A New Home For “Fearless Girl”

Strong woman.

With her chin up and hands placed firmly on her hips, the young girl’s slender frame stands rigid and defiant before an onrushing creature of muscle and sinew. An unseen wind catches her hair and billows her dress like a sail, yet the girl remains still and unyielding. Mere feet from her is a horned beast of enormous size and even greater power, yet the girl’s face shows neither fear nor concern, but unfailing confidence and immeasurable calm. Her name is Fearless Girl, and she is currently a close second to the Statue of Liberty as the New York area’s most famous sculpture.

Placed in opposition to the Charging Bull statue in lower Manhattan, Fearless Girl has gained totemic power as the symbol of the resurgent Women’s Rights Movement and the more recent Me Too Movement. Her unflinching stance against the bull amply relays the strength and resolve women have always possessed, but it is the sculpture’s very placement which simultaneously imparts visual power unto it while depriving it of even greater relevance due to its appropriation of the bull’s display space and its celebrated denial of the bull’s charge. In wholly accidental fashion, the immovable object represented by Fearless Girl relays a subtle message of firm opposition to our capitalist economy, and that message detracts from its otherwise potent symbolism of women’s empowerment.

 

The success of every modern woman is the legacy of activist legends such as Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and Victoria Woodhull. No feminist and no organization in support of women here in America would ever seek to diminish the financial basis of the very nation in which women are rightfully making their presence and power known as never before. Yet, blocking the progress of the longtime symbol of America’s financial might that is Charging Bull stands Fearless Girl, and I firmly believe that American women deserve to have Fearless Girl placed in a location that powerfully represents the rise of the female presence in a message devoid of alternate interpretations.

I believe there is but one place in all of New York City where a sculpture of Fearless Girl’s significance should be placed, and that location is in front of the Brown Building at 23-29 Washington Place in Greenwich Village, NY. Formerly called the Asch Building, it was the location where, on March 25th, 1911, a raging inferno blazed through the structure’s top three floors. The levels were then occupied by a blouse manufacturer in which a legion of women toiled away behind locked doors. All exits were sealed because the employers did not want their workers to take unauthorized breaks and to deter theft, and the lack of any means of escape doomed most on the factory floors when a massive fire erupted and gutted them completely.

In an eerie precursor to the fires that would rage within the towers of the World Trade Center in 2001, some of those trapped in the factory jumped to their deaths while others had no choice but to wait for the flames to consume them or for the smoke to choke them to death. Amazingly, despite the massive loss of mostly female life, the factory owners were not found guilty of murder or manslaughter due to the locked exits. Instead, they received a large sum of insurance money, profiting them about $400 per victim.

The above is why Fearless Girl needs to be placed before the Brown Building. In 1911, scores of women were trapped and left to die there by heartless male employers, and the women’s lives were literally discounted by the courts. Fearless Girl would stand in defiance of such atrocities while continuing to symbolize the power of modern women. She would show just how far women have come in our nation, just how far they have risen since the horrific tragedy that was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

From sweatshops to boardrooms, that is just part of the tale of women in America. The Brown Building, with Fearless Girl standing defiantly outside, would symbolize that progress while honoring the many women whose lives were not valued and whose deaths were never avenged.

All the best,
Keith V.



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