Caroline Criado-Perez has some thoughts on Fearless Girl versus Raging Bull, and whether or not artists get to have a veto on artistic responses to their work.

She knows something about statues and women, especially in the UK. The upshot: there are very few statues of women, especially of women on their own; most of the ones there are represent mythical or royal women; this matters.

I will admit to not having counted all the statues in the US, but given the recent news that every statue in statue-filled Sofia is of a man; given there are more statues of animals in Edinburgh than of women; given in New York’s Central Park there are 22 statues of men and none of women other than fictional characters like Alice in Wonderland; given that women make up less than 30% of speaking roles in Hollywood films; given US congress is 80% male; and, finally, given, you know, just general patriarchy, there is no reason to think the US is a feminist statue Utopia.

Hahahaha that’s for sure. The US is not a feminist anything Utopia.

The vast majority of female statues are of nude sexualised women in the role of adoring muse to male brains (I mean, come on, half naked Euterpe is literally weeping over a male HEAD). The representation of a defiant, clothed, non-sexualised female in a prominent work of art is still vanishingly rare — and is therefore a radical act no matter who commissioned it and what the artistic intent was.

Now about that artistic intent.

Like many other men, Di Modica may not realise that rampant male-dominated capitalism already is a symbol of patriarchal oppression, already is an aggressive threat to women and girls all around the world, but that doesn’t make it any less the case. Here in the UK, women have repeatedly been found to bear the major brunt of the austerity policies that have been considered necessary to wipe up the mess to the global economy caused by these very same bankers. Last year, the UN charged Switzerland with failing its obligations under the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), specifically because of their laissez-faire banking policies, of which Wall Street bankers make such great use. I’m not going to go into a full-on lecture on feminist economics here, but if you’re interested, read anything by Nancy Folbre and you can’t go wrong. But to be clear: rampant unchecked capitalism is a symbol of patriarchal oppression whether Di Modica likes it or not. Fearless Girl does not therefore change the meaning to Charging Bull. She makes it explicit. And for that, I love her.

Di Modica wanted to represent “the strength and power of the American people”. I don’t want to be pedantic here, but to do this, he chose a bull. A male cow. Di Modica chose to represent the American people with an animal that is perhaps above all others considered a byword for male sexual aggression. And my god the balls on that thing. I think we can be fairly certain how Di Modica visualises power and strength — the phrase “grow a pair” comes to mind. Let’s be clear: this statue never represented the strength and power of American people. It represented the strength and power of American men.

And in all fairness this is a thing – this business of thinking “the people”=men and men=”the people.” Of thinking a charging bull can stand for “the [anything] people.” This business of forgetting that women exist.

Di Modica chose to represent the strength and power of the American people with an intensely male and sexually aggressive symbol. Now he doesn’t like that Fearless Girl is, essentially, calling him out on it. Well. Welcome to the 21st century, Mr Di Modica. You’re going to be seeing an awful lot more of this kind of thing.

Assuming no one puts a stop to it.

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