When the United Nations announced in late October that they would be using Wonder Woman in their campaign for women’s empowerment and gender equality, it generated much excitement among the women who grew up idolizing the star-spangled hero. However, not all were on board as the UN officially ended Wonder Woman’s honorary ambassadorship on Dec. 16, 2016 after less than two months of featuring the comic book hero.
While the UN never stated the exact reason why Wonder Woman was fired from her honorary position, two weeks before the announcement, a petition with nearly 45,000 signatures was presented to the UN by concerned citizens who thought that Wonder Woman’s outfit, or rather her lack of outfit, was not a good example for children.
“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 is not an appropriate spokeswoman for gender equity at the United Nations,” the petition stated.
While it is true that Wonder Woman’s traditional outfit follows American color schemes, she is neither American nor white. The comic character is an Amazonian warrior who was portrayed in the 1975 television series by half-Mexican Lynda Carter and who will be portrayed in the upcoming 2017 blockbuster by Gal Gadot, who is Israeli.
Responding to the petition, Carter stated, “They’re trying to put her in a box, but she’s not in a box. She stands for so much more than what some people see when they focus on the length of her skirt.”
The entire purpose of appointing Wonder Woman to ambassador was to help further the UN’s mission of female empowerment. However, by rejecting a person whose entire existence was created to promote fighting for justice and freedom, it does the opposite. How are you supposed to help empower women if even a made-up woman can be slut-shamed out of a job? By firing an imaginary person from an imaginary position on the basis that her imaginary clothes are too scandalous, it teaches those young girls the petitioners were trying to protect that it does not matter what you do or how much you accomplish; you will always be judged on how you look and how you dress.
When asked how she felt about the UN withdrawing Wonder Woman’s honorary ambassadorship, Carter said, “I agree that the issue of gender equality is much larger than any character is, and I understand that a comic book character should not be representative of something that is that important. What I disagree with is this idea about Wonder Woman. She’s an iconic defender; she’s archetypal. It’s the ultimate sexist thing to say that’s all you can see, when you think about Wonder Woman, all you can think about is a sex object.”
It is also noteworthy that the UN only started to use Wonder Woman to push gender equality after they received harsh criticism for rejecting seven female candidates to be its next secretary-general before choosing a man.