I want to be Fearless Girl. Every day.
Yes, I’ve heard the critics. The artist should have honored a real woman, they say, not an idealized little girl. The installation is just a stunt to get people to invest in State Street Global Advisors, which commissioned the work. And neither State Street nor its advertising sponsor for this project, McCann New York, has close to a decent percentage of women in leadership positions.
And that was the point of installing “Fearless Girl” on Wall Street on International Women’s Day. To bring attention to the lack of women on corporate boards.
But "Fearless Girl," by Kristen Visbal, is also a work of art that resonates deeply with me. That kind of connection and introspection has value.
The sculpture reminded me of the young women I’ve mentored, and who I hope continue to take a seat at the table, not in the chairs scattered along the wall. I also hope they speak up and support each other when someone — usually a man — repeats what one of them has just said.
The sculpture brought back the names of women I’ve asked to join boards and get involved with good works and who I hope continue to do the same with the next generation of women.
And she reminded me of the many times I’ve talked to my own sons about what to do when they see people mistreating women and how to act themselves in the face of bullies.
Fearless Girl reminded me of nasty emails that arrived over the years from small-minded men who sought to belittle me, demean me or break me down. If I were Fearless Girl every day, I wouldn't hesitate before hitting the delete key. I wouldn't waste energy wondering if I should apologize even though I didn't do anything wrong.
Hands on hips with a look in her eyes that leaves little doubt, Fearless Girl could deliver a good kick to the shins if she so desired.
I have something to say. I am competent. I have value. And, by the way, don’t fuck with me.
I haven’t worn a ponytail in years and high-tops weren’t my thing. But the buzz the statue on Wall Street has caused and seeing the pictures of women and little girls posing with the bronze heroine struck a chord in me that hasn’t stopped reverberating. She has evoked visions of bosses and board rooms, Donald Trump and pink pussy hats dancing in my head.
And there she was again, Fearless Girl, at the performance of “Joan of Arc: Into the Fire” last week at The Public Theater.
Before the actors took the stage, the sold-out audience reflected on the now familiar rallying cry painted on the curtain:
These are the words Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used to explain why a little-known Senate rule was fair game to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) during her speech criticizing the nomination of now U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Thank goodness Sen. Warren is fearless and understands the value of persistence.
Joan of Arc did, too. And she unified France. She left her hometown when she was a girl, barely 17, to find the army who would help her drive out the British. In the new musical (songwriter is David Byrne of the Talking Heads) the ongoing refrain is "Have Faith. Be Strong."
The "Fearless Girl" statue may not be around forever. She was installed under a temporary permit, facing the testosterone engorged “Charging Bull." So I signed one of the petitions to keep her around past April 2. This not-always fearless woman could use the inspiration.