Why 'Fearless Girl' represents the sad state of modern love

Suzanne Venker

By now you’ve surely heard about "Fearless Girl," the bronze statue that was placed strategically and defiantly in front of Wall Street’s "Charging Bull" last March, on the eve of International Women’s Day. "Fearless Girl" is a feminist marketing campaign, created by McCann New York for State Street Global Advisors, as a way to encourage companies to hire more female executives.

The sculpture has enjoyed nonstop media attention, and this week is no different. "Fearless Girl" just won three awards at Cannes Lions, the largest annual gathering of marketing executives.

“‘Fearless Girl’ gripped the world’s attention, and it will do so for years to come,” said Wendy Clark, CEO of DDB in North America and jury president for the Glass award. “Its simplicity in the use of symbolism transcends geography, it transcends language, it transcends culture. For us, while it is a girl, it elegantly captures women’s journeys and our path to empowerment. And it also encapsulates our hopes and our ambitions for every little girl in the world.”

Funny, when I first saw "Fearless Girl" opposite "Charging Bull," I didn’t see empowerment at all. I saw a consummate representation of the ongoing power struggle that exists between the sexes today — all because women have chucked their femininity and become just like men: dominant, aggressive and territorial.

Being “just like a man” doesn’t work in a marriage or relationship. Most men aren’t looking for another version of themselves. They want the feminine.

That may get women ahead at the office. But at home it will land them in a ditch.

Former Fox News anchor E.D. Hill is a great example of this modern-day conundrum. In "Going Places: How America’s Best and Brightest Got Started Down the Road of Life", Hill talks of being raised by a mother who taught her to be just like "Fearless Girl." “Be able to stand on your own,” she told Hill, and learn how to do everything a man can do.

Sounds innocuous, but it isn’t. “There’s a downside to being so self-reliant,” writes Hill. “I couldn’t stop myself from proving that I didn’t need [my husband] to do things for me. Needless to say, this ‘power struggle,’ along with other issues, put a big strain on our relationship, and he is now my ex.”

To be sure, the creation of "Fearless Girl," along with her placement across from Charging Bull, wasn’t designed to embody modern love. And yet it does. After all, "Fearless Girl" takes herself with her everywhere she goes; and her very existence conveys a refusal to capitulate, as though her dignity as a modern woman (or girl) depends upon prevailing at every turn.

But there’s a flipside to "Fearless Girl." At the office, she’s a force with which to be reckoned. But in her personal life, "Fearless Girl"is a mess. That’s because the qualities she needs to get ahead at work are the exact same qualities that destroy love. Being “just like a man” doesn’t work in a marriage or relationship. Most men aren’t looking for another version of themselves. They want the feminine.

"Fearless Girl" may be designed to represent gender equality, but that isn’t where the conversation ends — because for most women, this is not their priority. The search for lasting love is far more paramount, and "Fearless Girl" takes them away from that goal.

The truth is, women have robbed Peter to pay Paul. They may be more successful in the professional sphere, but they lack the tools needed for love. If women want to be successful in both arenas, they need to be able to switch gears. They need to ditch "Fearless Girl" at the end of the day and surrender to love at home.

Many successful women are single or divorced precisely because they never mastered this balance. They know all too well how to be like "Fearless Girl" — headstrong, domineering and bossy — but they have no idea how to love.

That’s not progress. That’s regress.

Suzanne Venker is the author of five books on marriage, feminism and gender politics. Her latest book is "The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage: HOW LOVE WORKS." Find her on Twitter@SuzanneVenker.