Before the Bull runs into the Girl

By Zunnash Khan. Zunnash, 17, is from Mirpur, Pakistan. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

The heated confrontation in the New York’s Wall Street’s arena looks interesting but somewhat unfair; the Fearless Girl, who faces the gigantic Charging Bull, is not even the square root of his size. This looks insane, but all madness ever, had a fierce motive behind it. So definitely, here too, is an agenda. Feminism- that’s right. Our recent history’s most clamorous idea, yet again reinforced as the statue was installed here on the eve of International Women’s Day…

To anyone witnessing this artistic confrontation for the first time, the Fearless Girl might seem like a stout-hearted female warrior facing her challenges, bold and determined. And by putting up her face firm and confident, she sets a message for all, that women are ready to challenge all obstacles that block their way to achieving their goals. And after all, she is not a popular or a well-known face, just a common girl serving as a perfect model of perseverance and bravery. In an unfair world like ours, this is just what a girl would call inspiration these days.

The statue’s remarkably assertive posture portrays confidence and women’s power, their ability to take up leadership roles and effectively voices their defiance to chauvinistic customs. It depicts a long struggle for women’s rights and independence. Sure, the statue is powerful. Young girls would like to pose like her whenever they feel like showing guts. It shows that a girl can do a lot. While she was thrusting her torso forward for a pose, someone else got trampled down in an avalanche…

So let’s, for one moment, take this picture out of the women’s day context. After all, the Fearless Girl is not a woman, just a child. The same artwork now displays a general defiance to fear, and an incarnation of bravery. The statue displays the familiar notion that your challenges are so much bigger than you are, but it’s always worthwhile to stand up to them. Courage and strength will always be rewarded and appreciated. And sometimes, you merely standing up can matter…

Or you might see it from another angle.

The agile: quick-witted girl is ready to take on an angry bull who is underestimating her because she is small. A message that the cunning mind will always have an advantage over blind anger. That the witty girl will eventually be able to deceive and defeat the bulbous beast, so the big haughty head will lose…

Or you might equally validly say the girl’s no match for the bull, of course. The art represents a foolish overestimation of one’s abilities and an over-reliance on one’s wit. This is definitely not the ideal way of thinking about life: “If you’re four feet, then first find somebody your size!”

But there is always a more obscure, darker side of the moon. While we formulate our opinions here our fellow, the Bull, is still suffocating somewhere under the avalanche. So before we go any further, let’s peek a brief glance at some facts…

Once upon a time, somewhere in the late 1980s, artist Arturo Di Modica sculpted a bronze bull. The powerful ‘Raging Bull’ became the defining symbol of New York’s Wall Street, and represented the nation’s unity, solidarity and strength at the time of the national stock market crash. It did so for quite a lot of time, and garnered praise and admiration from its visitors- just until the present year. One morning in spring, he woke up and couldn’t help but notice a greater than usual crowd buzzing around him. He had soon realized that a new fellow had jumped into the ring. While accepting that he had had his glory days, he didn’t mind all that attention going to this young, new fellow. But later, when he realized that all the little children were posing as if they’re about to punch him in the face, puzzled, he asked Di Modica one innocent question:

“What’s all that vendetta against me?”

Valid question. And no wonder, the artist himself was infuriated. Poor bull.

The argument is, whether this was Wall Street art or not, why is the bull always construed as a negative force and a threat? Why always the foe or the bulbous proud head? Trying not to sound serious as I am only commenting on art, if New York was populated with bulls, they would see him as a brave bull warrior, confronting the clever and mean humans, who had taken over the world, destroyed the environment, and polluted the ecosystems!

As I said, that’s not serious.

But let’s come back to feminism. To me, it is the advocacy for the equality for men and women in all walks of life. It is a persistent struggle for the rights of women and their empowerment, and their independence. Feminism is not a battle of opinions, but here, this art has turned it into a battle of opinions where Di Modica wants the girl removed because she subverted his bull’s meaning, a meaning which was meant to be positive. Here, it looks like a positive symbol of strength has been forcefully turned into a symbol of oppression to enforce the notion of female courage and women’s power. So above all, feminism is never something depending on bulls. Place the girl in a park by a tree, and she is only as much “Fearless Girl” as she is a “Girl with Hands on Her Hips”.

So, is it worth considering, as we all are getting the fuller picture now, to have a minute of silence for the bull?

It is clear that today, ideas carry a lot of power. People’s perspectives and opinions are shaped by the prevalent perceptions. So, ideas can bully you subliminally. The bull is a beautiful artistic feat, and on a serious note, someone’s got to dig him out of the snow. Yet the remarkably potent idea of feminism represented by the little girl didn’t allow many people to have a second thought on the situation. A little research into the matter would uncover this ironic reality that the artistic rights of an artist were trodden upon by none other than the “women’s rights movement” itself. It is clearly not the right way of things. Intrinsically, the picture displays a wonderful message, whichever way one interprets it, and is also an entertaining piece of art, so according to me, the artwork fulfills its purpose for people.

But it is quite interesting to realize that how the prevailing ideas hover around like spooks which set the mold for our opinions to fit in, and we might not even see it. We all blow where the wind does, all this time thinking that we chose our direction. Small realities are often hidden behind popular perceptions, unlikely to be discovered. A kind act might be, in reality, a big deception. A hearty smile might shroud a thousand cracks in the heart, and truths often become distorted by the winds. So before we judge a situation, it is wise to first make yourself oblivious of the direction of the currents, so that the dust settles and you see clearer. The signboard on the roadside would read;

“Beware: Over-Powerful Perceptions.”

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