Artist Arturo Di Modica, after two long years of work, finished his 18-foot-long bronze masterpiece in December of 1989. This piece is one that is recognizable to many Americans: “The Charging Bull,” a sculpture in New York City. The brave, strong Bull was representative of American persistence and spirit, a reminder to citizens whilst they fought to overcome the 1986 Wall Street Crash. In Di Modica’s own words, it was an embodiment of American freedom, American peace, American strength, American power, American love. Di Modica dropped his massive Bull under a large Christmas tree on Wall Street, without the permission of city officials. This Bull was thus removed and relocated to its current home at Bowling Green Park in New York City, of where it stands to this day.
Then the Girl came.
In March of 2017, Uruguayan artist Kristen Visbal installed a 4-foot-tall bronze Girl facing the Bull, which had been independent for a long 28 years. The small Girl, poignantly embellished with a dress and ponytail, stood confidently with her hands on her hips, a mere 20 feet away from the bull: a gift to New York on International Women’s Day.
This little, inanimate Girl sparked national controversy.
Di Modica was deeply insulted by Visbal’s statue. He explained that the Bull’s existence had been positive, pro-American, and empowering prior to the presence of the Girl. She stained his message. He demanded for the Girl to be moved somewhere else. He did not want his once heroic work to be portrayed as a villain.
However, this Girl — no matter how offensive it is to Di Modica — is absolutely necessary.
While Americans will deny it, the patriarchy is heavily embedded in our culture. Women are still not equal to men. In the past year, this fact has become profoundly evident. The Affordable Care Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, vowed to indiscriminately cover all citizens, male or female, and promised available birth control to women. It was a massive step for feminism. This past year, the government has promised to repeal the Act. One third of the American women have been physically abused by their partners; a sixth will be raped. These statistics are even worse for women of color. Over half of American women are not eligible for medical leave to care for newborns. The right to abortion, which has been established since Roe v. Wade, is to be abolished. Women earn only $0.80 to men’s $1.00 for equivalent jobs.
Let us venture out of the U.S., for some perspective on global gender inequality. There are 135 nations in the world. Four — 0.03% of the world — have reached gender equality, whilst the others are behind, and some are very far behind. In the Middle East, femicide (a term for the mass murder of women) and rape are common. In India and China, sex-selective abortion is common due to the national preference of boys over girls. In China, there are 126 times more boys than girls because of sex-selective abortion. In India, the birth of a girl is considered a burden to the family. Confucianism has left long-term effects on Japan, pushing male superiority. Japanese women are frequently subject to domestic violence and sexual exploitation, in addition to the national idea of their general inferiority to men. These are just a few examples; there are, after all, an immense 131 countries enforcing the patriarchy.
How does all this relate to “The Fearless Girl?” The Girl is the American girl, the American woman. She is what all of us are in the eyes of our country. She is small, underestimated, perhaps, but she is nonetheless brave for her willingness to stand against the almighty Bull. It is true that the Bull represented American freedom, justice, and peace, and to an extent, it still does. However, this freedom, justice, and peace is twisted: America is a place of freedom, justice, and peace, but only for those who are privileged — the man. The Bull didn’t transform into a villain upon the arrival of The Girl because it was always a villain, and the Girl simply highlighted this flaw. The Girl (and, on a literal level, women in general) is disregarded for this message in the pursuit of the Bull. The Girl stands against the inequality that exists in the American ideal and demands for change.
On a global scale, the Girl is that change. The Bull is not men, but the idea itself that men are superior to women. The Bull is indisputably stronger than the Girl, but the Girl is courageous. The Girl is young, and she will one day grow as big as her valor and bigger than the Bull. Similarly, the feminist movement will keep growing, and we can only hope that it will one day be able to destroy the patriarchy. In the meantime, the Girl will continue to stand tall against the Bull, almost presumptuously, almost yelling: “One day, I will defeat you.”
The fact that many Americans, including Di Modica, want Her gone just adds to the reason why the Girl must stay. Yes, Visbal’s work changes Di Modica’s original message, but it is a change for the better. Di Modica’s message was, perhaps, important in its time; Americans needed to boost their confidence with a reminder of their spirit. Today, the country needs something else. It needs to not be reminded of its righteousness, but of where it needs to improve. By people pushing it away, claiming that it’s too offensive or unnecessary, are (in the wise words of poet Langston Hughes) “deferring a dream.” Whilst society continues to reject or neglect these issues, women are suffering. They are deeming these very serious problems unimportant, when they are actually the harsh reality to millions of women all over the world. It is absolutely imperative that these lives are not ignored.
All of us girls & women — American or not — are “The Fearless Girl.” Whether we consciously recognize it or not, we are destined to face gender discrimination. We are destined to face the Bull. However, the feminist movement is expanding. Each generation is becoming more and more progressive and open to change and equality. There is hope, although it may not seem so obvious. The creation of the Girl itself is a product of the growing feminist movement and a step in the right direction. We, the female population of the United States and the world, are the fearless girl — and we will unapologetically stand in the face of the Bull.