting participant in the arrangement, not a silly child poking fun at something that will run her down, given half a chance. A child cannot consent, a child cannot participate the way a grown woman can in the face of such danger. Sure, she’s ‘challenging’ the bull now, but where are her skills, her knowledge, that will actually tame the bull? That will -- I don’t know, bring it to its knees, will put it in its place, will challenge her worth as a bull-wrangler extraordinaire -- as the arrangement currently stands, the little girl does nothing to put herself on equal ground with the bull, there is nothing about her (short of divine intervention) that will save her if she misses that space between the slats (you could say the same for the grown woman, but at least there’s an expected background and skill in dealing with bulls, not that I’d want to do that for fun anyway). The phrase “Out of the mouths of babes” came to mind, and I really think it was a saying invented for those occasional times when children can see through the social lies adults around them believe, for those occasional times when they make an accidentally deep statement about the nature of the world around them. It does not mean that any child risking their life to show off is somehow representative of adult behaviour that actually challenges a status quo of some kind.
    Anyway. I for one do not want to be represented by a silly child taking an unnecessary risk. Give me a woman who looks like she knows what she’s doing, is terrified, and is doing it anyway -- to save her china shop, for all I care. But not a pretty little girl thumbing her nose at powers beyond her comprehension.
    (I do add the caveat that children in general are smart and capable and all sorts of incredible and wondrous things, but letting a child play in front of a raging bull is not a wise choice from anyone involved. Bad parenting, I say.)

Trackbacks

  1. […] So Fearless Girl is a cutesy signifier that signifies nothing, an accessory for selfies. She doesn’t challenge any preconceived notions about what girls can do or be; girls have long worn skirts and ponytails and played outside. Fearless girls are adored and celebrated in literature, popular culture, and life. It’s once girls become women that all their ambition scans as irritating instead of spunky, as off-putting instead of endearing. The same society that roots for ambition in girls is one that that socially, professionally, and politically punishes ambition in the women those girls will become. It’s women, not girls, who have pesky needs and opinions and goals and sex drives and reproductive organs that make their ambition too problematic to accept. Read more: http://freethoughtblogs.com/affinity/2017/04/13/bull-vs-girl/#ixzz4e8jgyZMj […]

Leave a Reply