Rendering by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic (original bull photo via Flickr, used under CC BY 2.0 license; original cow photo via Flickr, used under CC BY-ND 2.0 license)

The contentious statue on Wall Street known as “Fearless Girl” would never have existed at all if her creators had executed their original idea — a cowpat of a plan that was bound to sow its own controversy.

A life-size, bronze cow, of all things, was supposed to be the feminist symbol to grace the public plaza where the little girl now stands with her arms on her hips, facing Arturo Di Modica’s famous “Charging Bull.” As revealed in a set of emails obtained by the New York Post, the financial firm behind the stunt, State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), backtracked on the bronze bovine when it realized — just three months before it was set to be manufactured — that it might not be the smartest move to compare women to cows.

Kristen Visbal’s “Fearless Girl”(photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

“The client realized, after we had gone down the road a bit, that a cow sculpture could be conceived as demeaning to women,” event consultant Stuart Weissman wrote to the director of the city’s Street Activity Permit Office, Dawn Tolson, in December. He had originally sent SSGA’s proposal over in April, which means it took the company a full eight months to see that something was a little off. Apparently not even the impending sculpture’s name, “Wall Street Cow,” set off alarms when the firm’s heads signed off on the plan, which conceived of the cattle as somehow honoring the power of women in leadership roles, where they are often insulted as bitchy, aka cows.

Weissman’s email from April explains the reasoning behind the original concept: “A financial services company (as yet to be named to me) that has Mutual Funds is developing and looking to launch a fund that will be exclusively comprised of women-owned or women run companies. As a precursor to the announcement, they are looking to set up a statue of a cow to be set opposite the iconic Wall St bull at Bowling Green.

“The concept is to place the cow and to use it, as a buzz-building exercise,” he added.

In the end, the bovine was butchered, and the company asked artist Kristen Visbal to create something more literal instead. SSGA still generated buzz (and a poorly executed protest) with “Fearless Girl,” which many have denounced as a symbol of fake corporate feminism — an argument now reinforced by the fact that she emerged out of a clearly half-baked scheme.

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...