Feminism, Neo-Feminism, Misandry. Hot button vocabulary found in just about any comment stream on social media, regardless the topic. Geekdom is far from immune from the recent resurgence of the gender equality discussion. In the new world of social media seemingly anything can be associated with one side or the other, or the other.
Most recently this issue has touched the fandom community in the form, rather poetically, of Wonder Woman. A character created specifically to give girls a strong role model, she will finally get her own standalone movie next year, after decades of being loved by some, and shunned by others.
The United Nations recently announced that Wonder Woman, who was named Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls, will no longer be used by the U.N to help raise awareness about gender equality. Her time as ambassador was marred from the beginning, her induction ceremony itself was even protested. While UN spokesman Jeffrey Brez says the decision came after it was felt that Wonder Woman had served her purpose, it came on the tales of a petition to remove the super-heroine from her honorary position.
— Gal Gadot (@GalGadot) October 22, 2016
Staffers within the U.N itself started the online petition, which garnered 44,000 signatures before the decision was announced. The petition complains:
“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.”
Lynda Carter, the first live-action incarnation of the character, still defends the choice, telling The New York Times that while she agrees that perhaps a comic character is not a serious enough representative for the cause (Angry Birds had their own spotlight as U.N ambassadors), she calls out those who focus only on her exterior.
“What i disagree with is this idea about Wonder Woman. She is an iconic defender, she’s archetypal. It is 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.”
She also pointed out that neither she, Gal Gadot, nor the character itself really fall into the stereotypical “White Woman” category.
“And who says Wonder Woman is “white”? I’m half mexican. Gal Gadot is Israeli. The character is an Amazonian princess, not “American.” They’re trying to put her in a box, and she’s not in a box.”
While there is some credence to the issue of her patriotic costume design, of course inspired by a time when comic heroes were, in fact, meant to be American heroes, the idea that Wonder Woman can’t be more than an object because of how she is dressed seems to counter everything that the U.N is trying to accomplish.
When she first put on that bikini, it was a symbol of sexual liberation. Women only a generation before Wonder Woman’s publication in the 1940’s would have been thrown in jail for wearing a bikini on the beach. Where once embracing one’s womanness was the very core of female freedom, now we have angry voices telling her to put some clothes on. The funny thing is, now the voices are coming from the same side. Feminism is fractured, like so many other core ideals in our modern world.
Is Wonder Woman a sex symbol? Yes, of course she is! She is strong, powerful, intelligent, compassionate, and, yes, an attractive woman! Why does her physical attractiveness diminish everything else? Why are we telling girls that to be taken seriously they can not also embrace their physical beauty?
When the comic character was rebooted in 2012 by DC with this newer form of feminism in mind, even famed feminist Gloria Steinem, who put the Amazonian on the cover of Ms. magazine back in 1972 with the tagline, “Wonder Woman for President,” and again for the magazines 40th anniversary, weighed in. Steinem felt the reboot had come from “what seems to be the brainstorming of a very limited group of brains,” And on the costume, she said of the newer look,”gives us the idea that only pants can be powerful—tell that to Greek warriors and Sumo wrestlers.” She said, adding, “in fact, they’re so tight that they’ve just painted her legs blue; hardly a cover-up.”
So why the cover-up? Why is Wonder Woman under constant scrutiny from both sides about what she wears when at her core she is meant to be a symbol of strength, justice, and compassion? Boobs. It’s that simple. It’s the first thing they mention.
Both sides of this debate have far to go. The fact that there even was a debate shows that the U.N certainly has its work cut out for it as even feminists can not agree on what is an appropriate role model for girls (and boys). As for us, we see Wonder Woman just like we see all our heroes, as an example of the good we can all embrace and emulate.
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Images: Gal Gadot’s Twitter, Ms. Magazine, DC Comics, Warner Bros.