“Pro-Feminist” Artist Criticizes “Fearless Girl” By Placing Statue of a Dog Peeing On Her Leg Beside Her, Because Feminism
You know what I love? When people (usually men) insist that they’re feminists, only to have their actions prove exactly the opposite. The “Fearless Girl” statue in the Wall Street area of New York City is at the center of some controversy again. This time, she’s getting peed on.
There were already mixed feelings about the statue. Many people were skeptical of the “feminism as marketing tool” aspect of it, as it was commissioned from a female artist (Kristen Visbal) by an investment management firm called State Street Global Advisors and was supposed to symbolize a call for more women on corporate boards, but really seemed like an excuse to have their investment firm name typed over and over. Meanwhile, I wrote about the idea that having the statue be of a girl at all was misguided, and that little girls and grown women alike need statues and images of successful women to look up to, rather than girls symbolizing the feminism that will exist in some indeterminate future.
There is definitely valid criticism about this statue. However, the funny thing about art is that once an artist creates it and puts it out into the world, no matter what their intention or mission statement, the art takes on a life of its own as people interact with it and imbue it with meaning. “Fearless Girl” has come to mean a lot to a lot of women and girls, who stop and pose with her triumphantly. Just as the iconic bull across from her was apparently crafted with the best intentions (to symbolize a strong country and economy) but is now the ultimate symbol of the brutish, harmful force of capitalism, “Fearless Girl” may have started life as a marketing tool, but she’s proved her own value and usefulness as a feminist symbol as, say, grown men hump her.
In other words, the response to her shows us exactly how much we need her, and more images like her.
Cue male artist looking for 15 minutes of relevance: New York sculptor Alex Gardega has decided to rail against “Fearless Girl” by placing his own statue, a purposely shoddily-made pug dog lifting its leg to pee on the little girl that he calls “Peeing Pug,” beside her.
According to the New York Post (where you can see a photo of the statue), Gardega’s main complaint is that “Fearless Girl” was put opposite the bull statue as a corporate publicity stunt. (One could easily argue that he’s fighting a publicity stunt with another publicity stunt, but whatever.) Says Gardega, “This is corporate nonsense. It has nothing to do with feminism, and it is disrespect to the artist that made the bull. That bull had integrity.”
Interestingly, the bull’s artist Arturo Di Modica hasn’t released a statement in favor of, or against, Gardega’s artistic contribution. Which is funny, considering he was totes vocal about “Fearless Girl’s” arrival. Apparently, the statue of a little girl is worth railing against, but create a statue of a dog peeing on a little girl? That’s totally fair game.
Let me say that again: This artist has created a statue of a dog whose sole purpose is to look like it’s peeing on a little girl. It’s just like that dudebro humping the statue, except permanently installed as “art.”
What’s more, Gardega says that he purposely made his statue really bad: “I decided to build this dog and make it crappy to downgrade the statue, exactly how the girl is a downgrade on the bull.”
He thinks “Fearless Girl” is a affront to the bull statue, because it’s disrespectful to place another statue commenting on what the bull has come to symbolize, and yet here he is disrespecting another artist in the same way, all while saying, he has “nothing against the sculptor whatsoever.” As much as Gardega claims he’s “pro-feminism”:
- He’s expressing being “pro-feminism” by creating a statue of a dog peeing on a little girl.
- He’s attacking work by a female artist and actually, physically crowding out her work by putting his own work in her space.
I’m not saying that he has to agree with or like “Fearless Girl.” Plenty of people, both men and women, don’t. I’m not even saying that he couldn’t have created his own work in response.
It did not have to be a dog taking a leak on a girl, and it did not have to be on the same small piece of New York City sidewalk (seriously, people need to stop putting “reaction statues” here – there’s only so much room!).
I mean, it can be, but then he can’t also claim to be “pro-feminism” (very carefully not saying that he’s a feminist, but that he’s pro-feminism), nor can he claim he’s created this work out of respect for artists. If his best intentions are indeed true, he might be taking aim at “Corporate America,” but he’s hitting a female fellow artist.
Gardega needs to better his aim, as well as his art, rather than jumping on a bandwagon.
(image: Christopher Penler/Shutterstock)
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