Fearless Girl; as the rust settles – By @nearsanctum182

By Leanne Spencer


Fearless Girl; as the rust settles


Fearless Girl is a bronze sculpture by Kristen Visbal, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), a large asset management company. The statue was installed in 2017 in anticipation of International Women’s Day, which was to be the following day. It depicts a girl, four foot high, appearing stand-off against the infamous Wall Street Bull. It is supposed to signify a woman’s indomitable strength in the face of the male-saturated banking industry. 


Now, a few years down the line when she has played her part and toured the globe, nothing has changed. Fearless Girl was a distraction – and an effective one at that – from the fact that Wall Street and its male-dominant culture have no real impetus to change, particularly if the public are perfectly satiated with a token act like a statue of a girl left to rust in streets, while the men with real power sit comfortably inside, satisfied after a day of successful gatekeeping. 


This got me thinking about the extent to which this kind of moral counter- balancing exists in the advertising. 


Currently, there is a trend in advertising wherein brands are attempting to tap into the new, more socially conscious generations by slapping an ethos in their brand identity that tested well will the demographic, and then sending the ads out on their merry little way. A perfect example of this is the now, somewhat dated Gillette advert titled “the best a man can be.” This ad came out in January of 2019 and was intended to engage with the momentum built by the #MeToo movement. It encouraged men to take responsibility and call each other out on acts born from toxic masculinity like catcalling. Gillette immediately received a wave of backlash on social media that frankly surprised no-one.

Now, a lot of this was from men who were horrified at the notion of being held accountable for their own, disgusting actions but at the same time a lot of people rightly pointed out that Gillette and male branded content, in general, had done a lot to contribute to the culture of toxic masculinity. The advertising industry effectively invented the idea of gendered razors, deodorants and hair products on the back of the idea that a man should be ____ and a woman should be ____ and that was that. This effectively allowed them to sell the exact same product in two different colours and double their profit. I would love to get into the pink tax, here, but I only have so many words.   


So the other day, when a company CEO (who shall remain nameless) came in to deliver a masterclass and was asked an ethical question to which his eyes glazed over and her lips began reciting his rehearsed and purposefully vague response, I barely flinched. I think it was a couple of years ago I was reading an article that was trying to explain the phrase ‘power corrupts’. It’s not some airy-fairy phrase reserved for losers, it is a saying intending to explain that human minds were never meant to comprehend the way their actions would affect millions of people. Thus, the more power you have and the fewer obstacles that stand between you and your goal, the easier it is to see masses as just a data point. So is it any wonder that the men of Wall Street probably walk past the Fearless Girl statue every day on their way to sexually harass their secretaries? I think not.  

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