Why Fearless Girl is Bull
By Jane Tawel
April 22, 2017
Thanks to my friend, Charles Hampton, for sharing a link to an opinion piece on Fearless Girl and Raging Bull, the two statues in New York which are recently making exactly the kind of controversy both artists and marketing firms like. Okay, I know the piece is not called Raging Bull, but thinking about all of this stuff can give one a head ache, much like the headaches boxers might feel as portrayed in the movie “Raging Bull”. The first of several things that gets me about these dueling gender specific statues, is that while it is okay to have a raging headache thinking about things and thereby proclaiming our “masculine” side or “yang”, it is not okay to have a heart-ache when feeling about things, feelings as expressed in the feminine side or “yin”. And both of these sides of the human psyche are or should be nurtured and celebrated in and by all of us. To truly have our God-given rights and the dual sides of our human strengths, we all – male and female – must be able to balance the yin and yang of our feminine and masculine attributes and characters. Just to pull the Jesus card right from the get-go– Jesus treated all genders as equals and His apostle later reminded us that in Christ there is “neither male nor female”. In the image of God, we were created. God as God, and we IN God, means there is neither female nor male but God as a Being that we can only vaguely understand as the spiritual essence– quality and gifting– of both. Which means we were created with the essence and character of both.
So here’s the second but different thing about having a statue of a little girl instead of a woman. Making a statement about female empowerment with the image of a little girl, ensures that the statue represents someone whose power must be supernatural since she isn’t old enough to be powerful through experience and physical and intellectual strength. We still just don’t really like women who are powerful through experience and intelligence but we especially don’t like those women who still have strong and apparent emotions. Yet, somehow we give many men a pass on emotions that we wouldn’t in a woman. We might have very different standards for a woman who was, oh, let’s just say for a random example, an emotional woman who was the POTUS That career woman of intelligence and experience but who shows emotions would be at best kicked out of the job and at worst, institutionalized.
But why have we allowed ourselves to buy into the belief that emotions are meant to be clamped down, sanitized and shelved? When did we forget that the emotional sides of us want to make a difference in the world too? How did we accept the lesser goods of brain as emotional-less and brawn that is fearless? Isn’t it often the things we feel emotional about that cause us to act? Isn’t our fear an indication that something must be fought against? Can’t we historically (in the world and in our own family histories) point to the people who changed our lives exactly because they have felt deeply emotional and from the heart about things that matter? Aren’t these empaths often held up as the very people who get big things – things that change lives – done? And when did we stop believing that emotions are valuable and good? Even fear? Even anger? Even pain? Has not the human heart made more difference in the world than all the powers and big brains combined? Well, yes, one argues rightly– emotions can be used for evil and bad things – for us and for others. Let’s mention just two bad uses of emotions – nationalistic emotionalism in 1930’s Germany or racist emotions anywhere anytime. But the point is emotions are not bad or evil in and of themselves. The Judeo-Christian belief is that somehow strangely, humans were created with the same emotions as a God. Even to the extreme of feeling jealousy. Or suffering. A suffering God who is jealous for our love is one of the great paradoxical truths of my religion. One word alone should be able to help us all make the connection between emotions and meaningfulness and that word is LOVE. I can give endless examples, of the life-changing qualities of love from my life, from countless poems, stories, and scripture references, from various religious beliefs. And of course, any one reading this could do the same. Love makes the difference between a fearless, inactive statue and a fearful yet faithful godlike slayer of giants.
The problem with the little girl being “fearless” is that we demean the importance of feelings – of the heart-life. And this is perhaps why we have so often lived as soul-less consumers who remain desperate but unwilling to risk drinking deeply of meaning and trustingly becoming meaningful. Feelings are not the soul’s second class citizens but critical components for survival. Our needs for holistic living include all that we might call feelings, whether of fear or anger or love.
Oh, Artistic Muse Fearless Girl – Couldn’t we have a statue of desperate aching –hearted rural white grandmother? Or a representation of a scared –to- death but determined Midwestern black man? How about one of “I’m –about- ready- to- pee- my- pants- menopausal –mama- but -I’m -going –to- do -this -any -way -because –we- must –keep- trying- to- love- in- spirit- and- in- truth?”
Or– could we have maybe a statue of a homeless Asian U.S. veteran with arms outstretched towards the Wall Street Bull? Or across from the Bull, a very large unemployed woman clutching with one hand her world’s belongings in a shopping cart and in her other hand, her dread-lock haired child who holds a used and tattered public school book in his little hand, both fearfully but determinedly facing off against the increasing rampaging tides of greed, injustice, prejudice, hate, hunger, and violence?
