APRIL 19, 2017 — For nearly three decades, the bronze sculpture of a menacing bull has stood in New York’s financial district, a massive symbol of American financial might and resilience. But earlier this year, a willowy 4-foot-tall Fearless Girl statue suddenly appeared yards away. Fists on hips, the little girl with windblown dress and ribbon in her ponytail defiantly faces the bull.
The girl was supposed to be a temporary addition, but women across the country embraced the Fearless Girl as a rallying symbol, a tribute to the power of women in leadership during International Women’s Day in March. Former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton and actress Jessica Chastain extolled the statue, which was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors, a Boston-based financial firm. “Come on everyone! Let’s keep this badass girl strong!” Chastain tweeted.
But the bull’s sculptor, Arturo Di Modica, is, um, seeing red. Di Modica argues that the girl is an insult to his work, and is “attacking the bull.” He wants to banish the girl.
The sculptor created the 11-foot-tall, 3-ton Charging Bull after the 1987 stock market crash to celebrate the resilience of America. Because of the girl, Di Modica’s attorney argues, the bull no longer is a powerful symbol of pride and optimism but “has been transformed into a negative force and a threat.”
The sculptor and his lawyer were quick to say they weren’t foes of gender equality. (Smart move there.) But Di Modica still wants the girl removed. The bull is a symbol of “freedom in the world, peace, strength, power and love,” Di Modica told The New York Times.
We have faith that pedestrians are capable of appreciating one sculpture at a time or taking in both. One doesn’t detract from the other, any more than a van Gogh and a Monet in the same museum battle for attention.
We think the girl enhances the presence of the bull … and the bull underscores the resolve of the little girl with feet planted firmly against whatever comes next. As a friend wrote: “So what if the little girl is taking on the sacred old bulls of our culture? Isn’t that something we want for all our little girls?”
New Yorkers are taking sides. Mayor Bill de Blasio is pro-girl (the statue is a symbol of “standing up to fear, standing up to power, being able to find in yourself the strength to do what’s right,” he says.)
Our advice to New York: Don’t blow this serendipitous pairing. The statue face-off stirs controversy and could attract tourists by the busload. What city wouldn’t relish such a magnet?
This is like Beyonce or Rihanna, Muhammad Ali or Joe Frazier, John or Paul. In other words: The rivalry is good for business.
Instead of rearranging the statues, how about unleashing Madison Avenue to make the most of this? A contest to name the girl? The bull? A children’s book about the plucky girl and her ferocious pal? An American Girl doll? T-shirts? Mugs?
Settle this tussle now. We say the girl stays.