Back in early March, State Street Global Advisors erected a 4-foot-tall bronze statue of a young girl across from the iconic Wall Street Bull. The company is the investment management division of State Street Corporation, the third largest asset manager in the world. The statue was placed in Bowling Green Park in Manhattan’s Financial District as an act of support and solidarity with the International Women’s Day March.
The size disproportion between the bull and the girl is striking. The 11-foot-tall animal is a hulking mass of muscle, pointed horns and planted hooves. The girl is a slight figure of adolescence, a rumpled skirt, and blowing hair. The bull is bearing down, lunging and charging. The girl is flat footed, hands on hips, knees swayed back. She has been dubbed “The Fearless Girl” and clearly her posture is one of innocent defiance.
The irony of these two pieces of art is that the Wall Street Bull was created by sculptor Arturo Di Modica in response to the stock crash of 1986. The 3 ½ ton statue was cast as a symbol of strength, virility and American financial resilience. The Fearless Girl was created by artist Kristen Visbal to send a message about gender diversity in the workplace. The 50-inch sculpture represents the resiliency of women across the globe in the depiction of a young girl staring down a charging bull.
The juxtaposition of the two bronze pieces has captivated the world. It’s not hard to miss the boldness of a 1700-pound raging animal advancing on an unflappable 60-pound child.
‘Fearless’ is a good word for this girl. Clearly both of these statues are also the symbolic equivalents of their time. Back in 1987, ‘greed was good’ and the American Dream was romanticized by the power and prosperity of cuff-linked bond traders and raging bulls. Thirty years later predatory practices and toxic money have taught us to be hardnosed and skeptical. The epic of America is now captured by the plucky pragmatism and cheekiness of a tough kid.
It is a reminder that deep within the financial jungles of bulls, bears and wolves — everyday people still matter. In a wild world of bonds and trades, asks and offers, big boards and blue chips — the ordinary can still rise above the noise. There among the metro-capitalists and the fast-moneyed masters of the universe, this intrepid young lady is Main Street. And in a time of slow recovery and a shrinking middle class, one can also glean that the quintessential ‘little guy’ has been aptly depicted as a fearless ‘little girl.’