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Standing with the bulls

What the Fearless Girl statue really symbolizes is denial of reality

Standing with the bulls

“Fearless Girl” (Mark Lennihan/AP)

On March 7, a bronze statue popped up on Manhattan’s Bowling Green at the intersection of Broadway and Whitehall. The timing, one day before International Women’s Day, is no accident: “Fearless Girl” faces the “Charging Bull” of Wall Street with feet spread, hands on hips, and puny chest thrust out like an 8-year-old insisting she will not, absolutely not, clear the table because it’s her brother’s turn.

The statue was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors, a mutual fund specializing in gender-diverse companies. It’s artful advertising, and clever of SSGA to capitalize on the moment. Even better for their word-of-mouth when local media, not to mention Twitter and Instagram, went nuts over the symbolism. We’re all about symbolism these days. Mayor de Blasio praised Fearless Girl’s standing up to Wall Street, adding, “Men who don’t like women taking up space” demonstrate “why we need her.” U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney saw in the girl’s defiant stance “the resiliency of women.”

Fearless Girl had her detractors as well, such as Washington Post columnist Christine Emba, who wonders why such resiliency must be portrayed as a child, “reinforcing the idea of femaleness as cute and inoffensive.” Arturo Di Modica, sculptor of the Charging Bull, says the new installation undermines the symbolism of his work: The bull represents strength and prosperity, but with a little girl in its path, it becomes a public menace.

We can play the symbols game all day, especially since bronze figures stand still and let us. But will anyone deny that, in a face-off between a real bull and a real girl, the girl wouldn’t stand a chance, no matter how confident her posture?

Actually, some people might deny that if they confuse symbolism with reality. Lethal females in stiletto heels wipe out squads of thugs all over TV- and movie-land, because women could totally do that if they just believed in themselves enough. Or, if they can’t quite manage the heels, they can at least carry a 50-pound pack plus an M-4 rifle and 30 rounds of ammo on a quick march over hill and valley. Anything you can do, says Fearless Girl to her bullish counterpart, I can do better. Or at least just as well, so there’s no reason whatsoever to bar women from anything they want to do.

Except biology, physiology, and psychology. Allowing as always for the exceptions, women tend to be less careerist, more risk-averse, less violent, and more relational than men. They are the circle rather than the tangent, the buoy not the speedboat. Men and women share all the virtues, such as strength, creativity, generosity, and courage, but express them in different ways and circumstances. The big difference comes down to this: Men, in general, drive a culture; women, in general, stabilize it. 

The big difference comes down to this: Men, in general, drive a culture; women, in general, stabilize it.

Today the elites tell us it’s time for women to take the wheel. That seems only fair, after millennia of male domination, but what it amounts to is pushing women into attitudes and positions that go against their nature, while letting men stand down when they should be stepping up. The stats are alarming. For example, ages 18 to 24 are prime years for moving out, moving up, and building a resumé, but 35 percent of American males that age haven’t taken the first step—they still live with their parents, and 1 in 4 of that 35 percent doesn’t even have a job. Meanwhile, more women of this age are living with a husband or partner than their male peers are, and at least 16 percent of women head their own (mostly low-income) households, compared to 13 percent of men. The trends show no sign of turning.

God made them male and female, two sides of one image. We need each other to live up to that image: builders and occupiers, managers of the political and the social, influencers of opinion and influencers of the heart. Men will always drive a culture, even if it’s only a handful of them who violently seize the wheel. The question is whether they drive it forward or into a ditch.


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  •  FreedomInTejas's picture
    Posted: Sat, 05/06/2017 11:27 am

    "...ages 18 to 24 are prime years for moving out..." "but 35 percent of American males that age haven’t taken the first step..." 

    The consequences of this cultural shift cannot be overstated and can really only be thwarted by solid Biblical preaching, teaching, and active discipling about marriage, responsibility and leadership. 

    One consequence is the abdication of engagement in civic responsibility: even in Texas, less than 15% of 18-24 year old males  who were registered to vote even bothered to do so in either party's hotly-contested Presidential primaries, and less than 1/4 of 1% voted in local school board, bond and city elections in 2016. In  November, less than 40% of voter-eligible males in that age range voted in a very contentious Presidential election. 

