How feminist art works to dismantle patriarchal beliefs

Fearless Girl is a bronze sculpture by Kristen Visbal, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors, a large asset management company. The statue was installed on March 7, 2017, in anticipation of International Women’s Day the following day. It depicts a girl four foot high, promoting female empowerment.

by Jackie Weyerhaeuser

Artworks typically classified as “feminist” have sparked profound conversations about the established patriarchy and how we challenge its established norms. 

Hahn/Cock does so in multiple ways. The way the rooster poses (in a large and imposing manner) implies the power men hold in society. Since it is literally placed on a pedestal, it towers over the other statues around it. With her placement of the same rooster in Trafalgar Square in London surrounded by other statues of important men of history, Fritsch mocks the way we see these men. 

There are no statues of women in Trafalgar Square, and these men are elevated to a higher status, yet we are unwilling to do the same to women. 

Another piece of artwork that challenges the patriarchy is Kristen Visbal’s Fearless Girl. This statue was first placed facing the Charging Bull on Wall Street. The piece was commissioned by an asset management company that wanted to advertise for their index fund that had lots of women in senior leadership positions. The plaque at the feet of the piece stated, “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.” 

Since Wall Street is dominated by men and the Charging Bull is representative of this, Fearless Girl challenges this by showing the success and influence women can have in positions traditionally held by males. 

Unfortunately, the artist of the Charging Bull complained, and Fearless Girl was moved to the New York Stock Exchange. Arguably, this does the exact opposite of dismantling the patriarchy. It supports it by giving in to the demands of the male artist who felt threatened by a ‘feminist’ piece of art. 

So, how do these works help take down the patriarchy?

They start a conversation. They point out ways that often aren’t obvious in which we, as a society, support patriarchal views. Fearless Girl challenges the idea that women belong in the home and that women can’t do the same job just as well as a man can. Hahn/Cock challenges how we revere men and literally put them on a pedestal, but we don’t do the same to women. 

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