I’ve included the link at the end of this to the thought provoking piece that got me thinking about all this. Greg Fallis points up the moral and artistic conflict in the fact that a business named SHE appropriated the original meaning of a work of art (the bull) for a marketing tool. SHE, the business, evidently has some nifty ideas but it has manipulated emotions and commissioned art and disguised and sold both as an altruistic, empowering belief system. Sadly, many religious institutions do much the same. This analysis by Greg Fallis about the two NYC statues is fascinating as it comes after the brief but infamous Pepsi commercial and that particular shameless, Mad-Men appropriation of someone else’s Truth and Meaning; appropriated not for adding onto the meaning but for marketing it. But come on, we have been sitting impotently by for years as our medias sell us meaning and belief for the price of a well-timed commercial break. Our religion has become The Show, and The Show, our religion. And well, of course how does one even begin to get one’s head around the whole appropriation of our democracy for one particular family’s marketing of their businesses? Where is Fearless American Citizen in all that? You know even many churches now pay big bucks for marketing? Yowza — we have really lost control. No, we have lost our way. No, we have lost The Way.
Before today, without knowing any of the controversy about these two statues, what I have been a bit surprised no one is talking about (or maybe they are) is why does it have to be a little girl? Why is it not a fearless woman? Oh, that’s right, no one wants to vote for a fearless woman. 😆 Accept it or not,there is an insidious gender and color inequality — and I mean inequality of Meaning. I refuse to keep reducing inequality to something about money. Money inequality is an astute indicator but it is not The Problem. The Problem is that we do not give all people the same depth of meaning. We do not give all giftings the same depth of meaning. We do not give all of our parts, the same depth of meaning. And this where Jesus should make a difference but doesn’t always. And it is so often because we are afraid to live like Jesus lived. We don’t feel so fearless when Jesus asks to think, speak, and act the way He did.
What would it say in the world today for someone to make a meaningful statue of Fearless Black Boy? What would it mean in our First World belly –button- looking world for someone to make a statue of Aged Mexican Gardener facing off The Botoxed Bulls of Wall Street? What would it mean for a statue representative of whomever I claim myself to be, with my hands openly outstretched, placed face to face across from whomever is most fearful and unacceptable to me, with his hands openly outstretched? What would it mean for more of us to be symbolized by the helpless, fear-clenched, blood drenched hands of a God stretched motionless on a death machine called The Cross?
Thirdly, speaking of empowering, how do we think we make a woman feel powerful by making a statue of a little girl fighting weaponless with an above -the -knees dress on? Really??!! Come on. We really need to stop confusing our uses of the word “provocative” when it comes to females.
I cannot watch recently made Disney movies. I am so glad my children grew up watching movies like the animated version of “101 Dalmations” or “My Friend Totoro”, and the movie about different types getting along with each other through love and understanding as in the wonderful movie, “Babe the Pig”. At some point and I don’t know when, Disney and, well, to be fair, Hollywood in toto, decided that rather than making girls damsels in distress being saved by Prince Charmings, they would make girls act like tough little boys (but the girls will still wear provocative clothing) standing up but, flirtatiously, to Prince Charmings who themselves are masquerading as the bad boys mothers still warn their girls not to date – oh that’s right the Disney mothers and fathers are either evil foster parents or adults too flaccid, weak and uncaring to go themselves to find their missing little girl –so we still need the bad boy to accidently while robbing someone’s castle, find and save the girl. And said little Disney girl (who still has beautiful white- chick hair no matter her animated skin color and who has the body of a Victoria Secret model) ends up cutely saving the hot and handsome but naughty bad boy Prince Charming – oh what a twist! And the Prince is saved by the delightfully coifed girl which she does by beating the phooey and snake snot out of temporarily evil people (Because in Disney’s colorized gray worldview, no one is really good or evil). And the sweetly gowned princess fearlessly, with toned arms akimbo, magically without breaking a sweat defeats evil by bopping it on the head with a sauce pan or mowing it down with an Uzzi. Thankfully in the finale, the tough little girl reverts to stereotype and assumes her inherited third generation Princess role and goes goo-goo ga-ga in love with previously weak, both physically and morally, but now miraculously ethical, strong, and wealthy bad-boy turned good guy (who really was a nice guy all along) AND – best of all – we find out he is a stinking rich Prince himself so she can relax and stay at home while he goes out and conquers the world and become James Bond and conquers other women as well. Oh those locker room bad boys will be boys! And a whole generation of young girls and their moms LIKE these stories and they want to enter the world of television just like Mike TV in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and live out the Disney version of the American Dream. And every day a new Reality Show Life is born. And another soul dies.