    Proverbs 29:18a comes to mind.

  • JerryM
    Posted: Sat, 05/06/2017 06:34 pm

    Thanks for this article.  What looks to be an interesting and related movie, "The Red Pill", was recently released.  Not sure this is old news and/or if World has profiled this?

  • DCal3000
    Posted: Sun, 05/07/2017 10:17 pm

    I really appreciated this column.  Ms. Cheaney addressed topics generally considered beyond discussion in modern culture, and she did so with great insight.

  • Laura W
    Posted: Mon, 05/08/2017 03:37 am

    Well, that's art for you--everyone sees something a bit different in it. I see a plucky gal who's ready to rise to the challenge of whatever life throws at her (which incidentally is rather unlikely to include any real bulls). Though you raise some valid concerns about men, I think we could still do with a bit more of that kind of feminine strength.

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Mon, 05/08/2017 05:44 am

    World's recent stand on this statue strikes me as unnecessarily partisan and completely absurd. There is literally nothing objectionable about the statue from an objective point of view. Of course Di Modica feels that the "original intent" of his work (a point of view interestingly not recognized as authoritative by art critics, for what it's worth, as I'm sure he knows) has been compromised, but that is essentially irrelevant to the discussion above. Instead, we get Ms Cheaney telling us that the statue represents some sort of distorted vision where women have dared to drive culture instead of letting the men do it. Well, really! I'm not sure where she is getting her information about women's "nature." And seriously, before you talk about women "violently" seizing the wheel (how dare they!), let's take a step back--would you really criticize all women who take leadership, or just liberal ones? I don't recall World bashing Margaret Thatcher, for example, or for that matter the biblical Deborah. This entire article seems to be about taking a supposedly principled stand against something that seems vaguely liberal but is actually utterly benign, and so Ms Cheaney must resort to spinning the argument and the justifications out of thin air becasue there is absolutely nothing to stand on.

  • Minivan Man's picture
    Minivan Man
    Posted: Fri, 05/12/2017 08:17 am

    I disapprove of the statue because it drastically distorts the intent of the original artist's art.   Make art with your own statue, dont hijack and distort someone else's.  

    I agree with some of what Ms. Cheaney says.  We live in a society that is too quick to ignore reality and our own limitations.  One case that comes to mind is the movie about the slug named "Turbo" who proves everyone wrong and competes in races.  Ridiculous.

    But since the statue doesn't come with an explanation, there is sure to be differences in interpretation.  Is the girl statue saying there are seemingly insurmountable obstacles in life that you must face with courage?  Or is it saying there is nothing a girl can't do it if she is bold and determined.  Hans might interpret it as the former, and Ms. Cheaney sees the latter.  

  • HP
    Posted: Mon, 05/22/2017 01:37 pm

    World is focused on the present, with only a few looks into the past for perspective. Given that, I fail to see how not critisizing Thatcher has anything to do with it.

    "...Ms Cheaney must resort to spinning the argument and the justifications out of thin air because there is absolutely nothing to stand on." Question: Isn't declaring that she has "nothing to stand on" without presenting the case for that statement the same as pulling "justifications out of thin air" ?

    I'm not saying a little more explanation wouldn't be useful, but that it also applies to you as well.

  • Laneygirl's picture
    Posted: Mon, 05/22/2017 12:07 pm

    Thank you to World Magazine for providing one of the rare places we can freely acknowledge there are two genders and we can celebrate their God-created differences.  

    It was a bit jarring to read a comment so clearly echoing the world's feminist position. Its heatedness betrays the EPH 4.29-32 admonition for the brothers.  

  • Judy Farrington
    Posted: Sat, 06/10/2017 04:28 am

    I completely agree with Ms. Chaney. She displays keen insight and the courage to write it. Thank you, Ms. Chaney!

  • SC
    Posted: Thu, 06/15/2017 08:09 pm

    I just love this article and the way Ms. Cheaney uses logic and truth to state the obvious. I've been sharing her thoughts because they were so brilliant!