Standing with Fearless Girl in the Fight for Constitutional Equality

Source: Ms. Blog Magazine

By Lauren Young

“Fearless Girl”—a statue depicting a small girl standing, hands on her hips, facing down the New York City Bowling Green Park centerpiece sculpture “Charging Bull”—was meant to call attention to the lack of female leaders on Wall Street. When she came on the scene in March, she served as a marker of women’s resistance and the power of investing in women’s potential—and now, she has become a centerpiece in the longstanding fight for the Equal Rights Amendment.

Originally commissioned by State Street Global Advisors and installed on International Women’s Day, Kirsten Visbal’s sculpture was initially only granted an 11-month display period. On November 17, Rep.Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12) gathered with lawmakers, advocates and activists in front of “Fearless Girl” to call on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to allow the statue to remain in place until Congress ratifies the ERA. In a letter to de Blasio, Representative Maloney requested the Mayor keep the statue in place to establish a visual reminder of how much work remains to be done in the United States before the country achieves gender equality.

“By linking the statue to the Equal Rights Amendment, you would be sending a very strong message about the need to add equal rights for women to the Constitution,” Maloney wrote. “Her presence would act as a constant reminder of what we need to achieve.”

2017 marked the tenth time Maloney has introduced the ERA in the House during her career in Congress. The body passed the ERA on March 22, 1972, but the Amendment ultimately fell three states short of the necessary three-fourths ratification threshhold to be added to the Constitution. Last March—45 years to the day after the ERA was passed in Congress—Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the bill, reinvigorating the fight for women’s constitutional equality. Now, ERA legislation is pending state legislatures in Arizona, Utah, Florida, Illinois, Virginia and North Carolina.

The ERA is closer than ever to becoming a reality, and women’s voices are carrying further than they ever have—from the halls of Congress to Hollywood studio lots. The time is ripe for a renewed and vigorous push for the ERA, especially as women everywhere find their newfound footing as activists before the backdrop of the Trump administration’s war on women. “While women and girl leaders are creating great change in their communities and across multiple sectors, the fight for true gender equity is far from over,” Meredith Maskara, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater New York, said at the gathering. “The Equal Rights Amendment is a necessary step in the long road towards equal treatment for all.”

“Not only is New York the birthplace of women’s rights, but it is also the home of the continued advancement of women’s rights,” New York Lieutenant Governor Hochul told the assembled crowd. “Whether we’re talking about equal pay or freedom from harassment, New York is standing up and saying we will no longer accept the status quo… True equality requires a culture shift and New York’s women are prepared to step forward and demand the equal treatment we have been denied for far too many years.”

This new initiative positions “Fearless Girl” as a definitive embodiment of that cultural shift. “The Fearless Girl is speaking,” said NYC Women’s March Organizer Katherine Siemionko. “She’s saying—I am not going anywhere. My voice will be heard. My pay will be equal. My body will be respected. I will not be bullied or silenced. I will not be passed over. I will persevere because I am equal. This statue represents the future of women in this country… New York City cannot afford to remove this reminder. She is the child of liberty. If she can make it here, she can make it anywhere.”

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