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‘Fearless Girl’ and Fearless Girls

When the McCann New York advertising agency and its client, Boston-based State Street Global Advisors bank, placed a bronze statue of a defiant girl, hands on hips, facing down Wall Street’s iconic “Charging Bull” statue, it ignited a storm of controversy, as should all good art.

The “Charging Bull” artist claimed that the upstart statue changed the meaning of his work and threatened suit to have it removed. (He lost.) He claimed “Fearless Girl” turned “Charging Bull” into a symbol of male chauvinism, which was not his original message in creating it.

But that was precisely the point. Male chauvinism is so ingrained in our culture that even those guilty of the prejudice often don’t see it in themselves. McCann/State Street commissioned “Fearless Girl” as “part of their campaign to draw attention to the index fund giant’s effort to get more women into board roles,” The Washington Post wrote of the statue’s installation last year. The company went beyond making an artistic statement, however, threatening to vote their shares against companies without female directors.

Some critics opined that “Fearless Girl” should have been “Fearless Woman.” By using a young girl to stand athwart the charging bull, the message is that it “portrays the empowered woman as a child, reinforcing the idea of femaleness as cute and inoffensive – a child with potential, maybe, but not all the way there,” one critic wrote.

Again, this misses the point: Fearlessness must be nurtured in childhood, in order to provide a solid foundation for living a fearless life. Who can look at that statue—and its placement—and not feel a thrill at her confidence, her bravery in facing down a raging bull used to getting its own way without opposition.

Both, the spirit of the “Fearless Girl” statue, and the title itself epitomize the essence of what Rowan is all about. Our mission is to take a rite of passage—ear piercing—and use it to begin talking about our feelings, our beliefs, and thus provide a solid framework for instilling the inner strength girls will need as they grow up.

At Rowan, we believe that a good way to do that is to start young, helping them to open up and share their hopes, dreams, and fears in a non-threatening environment, so that mothers and daughters—indeed, whole families—can ensure their daughters are equipped with the self-confidence they will need to become strong, independent, capable young women.

Self-concepts are formed early. “Fearless Girl” already knows who she is and what she can do. She’s not afraid to take on any challenge, even the power, and primacy of the raging bull. Rowan wants nothing less for your daughter.

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