Last year, public opinion was split over a symbol of feminism that turned out to be a symbol of corporate power. Of course I am referring to Hillary Clinton. But the Democratic candidate for president found a robust analog in Fearless Girl, a statue of a five year-old defying Wall Street’s iconic charging bull. That statue was nice, right? It encouraged young women to be strong, and perhaps it inspired adult women working in the financial district to carry a little of that defiance into their traditionally male-dominated workplaces. It seemed like art was finally improving people’s lives, but then we found out that it was a marketing stunt by State Street Global Advisors. Here’s State Street Executive VP Lynn Blake:
“We placed the Fearless Girl there to be a partner to the bull, to represent the power of women. We certainly never expected her to be a challenge…It was not really about the social or political issue, it was absolutely about the investment issue and the benefits of having women in the corporate world.”
Ah yes—the power of women not to challenge the corporate world, but to partner with it. Along with their expressed opinion that “the image of the girl would be more relatable than one of an adult woman,” comments like these suggest that State Street’s commitment to feminism might be problematic. Even if you regard Fearless Girl as a net good, its complications leave a bad taste in the mouth. But one mouth remains as ready to partner with the bull as ever: the California Democratic Party’s. On Friday, CADEM unveiled its own variation of Fearless Girl called She Persisted, which now stands atop its San Francisco headquarters.
It was an interesting moment to borrow corporate iconography. This weekend, protestors organized by the California Nurses Association marched on the party’s state convention to demand universal health care. They booed newly-minted DNC Chair Tom Perez, who reportedly tried to keep things light. “We make sure that health care is a right for everyone,” he assured the crowd. “And not a privilege for a few.”
The thing about that statement, though, is no you don’t. Health care is absolutely not a right for everyone in the United States. You can get it, but without insurance, the cost is ruinous. Even with insurance, it’s not great. I spend about $5,000 a year in premiums to buy my own policy, and I just got an emergency room bill for $5,400 after having my shoulder put back in the socket. All my insurance did was negotiate an “adjusted cost” just under my deductible. It’s almost like they lost interest in reducing the fee as soon as they stopped having to pay it. I am caught in this pincers maneuver between the hospital and my insurer because neither party vigorously advocates for me.
In another country, I might have recourse to politics. It’s weird that most Democrats in Congress say they favor a public option or some version of universal health care, because nobody seems to be trying to make it happen. Other than expressing his vague support by claiming to have already made health care a right for everyone, Perez didn’t say shit about it, even as people in the room literally screamed for it. It’s almost as though the Democratic Party had coopted this issue, asking stakeholders to support its brand without doing anything meaningful to advance their cause.
Anyway, that’s the other thing CADEM this weekend, besides erecting a symbol of the corporate world’s co-opting of popular concerns atop its headquarters. You may have gleaned this, but I am not thrilled with the Democratic Party right now. They lost an extremely winnable election to the most incompetent and venal president in modern history, and they did it by ignoring their base to pander to the investor class. And they seem to have learned nothing from the experience.
But what are you going to do? We all hate Donald Trump. I guess that means we have to love the people who failed to stop him. Those are just the limits of our American system, at least until we get a second political party.