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'Fearless Girl' statue | © Shinya Suzuki/Flickr
'Fearless Girl' statue | © Shinya Suzuki/Flickr

Is New York City's 'Fearless Girl' Statue an Advertisement or Symbol?

Picture of Cailey Rizzo
Updated: 7 April 2017

In honor of International Women’s Day, a “fearless girl” popped up in Downtown New York in early March. All five feet (1.5 meters) of the golden statue stood proudly with her hands on her hips and her chin up, staring down Wall Street’s charging bull. The statue quickly became a photo opp for tourists and locals alike, in support of women’s rights.

The installation was only supposed to remain on Wall Street through April 2, but after thousands of people signed petition to keep her in place, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that it will remain on Wall Street until (at least) International Women’s Day 2018 as part of a city public-art program.

“In her short time here, the Fearless Girl has fueled powerful conversations about women in leadership and inspired so many,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Now, she’ll be asserting herself and affirming her strength even after her temporary permit expires—a fitting path for a girl who refuses to quit.”

While some who petitioned to keep the statue of the girl are rejoicing, others are a bit more critical, saying that the installation is just an inflated PR stunt. At the foot of the statue is a plaque that reads “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.” Here’s the thing: The “SHE” isn’t capitalized just for emphasis.

The statue was commissioned by State Street (a finance company) to promote SHE—the company’s SPDR Gender Diversity Index ETF. For those who do not speak finance lingo: SPDR and ETF are types of funds. The SHE Index looks at companies that have higher percentages of women in positions of leadership and includes them in this fund. So basically, the Fearless Girl is an ad targeted at investors who want to support companies with higher percentages of women.

Although just because the statue was originally meant an advertisement (and not a worldwide symbol for female empowerment), that doesn’t necessarily negate the whole thing. It’s all open to interpretation on the power and validity of advertisements with a political slant.