Every era gets the Milkshake Duck it deserves.
At the same time the Trump administration announced plans to knife back the birth control mandate—a day after Harvey Weinstein was publicly outed as a sexual predator—word came down that the money behind Fearless Girl was, in fact, not as feminist as claimed. You remember Fearless Girl—the superficially-woke statue on Wall Street? The statue that economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett called “a little bit of a travesty”?
It was revealed that State Street Global Advisors, the firm who paid for Fearless Girl, “has been accused by the US Department of Labor of paying hundreds of female executives less than male colleagues,” according to the BBC, although “State Street has denied any pay discrimination for both its female and black employees.”
Since it was first deposited at the maw of Wall Street, Fearless Girl has divided the world. Some people, who were wrong, thought it was wonderful. Others, who were right, wanted Fearless Girl to be hacked down into grapeshot and used to shoot down drones. Confession: that was my idea. Fearless Girl, built by Kristen Visbal, was placed across from the Charging Bull statue in March of this year. The statue was intended as an advertisement for an index fund. The most hilarious detail of the statue can be read for free on Wikipedia:
The plaque below the statue states, “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference,” with “SHE” being both a descriptive pronoun and the fund’s NASDAQ ticker symbol.
According to NPR:
The Department of Labor investigation found “statistically significant” differences in the pay given women and men in leadership roles at the firm, as well as between the compensation of black and white employees. The differences persisted when the investigators accounted for “legitimate factors,” the Department of Labor says. A spokeswoman for the company tells NPR the investigation, which began in 2012, examined executive pay at the company’s Boston headquarters in 2010 and 2011. In an official statement, the company says it “disagreed with” the findings of the investigation but “made a decision to bring this 6-year-old matter to resolution and move forward.”
From Day One, I have agreed with Fearless Girl’s supporters that it’s a powerful symbol. Just not the way they intended. If you think each female CEO balances out a thousand homeless women, Fearless Girl is the statue for you.
Fearless Girl represents every superficial genuflection American liberalism makes before economic exploitation. If the alt-right had designed Fearless Girl to mock liberal gullibility, it couldn’t be more perfect.
A huge swathe of the electorate cooed over Fearless Girl. They posted pics on Facebook and snaps on Instagram. It’s so cool that the finance industry is woke! Others saw through the charade right away. These people pointed out there can be no socially liberal and fiscally conservative positions. One cancels out the other. You can’t use the money from exploitation to set up a statue saying you’re against exploitation.
The obscene privilege of Wall Street is built on—among other things—underpaying the millions of women who work in the service industry. If the bankers were serious about liberation, they’d pay them a decent wage. State Street’s actions should surprise nobody: of course they are regressive. You don’t get to be State Street—or any gigantic fund—without being indifferent to exploitation. It is their food, their bread, their butter; it is their working week and their Sunday rest.
That they underpaid their female and POC employees is not merely unsurprising: it is their business model. Would you be surprised to log on and find that the teens are at it again? Then you should hardly be gobsmacked that mongers of wealth cut corners whenever they can—and they love to cut corners at the expense of the people who are least able to fight back.
Fearless Girl is the Susan G. Komen of statues. It promises feminism with one hand, and cheats actual women with the other. The idea of Fearless Girl as icon of liberation is rich—in every sense of the word.