On Wall Street there’s a bronze statue of a girl who looks about the same age as the sixth graders in the middle school that I teach. She looks pretty fearless as she’s standing up to a raging bronze bull; and she’d better be, it doesn’t take much to see that bull represents men, greed and the lack of women in positions of financial power. The artist Kristen Visbal, maintains that the statue of a child posed with her fists on her hips represents “the power of women in leadership.” Many feminists who don’t like the statue claim she’s a cheap corporate-centric ploy to hide the real issues like equal pay and reproductive rights (the piece was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors).
Everyone loves the image of empowerment represented by a girl standing up for herself in the ruthless, financial jungle our world has become. But, how would some of us men feel if it were a woman standing there? Pretty intimated, right?
But the problem goes deeper than that for men, women and children.
We aren’t just angry at Fearless Girl. We’re afraid of her, afraid for her. We’re afraid because we know in our hearts her future is imperiled. She doesn’t stand a chance alongside a President who is being mocked as “the pussy-grabber-in-chief”; but also brags his daughter (or is that his wife? Even he often gets them confused) is a model–not just for the latest issue of Maxim–but for longer maternity leave. Will our fearless young women be devoured by the wave of sexism that many attribute to the president’s base? Hillary Clinton recently claimed that she lost the election because of misogyny, that America is threatened by having a woman in the oval office. I don’t believe that a majority of us feel that way. I watch young girls stand up for their rights every day in my classroom.
The real problem isn’t just emanating from the oval office. The truth is, Fearless Girl doesn’t stand a chance against the mixed messages the media sends all young women. We want our daughters to be strong, but don’t we also want them to look gorgeous in revealing bikinis? The media thinks so. And the truth is, we who call ourselves “feminists” don’t even know what that word stands for anymore. The most progressive and intelligent young women I talk to at my school don’t consider themselves feminists, because they think it stands for a woman who doesn’t like men and doesn’t enjoy being herself.
To speak against feminism is to speak against basic human rights. But it’s time for someone to admit that the type of feminism that once worked–or at least, forced people to take notice–has changed. Young women aren’t weaker than they were a generation ago, but they’re a lot more confused about how their voices will be heard. Fearless Girl doesn’t just need a woman mentor, she needs an interpreter who can help separate the truth from the bull.
On March 6th, 2016, The Telegraph, an English newspaper, announced the following:
“A ring believed to have belonged to Joan of Arc is being returned to France for the first time in 600 years after being sold at auction for almost £300,000.
The gold-plated silver ring was dated to the 15th century by an Oxford laboratory, but the trove of historical documents that came with it have yet to prove it belonged to the famous French martyr.”
If you’re reading my YA thriller, Cease & Desist, you know this ring has great symbolic importance in my work. I fictionalized it’s journey down through Jeanne’s bloodline. I wanted it to symbolize the paranormal power it bestowed upon all the girls who chose to wear it. My story is fiction, but the fact of a ring that belonged to Jeanne d’Arc is real and its description is documented at her trial. Nevertheless whether the ring auctioned recently is authentic is dubious to some–historians, for example, are skeptical about the provenance that was presented by Timeline Auctions–the English auction house that sold it–
According to the auction house, Jeanne gave the ring (or it was confiscated) by her Burgundian captors shortly before they handed her over to the English, and may have ended up in the hands of the archbishop of Winchester, Henry Beaufort, who was present at her trial, and stayed in Britain ever since.
Here are the only facts about Jeanne’s ring we know, from the transcripts of her trial:
The description of the ring–specifically that it contained three crosses and the words Jehsus Maria–were real, as Jeanne described it.
“I think it had on it three crosses, and no other sign that I know except the words Jesus Maria”
“It was a gift from her mother, Isabelle”.
In my version of the events, Jeanne handed the ring over to a Benedictine monk who heard her last confession. This is completely unsubstantiated, but it’s a whole lot more likely than having Jeanne turn it over willingly to Henry Beaufort, the archbishop who, as trial records show verbally abused Jeanne at trial and denied her the right of counsel. (One biographer suggested that he may have sexually abused Jeanne, the virgin as well) . It’s more likely that the ring was taken from Jeanne by her captors before her trial in Rouen.
So, is this the ring “The Maid” really wore? All we know for sure is that the French government refused to participate in the auction, citing concerns over authenticity and the buyer turned out to be an amusement park in France, not considered the typical home for a relic that belonged to the patron saint of France.