March 28, 2017

DUGGAL | Here to Stay

Print More

Earlier this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the popular statue of a young girl staring down Wall Street’s famous ‘Charging Bull’ will remain in place through February of the following year. This was especially news to me, who thought that statue was never actually leaving.

I love the statue of the young girl. I don’t think I could give you one way in which I would change its conception; I love that the statue exists, I love what it represents to me, and I especially love that a large part of its existence is left with enough ambiguity that each person may interpret what it means for themselves. Yes, factually the statue was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors, a firm that meant for the statue to represent “the present, but also the future.” As Stephen Tisdalle, chief marketing officer of State Street elaborates, “She’s not angry at the bull — she’s confident, she knows what she’s capable of, and she’s wanting the bull to take note.”Frankly, however, it doesn’t matter why the firm commissioned the statue and what they meant for it to represent.

Take the Charging Bull itself, for example. Installed also a surprise in the wee hours of the morning (4 a.m. to 6 a.m., in case your sleep schedule at this point in the semester doesn’t allow for a regularly scheduled morning or night), the bull was meant to be a symbol of the “strength and power of the American people” after the stock market crash of 1987. It was removed almost immediately after its debut outside the New York Stock Exchange and later relocated. Today, it has come to represent many things — Wall Street, Corporate America, financial greed, your subtle way of announcing a finance internship on Instagram.However, I believe I can safely estimate only a handful of people could tell you why the sculptor himself put up the statue or why it was originally commissioned.

Therefore, my point to for those who insist this statue is meaningless because it was put up by a corporate firm as a marketing gimmick or because the statue itself accomplishes nothing would be that you are refusing to look at what that statue might mean to someone that sees things otherwise. Don’t get me wrong — there are several arguments people have made against the statue of the girl that do, in my opinion (obviously) bring up important points. One New York Times piece mentions that the statue doesn’t inspire all women because “14 million women who make up two-thirds of the low-wage work force” can’t exactly relate the struggles of expanding the number of women on corporate boards, thus rendering it an “unworthy goal” in itself. The article also brings up the point that the only thing women seemed to be valued for are their contributions to keeping men from doing the wrong thing. So “governance-related issues such as bribery, corruption, shareholder battles and fraud” are decreased by the presence of women since females act as essentially a “moral safeguard.” This then begs “its own brand of sexism – the belief that women just don’t have what it takes to be as greedy as men.”

Now, while I do agree with certain aspects of each of these arguments along with the many more in favor of why the statue of the girl is false feminism, I find myself choosing to stay in favor of the statue. Why?

Because to me, statues, much like movements or marches or hashtags, are more about what they mean to people rather than what they may physically accomplish. Now, I don’t know much (read: anything) about art. But I do know that regardless of what someone might tell me the statue of the girl staring down the Charging Bull is supposed to represent, she will always represent defiance to me. It is possible she may represent strength to someone else. Or the future to yet another person. What would be unfair, however, is that she be written off for simply being a statue or a marketing gimmick. To many, the statue of the girl means far more, and that in itself is important enough to acknowledge and respect.

Hebani Duggal is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at hduggal@cornellsun.com. Teach Me How to Duggal appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.