But all of this is not meant as a feminist rant; It is just as disheartening and misleading a worldview for little boys and men. I am not an expert on the male psyche but surely we can all look around us and see that men want the same things as women – purpose, love, and meaning. We women and men are the same and yet not the same and so in thinking about any of this, we must as so many of us are trying to do today, including Greg Fallis, hold together two equal and opposite thoughts at the same moment or however long it takes for the achievement of a greater end – the end being one of understanding and feeling, of enlarging the soul, and of journeying further along the circle of life’s completion.
This is perhaps why people choose to make statues of little girls staring down bulls, rather than little boys staring down men. Little boys fearlessly facing off and thereby saving grown men doesn’t have the Disney vibe we crave today — that proverbial dike has sailed, to mix two ancient allusions. But back to the importance of true minds and hearts created as genderless- God-given spiritual giftings to all souls. I want my girls to see their father as a hero for working hard, thinking deeply, and feeling so much love for them that he cries when they graduate, fall and skin their knees, or come home for his birthday. I want my son to see his mother as someone who works hard, thinks deeply, and cries with joy when he succeeds or is kind to others, and cries with anger, fear, and loss when he –or anyone– falls down. And I want my Princesses and Prince – Justine, Clarissa, Verity, and Gordon – to find people of both genders, of all ages, of varied colors and creeds and salary levels— people whom they can love and respect for all that those individually created and creative beings do, think, and feel – whether they fall “in love” with said people or just happen to meet them at a homeless shelter.
Finally, I long to be the person who has a heart for saving. And I will just let that word sit there with all of its varied and important nuanced meanings.
Oh,fearless girls and boys! Do not let the world market designate for you what courage is.
Oh, cheerless boys and girls! Do not let the world takers rob you of feeling deeply.
Oh earless souls, let they who have ears to hear, hear. It is written, “where our treasure is, there our souls live.”
We must look inside at the art waiting to be created in our very own souls. We have to truthfully and lovingly call each other out. We must keep asking Why? Why we like girls to be fearless on the soccer field but not in the halls of Congress? Why we promote the idea of fearless men as Navy Seals and veterans — thereby also marketing something– rather than truly grappling with the fearsome inequities of the unjust wars we proselytize them to? Why we do not embrace fearful boys who do not like to compete, but would rather nurture. Why we do not respect fearless girls who will not lead like men, but will lead nonetheless. We must keep asking why as a compass, not an ending.
The tragic irony is as we sell our spirits for the winning edge, for the increase in market shares and donations and in taking and in giving, we keep trying to figure out how we can combine them to make ourselves feel whole. We keep trying different combinations to create more meaningfulness, just as NYC is trying to figure out how to combine these statues so the meaning will be more appealing. Who said living meaningfully was supposed to be appealing? Every time I buy something now, from the grocery store items in my basket to the shoes and socks on my feet, I am asked if I would like to give a donation to someone less fortunate by donating more money or paying more to the faceless corporation for the mediocre item I am convinced I want. And then that corporation will feel better about itself by making money off my need to feel good about myself with my open generously giving pocketbook and I will feel better about buying more stuff and both of us can take and give at the same time –AND – get a tax write-off for our need to give and take and consume and donate. And yet in the same breath I am told not to vote for entitlement programs or give a dollar to the homeless guy on the street because it doesn’t help them. And the more money I spend on faceless charities never answers the question of why I can never buy enough to fill the big hole in my heart or hunger in my soul. And I wonder why it all gives me a head ache from trying to get my mind around it and a heart-ache from trying to get my soul above it.
The meaning within meaning upon meaning of this statuesque non-Mexican artistic standoff, sans walls, is a fascinating sub-topic into where Orwell did warn us unchecked capitalism eventually leads — to the same place unchecked communism does, to the same place any unchecked self-centeredness always ends. But don’t take Orwell’s dystopian word for it. Jesus did quite a bit of warning about this as well. We have willingly succumbed to living life as a marketing ploy and accepted the symbolism of equality and courage as childishness, something to admire in children who as adults will eventually get trampled by the world. And Jesus keeps asking adults to become more like children—to in fact be infants fresh from His Womb, daily reborn as children in need of a protective and loving Father who comes running to stand between His beloved ones and the world’s oppressive greed. The Mother/Father/God Spirit is as powerful as a Father and as tender as a Mother as He eternally invites us all, even the prodigals, into His embrace.
