December 15 2016
Patrice L. Onwuka
Wonder Woman, my childhood heroine who used her powers to fight for the freedom and rights of people all over the world, is not good enough to be a United Nations ambassador anymore. Critics say she’s too curvy, too American, and too white.
This October, the U.N. announced a campaign featuring Wonder Woman as an ambassador for women and girls. She would inspire women and girls everywhere to be their own Wonder Women and encourage men and boys to support women in obtaining gender equality in regions where it is not now the norm. The U.N. partnered with DC Entertainment for the campaign and brought actresses Linda Carter and Gal Gadot, who have portrayed the character on the big and small screens to a big, splashy launch.
The launch of the campaign sparked criticism that the UN would use a white American woman with curves as the face of their campaign. More than 44,000 people have supported as online petition that explains why Wonder Woman is the wrong choice and should be removed:
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…
…It is alarming that the United Nations would consider using a character with an overtly sexualized image at a time when the headline news in United States and the world is the objectification of women and girls. The image that Wonder Woman projects (life-size cut outs of which have already appeared at UNHQ) is not culturally encompassing or sensitive –attributes the United Nations expects all its staff members to embody in the core value of respect for diversity.
In essence, Wonder Woman is being body-shamed for her curves, race-shamed, and nationality-shamed.
Originally, the campaign was to continue into 2017, but they did an about face claiming that the campaign, which ran just two short months, was over and -conveniently- was never meant to be a long campaign. NPR caught the discrepancies:
"As long as there's momentum in the campaign we'll move forward," Maher Nasser, the U.N. official who essentially brokered the collaboration between the United Nations and DC Comics, told NPR in late October. "They have committed to a year."
But in a phone interview with NPR today, Jeffrey Brez, a United Nations official in the same department, said that while the plan was for DC Comics to continue activities in the coming year, the U.N. piece was never intended to last as long.
"We always knew it would end in December," Brez said. "Soon after the launch [on October 21] we said, what day should it actually end on? And we decided on December 16 because after that, the holidays were coming up, and it didn't make sense to continue the campaign into the holiday season."
Still, this end date was only made public yesterday, when, said Brez, a reporter from Reuters happened to call him to check on the status of the Wonder Woman campaign.
The U.N. needs to grow some courage, maybe take a page from Wonder Woman’s comic book about standing up in the face of adversity for what is right. Wonder Woman was created in 1941 to join forces with the U.S. and allies to fight Axis military forces during World War II. As the story goes, Wonder Woman rescued herself from bondage, sending a message of independence and empowerment.
Since when did feminists today stop defending women with curvy bodies who choose to wear clothing that accentuates those curves? Anti-body-shaming campaigns so popular on social media are precisely to uplift women to feel liberated and embrace themselves.
Perhaps, the problem with Wonder Woman is her ethnicity and nationality more than her body and clothing choices. There’s a trend that questions why white American woman should represent empowerment for women worldwide.
Empowerment is empowerment and when little girls see a cartoon character of a strong woman, they see themselves even if the skin tone is different.
Denying the content of this character, because they can’t see past the package is the very definition of sexism and racism that too many women face every day. Sadly, Wonder Woman is the latest victim.