The ‘Fearless Girl’ statue sums up what’s wrong with feminism today
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Statue of young girl stares down Wall Street bull for women’s day
Forget the ruby red slippers: this season’s wish-fulfillment accessory is a knitted pink hat. No need to click your heels, little girls. If you care to summon Glinda Gecko the Good Corporate Witch, just place your fists on your hips three times! There’s no place like Wall Street … There’s no place like Wall Street… There’s no place like Wall Street. Greed is good – and good for girls! Time to lean in to corporate bull.
The investment firm behind Fearless Girl, the sculpture temporarily placed in front of the famous Wall Street bull, pulled off a formidable marketing coup when they placed the statue there on Women’s Day. But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that it is a brave feminist statement. It is not.
Fearless Girl doesn’t have to worry about affording college – she’s owned by an investment firm! No one can shut her out of the economy, as so many of her flesh-and-blood sisters have been: she owns Manhattan real estate. In the financial district, no less! No wonder she’s so fearless.
Advertisements – yes, that means, you, Fearless Girl – paint false realities that can be packaged and sold as products to the general public. Look at Fearless Girl’s posture. She is, quite literally, leaning in. My mother’s generation used to call this “having it all”. Both figures of speech presume there is something on the table, ripe for the taking. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Having it all” for most women won’t mean being Marissa Mayer or Sheryl Sandberg. The women’s movement, the marches for equality, are not about making every little girl a CEO, but rather about rendering the national dialogue more inclusive. Ironically, womensmarch.com has launched a campaign to convince Americans to divest from banks that support the Dakota pipeline.
Not every person has the option to do so, but women need to divest at a deeper level: we need to divest our values of social equality from Wall Street success. We need to understand that economic justice is not the plot of Working Girl; economic empowerment is not taking a helicopter to East Hampton every weekend during the summer season.
Feminism is about human decency, not moulding young girls in the image of a banking industry that bets against us, shorts us, and then receives government bailout money.
It’s an industry that always has enough in its coffers to bet on both horses. America has companies on both coasts – on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley – that need to be shamed into civic responsibility, yet demand equal protection before the law. They restructure, outsource and demand tax breaks as job creators. Yet the cities in which they are located squeeze out the middle class and become bedroom communities for their very wealthy employees and clients.
Do we need women at the top of the ladder? Making big decisions? Calling the shots? We sure do. We also need more women and men of color as captains of industry. However, let’s remember why: so that they can understand, represent, and remember the needs of the underserved, of those who didn’t go straight from Harvard Business School to a hedge fund without a care in the world. We don’t need women at the top of industry who have kicked out the ladder from under them – just like the men who came before them.
We need women who will realize new possibilities for companies to work toward the common good, to use capitalism to extend the promises of our founding documents to all, rather than serving as a pernicious, perfectly legal tool of oppression. We need female lawmakers to do that, too.
We need to remember the ladies, and we need symbols that will help us to do so. Some, of course, interpret a little girl staring down the mean, old bull of Wall Street as doing precisely that. But it’s really hard to take on Wall Street when you’re funded by Wall Street. That’s something Fearless Girl is sure to find out, once she turns into Fearless Woman and actually starts rocking the boat.