The United Nations recently fired Wonder Woman from her ambassador post, forcing her to fight back with valiance and diplomacy.
No, I’m not pitching you a comic book right now. This is real.
The U.N. appointed the iconic superhero as its honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls back in October 2016. It’s not the first time the U.N. has appointed a fictional character to an ambassadorship, either. They’ve given jobs to Winnie the Pooh, Tinkerbell, and Red from Angry Birds.
This time, however, things were a little different.
Wonder Woman’s appointment to the U.N. was quickly met with controversy.
It began with an online petition started by U.N. staffers urging the council to reconsider its choice (emphasis added):
“Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent ‘warrior’ woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character’s current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots –the epitome of a ‘pin-up’ girl. This is the character that the United Nations has decided to represent a globally important issue – that of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.”
Those might seem like fair points, sure. In a world where there is an abundance of (real) feminist role models who don’t professionally wear costumes designed for the male gaze and who didn’t get their start in sexualized and submissive comic book stories, it’s easy to see why the 44,000 people who signed the U.N. petition thought there might be a better choice.
Ultimately, the U.N. dropped Wonder Woman from her post.
If this sounds familiar, that might be because it’s eerily similar to a plot line from an episode of the early ’00s “Justice League” animated TV series.
But reducing Wonder Woman to her costume reinforces the idea that a woman’s value comes from her appearance — and that what a woman has to say doesn’t matter if she doesn’t look the way we feel she should.
Of course, when the U.N. decided to revoke the character’s ambassadorship (which Jeffrey Brez, the U.N.’s chief of NGO relations and advocacy, told The Guardian was the plan all along), the Amazonian superhero had supporters in her corner to defend her.
Among them, of course, are DC Entertainment, which owns the Wonder Woman franchise, and actress Gal Gadot, who played Wonder Woman in “Batman v Superman” and the upcoming solo “Wonder Woman” film.
In a Time profile, the Israeli actor responded to the U.N.’s decision, lamenting that people would be so focused on what a fictional woman appointed to an honorary position is wearing when there are more pressing issues affecting women and girls.
“There are so many horrible things that are going on in the world,” Gadot told Time. “And this is what you’re protesting, seriously?”
Gadot also noted that just because Wonder Woman is “sexy,” that doesn’t mean she can’t also be smart, strong, and a good role model. “That’s not fair,” said Gadot. “Why can’t she be all of the above?
And what has Wonder Woman been saying?
Oh, you know, just some casual feminist critique of the way rigid gender roles hurt girls (from the 2009 animated “Wonder Woman” movie):
And this wonderful moment from the recent “Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special #1” comic, in which she is the very embodiment of empowering, encouraging a young girl to put her heart and wisdom to good use — and to be her own kind of superhero.
Not to mention the times Wonder Woman stood up for nonviolent diplomacy in the “Spirit of Truth” comic book, confronted a man who was using sexist slurs in “Justice League: War,” and put a guy who tried to get her drunk on a date in his place shortly before saving his life in the 2009 animated movie. And that’s just to name a few. A short Google search will lead you to dozens of articles highlighting the feminist contributions of an incredibly rich female character who has influenced generations.
Whatever side you fall on, you have to admit that Wonder Woman is much more than her costume. She’s an icon.
It’s hard to think of a more male-dominated field than comic book superheroes, and Wonder Woman has transcended that to become one of the most recognizable faces of justice and baddassery in the world.
For 75 years, Wonder Woman has been a bulletproof, ass-kicking symbol of strength who’s given girls and women someone to idolize. And frankly, when your résumé includes uppercutting Adolf Hitler, being an honorary U.N. ambassador is nothing.
Just like Superman, Batman, or any other male superhero, Wonder Woman represents an ideal slice of humanity. She’s a person who fights for what’s right no matter what she comes up against. She’s a myth, a legend, and an allegory for what’s good and fair and just in all of us.
And look, this doesn’t mean there isn’t a serious problem with female comic book characters being over-sexualized or drawn specifically for the male gaze. But discrediting Wonder Woman completely because of her outfit or her body type (both of which change depending on who draws her) completely ignores what she really stands for and what she represents as an icon to so many people around the world.
Yes, her costume is revealing, but ultimately, isn’t it more important to actually listen to what she’s saying?