Wonder Woman’s role as an honorary ambassador to the UN has come to an abrupt end less than two months after receiving the designation, due to the backlash the appointment received. Some felt that the character’s sexualization was sending the “wrong message” to young girls, and in a move that was every bit the opposite of empowerment, protested and petitioned the character as a symbol for gender equality. Because nothing says women are equal and empowered more than other women slut-shaming them.
The 45,000 signatures that signed the petition against Wonder Woman’s honorary title, and those who protested the event a couple months back, are a sobering reminder of how we, as women, can’t get out of our own way when it comes to equality and progress. We’re taught at a young age to be shameful of our bodies, that our sexuality should be oppressed, and that other women are our competition and, at times, the enemy. We’re trained to look for the flaws in other females first and weaponize them to take them down. For those 45,000-plus people, of course their only focus was the imagined over-sexualization of a character who was so progressive that she graced the cover of the very first issue of Ms. magazine. You know, since Gloria Steinem is wont to praise women who aren’t empowered. Of course they mobilized quickly to express their outrage at how a feminist icon was not “perfect” enough, not good enough, and not the type of image girls and women of all ages should see as heroic. The list of reasons why Wonder Woman was a great choice as an honorary symbol for the UN’s gender equality and female empowerment campaign far outweighed the one reason anyone could object to, but since when do we let a highly accomplished, capable woman get a job she’s more than qualified for? That notion is almost a greater piece of fiction than the comic book character herself.
Those 45,000-plus people failed to open their eyes and ears, and failed to hear Lynda Carter’s moving speech at the UN ceremony that day, the one that celebrated and inspired all women. They fail to see the 103-year-old volunteer who celebrated her birthday with a Wonder Woman outfit and cake because her friends say she’s a “real-life Wonder Woman” due to her 25 years of volunteering at a senior center. They don’t see the countless young girls and women of all colors, ages, sizes and abilities who cosplay as their hero because wearing her uniform makes them feel beautiful and strong, like a warrior princess. They miss how the moniker of Wonder Woman has evolved beyond a character’s name and has become a descriptor used when any ordinary woman has accomplished the extraordinary. How she has enthusiastically fulfilled and embraced her role as a gay icon. Or how one of the most famous and influential women in entertainment wants to be her. Or how the real life inspiration behind Wonder Woman - Elizabeth Holloway Marston - was one of three women to graduate Boston University’s law school, since Harvard didn’t take women at the time, and paid her own way after her father refused to help her. She received three degrees despite the rampant sexism that prevented her access to many graduate programs, and helped her husband develop the polygraph test, while also raising her two biological children and two adopted children. Because despite her accomplishing all of that, someone will undoubtedly throw shade at her and William’s open relationship with Olive Byrne, as if a non-traditional relationship is a solid reason to attempt to delegitimize an intelligent, hardworking woman. Most importantly, they fail to see how Wonder Woman is complex and nuanced and imperfect because she is literally all women.
So instead of allowing a comic book character hold an honorary title because of the wide-reaching influence she already has on females of all ages all over the world, they’d rather send the message that empowerment and equality is only allowed if it fits into a specific aesthetic and narrative, and it’s undoubtedly one that subliminally keep females under a glass ceiling, in tidy little glass houses, throwing boulders at each other when one tries to break out.