Wonder Woman Becomes Honorary Ambassador, Sparks Controversy Among Critics

By Victor Ordonez 

Wonder Woman being named an Honorary Ambassador received backlash. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Wonder Woman being named an Honorary Ambassador received backlash. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Wonder Woman, a reasonably upstanding member of the superhero community, has been named an Honorary Ambassador for Empowerment of Women and Girls by the United Nations. Her goal: to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030.

The announcement became official Oct. 21, at UN headquarters in New York. However, the announcement sparked controversy. Not everyone at the UN views Wonder Woman as an appropriate symbol for such a campaign. Although the character does have feminist roots, she is seen by some as being a symbol of objectification.

Over 600 United Nations staff members signed an online petition, created by “Concerned United Nations staff members,” asking Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to reconsider appointing Wonder Woman.

These concerned staff members regarded the character as “an overtly sexualized image” and continued to detail their growing trepidations within the petition’s description. Although the petition acknowledges that the creators may have meant to create a strong independent female persona, it explains how that idea has failed to be the case.

“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,” the petition stated.

Christina Gallach, a senior UN spokeswoman, addressed the opposition regarding Wonder Woman’s appearance during a press conference one day prior to the official announcement. “I would say what matters more are the values and substance that [Wonder Woman] will represent,” said Gallach.
Questions of qualification created additional controversy. Anonymous critics who signed the petition found it disappointing that the UN “was unable to find a real-life woman that would be able to champion the rights of ALL women on the issue of gender equality and the fight for their empowerment.”

UN official Maher Nasser reiterated the motive behind appointing the character: “the focus [of the UN] was on her feminist background, being the first female superhero in a world of male superheroes and that basically she always fought for fairness, justice and peace.”

The film Wonder Woman is set to premiere in the summer of 2017 right here in New York City, with Israeli actress Gal Gadot playing the eponymous superhero. Gal Gadot has not directly commented on the controversy but was present during designation ceremony.

Linda Carter, the actress who formerly portrayed Wonder Woman on television addressed the issue.

“It is a superhero,” Carter said. “Gender, it has nothing to do with anything. Wonder Woman is an idea. This is not the American flag, it is about fighting for freedom.”

Carter is opposed by what is currently 23,012 people who have signed the petition, including some Fordham students as well.

Christina D’Ambrosio, FCRH ’18 and Women’s Empowerment supporter, was outraged by the announcement.

“Selecting Wonder Woman as the UN’s Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls is completely unacceptable and beyond damaging to the real issues at hand,” said D’Ambrosio. She was upset that the UN could not choose a real woman who embodied the same characteristics which Gallach moves to focus on. “[Wonder Woman] is not a real woman who has worked tirelessly to demand equality,” she said.

Though some are strongly opposed of her appointment. others see the contentious issues as a part of Wonder Woman’s long standing history of controversy.

Jill Lepore, American History professor at Harvard University, and author of “The Secret History of Wonder Woman,” tolf NPR that wonder woman is a complex character. “Part of the richness of this character is that there are many layers to understanding her,” she said. “Wonder Woman is always going to have a mixed legacy.”

Beyond the controversy, the intended result of the announcement was to shine light on the UN’s Goal Five. As a part of the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals: 17 Goals to Transform Our World,” Goal Five works to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

In the coming weeks, Gal Gadot will begin releasing PSAs at UN headquarters in NYC. The controversy will likely reignite after the Wonder Woman film star is spotted speaking on behalf of the UN.


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