Wonder Woman’s global push for equality
America has been with her for more than seven decades — through various identities and reinventions of self, a world war and a cold war and so many conflicts — up to a pioneering challenge to the patriarchy and a bid for president.
And now Wonder Woman, the only female founder of the Justice League, is a United Nations ambassador. In October, the superhero became the “honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls” in support of the goal to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030.
“Women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence,” said U.N. Under-Secretary General Cristina Gallach. “Gender equality is a fundamental human right and a foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.”
The U.N. says the campaign is about “women and girls everywhere, who are wonder women in their own right and the men and boys who support their struggle for gender
equality, bringing about positive change in their homes, workplace, communities, countries and the world together.”
Wonder Woman, who is marking a 75th birthday in comics but is about 5,000 years old according to her “origin story,” will lead the U.N. campaign encouraging:
• People to speak out against discrimination and limitations on women and girls.
• People to speak out and take action against gender-based violence and abuse, as one in three women still experiences violence.
• Full and effective participation and equal opportunity for women and girls in leadership in all aspects of life.
• Reform, so all women and girls have access to quality learning. Today, more than 63 million girls are out of school.
A ceremony celebrating Wonder Woman’s appointment occurred Oct. 21 at the U.N. headquarters in New York City. Attending were actresses Lynda Carter, who portrayed Wonder Woman in the 1970s TV series, and Gal Gadot, who portrayed Wonder Woman in the film Batman v. Superman and is starring as the superhero in the live-action film Wonder Woman, due out June 2, 2017.
As the appointment became public, more than 1,100 U.N. staff signed a petition asking for Wonder Woman’s recall, saying, “The message the United Nations is sending to the
world with this appointment is extremely disappointing.”
The staff’s general criticism is Wonder Woman is a fictional character and the job should go to a real woman.
The protest came just days after the rejection of seven women candidates for secretary-general and the announcement that António Guterres of Portugal would be the new U.N. leader.
Others note, though, that honorary ambassadors in past years included Winnie the Pooh, a spokesbear for friendship, and Tinker Bell, a spokesfairy for the environment.
More pointed, the criticism is about Wonder Woman’s looks and citizenship. The petition states that Wonder Woman is not an appropriate global spokeswoman for gender equality because she’s “a large-breasted white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring bodysuit with an American flag motif and knee-high boots.”
WiG polled two dozen Wisconsinites on the issue and found several critical of the appointment, but most said it’s cool.
“I think a comic book character isn’t the right choice. Maybe it should be Malala Yousafzai,” said a critic, Patsy Ellul of Milwaukee. She was referring to the 2014 Nobel Peace
Prize winner from Pakistan who defied the Taliban and demanded girls be given an education.
A supporter, K.C. Warnes of Kenosha, said, “It’s not like they appointed a Barbie. Wonder Woman is a feminist trailblazer. Do they want to discriminate against her because
she’s attractive? OK, super attractive.”
‘More relevant than ever’
Wonder Woman arrived on the cover of Sensation Comics in 1942. Superman had flown onto the superhero scene in 1938. Batman started lurking around Gotham in 1939.
Psychologist William Moulton Marston, with his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and artist H. G. Peteris, are most often credited for the Wonder Woman character. As Dr. Marston explained, “Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world.”
But the Amazonian princess from Ancient Greece never set out to rule the world, though she could, being one of the strongest demigoddesses on Earth.
Wonder Woman’s mission has been to protect the planet from Adolf Hitler and Doctor Psycho and other real and fictional villains. She arrived on the scene as a feminist fighting fascists and, over the next 75 years, challenged the inequalities between men and women in a “Patriarch’s World.” That mission landed her on the cover of the inaugural issue of Ms. magazine in 1972 and again on its 40th anniversary issue.
“With her roots in Greek mythology and American feminism, Wonder Woman is one of the most unique and compelling characters in comic book history,” said Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment and chief content officer for Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
As a symbol of equality, justice and female empowerment, Nelson said, Wonder Woman “is more relevant today than ever.”
“I’m totally seeing the value in her as an ambassador, because it gets you to think about Wonder Woman’s qualities — wise, compassionate, mighty, diplomatic,” said comic-book enthusiast Steve Mendez of Milwaukee.
“Right here in America we have people who demonize women for those qualities. Just look at the presidential race,” Mendez added, referring to the race between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.