Feminism, the doctrine advocating rights of women equal to men, is taking a hit from sculptor Kristen Visbal. She's the artist who created Fearless Girl – the bronze statue of a small girl in a defiant pose installed on Wall Street to protest gender bias in the boardroom. By all accounts of her actions lately noted by Hyperallergic, an art and culture forum, one could conclude that she views women's rights as the freedom to violate contracts.

Broken promise

On Feb. 14, the company that purchased Fearless Girl for Wall Street, State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), took legal action against Visbal, claiming she sold copies of the statue to three different entities: a hotel owner in Oslo, a law firm in Australia and the L.A. Women's March. The lawsuit accuses her of “flagrant disregard” of her agreement. How could this be? Was Visbal unaware she broke faith with SSGA? No, she knew. The firm claims she had asked for permission to sell copies and was turned down.

More of the same

Visbal's disregard extends past the number of copies cited in the SSGA lawsuit. According to a Hyperallergic story in 2018, Visbal sold 114 copies of Fearless Girl out of a production of 1,000, for $6,500 apiece. In her defense, she told Hyperallergic she felt free to do what she wanted with Fearless Girl because she owns the copyright. But SSGA lawyers contend that unauthorized reproductions damage the firm's effort to promote corporate gender diversity, which is why Fearless Girl was bought and placed on Wall Street in the first place. Having countless replicas of the statue sold to anyone who wants it can dilute the firm's message.

Righting a wrong

It's no wonder that SSGA worries about damage to the cause of gender diversity in the workplace. The company record of sexism is noteworthy. Hyperallergic reports that in 2017, the firm had to fork over $5 million to 300 female executives whose salaries were markedly less than their male counterparts. Even so, the firm insists that the payout was not an admission of unfair practices.

But this story doesn't end there.

Visbal is facing another lawsuit from a different group for a similar reason: breach of contract. Last month, The News Journal reported that she broke an agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association by failing to do as promised in 2017– a bronze of Alexander Hamilton. The lawsuit says she was paid $200,000 and didn't deliver.

Unfair practices

Of course, Visbal isn't the first artist to break faith with a buyer.

In fact, she's in good company when you consider the stunt that the almighty Michelangelo pulled back in the day. As Ascanio Condivi reported in a 1553 biography “Life of Michelangelo,” this Renaissance great roughed up his marble carving of a sleeping boy to make it look like it was long-buried in the earth and sold it as an ancient relic to an unsuspecting Cardinal of San Giorgio for 200 ducats.

This incident didn't mar Michelangelo's name.

And maybe Visbal's legal troubles won't mar hers. But I'm not sure she isn't giving feminism a bad name.

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