The NYC display is truly a perfect combo of statues at a timely American juncture in a well- chosen location. Here we see: A statue meant to symbolize American citizens’ strengths which now merely symbolizes American greed masquerading as the dream of luck on Wall Street facing-timing a plucky Disney heroine who it is blithely assumed will win against evil merely because we manipulate the storyline and alter the facts. And so we can watch from the sidelines and go to bed at night feeling good about ourselves and bad about the other side. After all, a little girl might be able to take on a raging bull but she certainly can’t hurt me or convince me out of my own entrenched narcissism and self-serving belief system, right? And of course, in the Disney version the Bull Market and the little girl with super powers become friends and live together in contentment, never growing old, with large 401Ks, and sexily in love happily forever after. And because The Great Oz says it, well, it must be true, right?
And we look on. And we no longer seek “The Way, Truth, and Life”. So often, tragically, even when we say we seek The Way, we still want to get our money’s worth. Even our churches market their programs and speakers and coffee bars, and sell us on how “Awesome” we are, but how THIS church can make us even better. Christians selling spirituality as a way of trying to make Americans feel better about themselves? Really? Are you kidding me? My kids think I’m crazy, but every time I drive by and see this one particular large sign marketing a local church that reads, “You are Awesome”– I shout out, “NO! YOU AREN’T! BUT GOD IS!”
I am not awesome. And please don’t pander to me as if you think I write that merely to garner compliments. I don’t believe in my awesomeness in the same way I don’t go to church to make myself feel better about myself, but to worship a God infinitely more awesome than I could ever know. I don’t want to feel awesome, I want to feel humbled enough to feel beloved and then paradoxically more capable. Through humility in the presence of an Awesome God, and forgiveness of daily failures, I become more capable of truly and deeply knowing the right way to live and feeling with all of me a love for my Creator and all those whom He likewise created.
I am a flawed sinful human being with absolutely nothing inherently awesome about me except for the fact that I can serve a fearful but faithful Risen Savior who is in the world today and that I can know and serve an awesome Creator who is not the author of fear but who created me – and you—and him—and her—and them—in His Image to be loved by the gender-bending, multi-colored Being. And we are all equally but uniquely and differently wired to go into the world as His beloved ones, “in fear yet in truth” and to lovingly do likewise, as the Son of Man did, being mutually, lovingly creative in His Image.
I always like people who struggle with opposing ideas while still marching forward. I know there are so many opposing ideas to any thing I could say or think and yet somehow the really true stuff always ends up on the same eternal path under the same Eternal Light. Spiritual Paradoxes as all true metaphors lead to great and eternal Truth. That’s why Fearless Girl is Bull, and Bull is Fearless Girl. It is a combined metal Pinocchio for our own time.They are two opposing ideas and the metaphor they create together, like all good metaphors is a puzzle to be solved. The juxtaposition of two realities creates a third reality to be discovered. The two statues make slightly different meanings in different individual’s understanding as much great art does. But the experience of the two statues is only a metaphor and must wait for meaning to infuse the hearts of living, breathing humans with purpose. As in all available truths, it longs to give life to real people’s actions.
What I liked about Fallis’ article, “Seriously, the Guy Has a Point” is the balancing act of different truths that good writing tries to accomplish. Good people must try to balance truths as well. Maybe that’s what we need a statue of — a person holding two opposing ideas and walking forward juggling those ideas through a hail of verbal bullets? But then isn’t that sort of what the scales of justice are supposed to represent – holding opposing ideas in the balance one’s hands so that one can truly feel the balances minute shiftings? Feeling deeply and sensing truthfully as the scales change levels? Can we not start re-developing some feeling in our hearts and balance in our minds so that when the scales of justice and morality tip, we know it? So we can feel when the scales tip on things like prejudice? Or freedom of speech? Or – on how capitalism is working? On fighting other peoples’ wars? On weapons? On health rights? On education? On freedoms to choose and safety? On the sanctity of all lives? Or on that most God-like attribute –merciful justice? And — When things tip and we feel in our hearts’ hands and our reconditioned souls’ scales, what has changed has really been what has been The Way, Truth, and Life all along –can we not then change our course and catch ourselves from over balancing in The Fall? Can we give them up to save our souls? Isn’t that what Jesus did? He commended His Soul into the perfectly balanced hands of His Father. He held the opposing ideas of Love and Enemy in His hands? And He held the opposing Truth of Death and Life in His body and soul? He was the perfectly calibrated scale of God and human being. And He is what every Fearless Girl should lead like and every Fearless Boy follow after.
“Oh, what does it profit a fearless girl or bullish boy if they gain the whole world, but in the process, lose their souls?” —- The Christ, 2000 years ago.
Please enjoy Greg Fallis’s Post: