In a sometimes emotional presentation, Gal Gadot, Lynda Carter, Patty Jenkins and DC president Diane Nelson joined UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Cristina Gallach at the UN today to name Wonder Woman an Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls.
Wonder Woman was added as an inspiration for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #5, which calls for global equality of women by 2030 and and the empowerment of women and girls as a critical component of a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
Carter was the one who brought the house down with an emotional speech about “the Wonder Woman inside us all” calling on “the good men of the world” to join with women to help make aspirational goals a reality. Carter teared up and more than a few in attendance did as well.
There ceremony was attended by DC’s Jim Lee, Geoff Johns and John Ficarra, along with long time Wonder Woman artist Phil Jimenez and a room full of girl scouts, some of them in Wonder Woman tiaras.
Although it seemed like a positive event, more than 600 UN staffers protested the event, saying giving a fictional character this honor was a disservice to real women. :
The petition says “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” is not an appropriate spokeswoman for gender equity at the United Nations.
Privately, several United Nations officials have expressed concern about the choice of a comic-book character. Publicly, its leaders have described the decision as a creative way to reach younger audiences, in advance of a new Hollywood film starring Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Whether a character who is even older than the United Nations will appeal to the young — she soon turns 75, about four years older than the world body — remains uncertain. The heroine’s appointment ceremony will proceed, as scheduled, on Friday. A silent protest is expected.
And there you have the great enigma of Wonder Woman.
“Supporting the United Nation’s campaign for female empowerment is a weighty responsibility and one that all of us at DC and Warner Bros. are proud to take on,” said Nelson in her speech. “Wonder Woman has always been a trailblazer for women’s rights and we believe she can continue that legacy by expanding and deepening the dialogue around these critical issues.”
As DC’s head, Nelson has been incredibly savvy in promoting Wonder Woman and launching the very successful DC Super Hero Girls program. Given how Wonder Woman languished as a symbol of kinky gender roles and the “difficulty” in presenting a female superhero to the presumed male audience for comics, it was quite a feat, although a no brainer.
All of the speakers mentioned Wonder Woman as a symbol of equality and freedom. “She’s a great fighter,” said Gadot, ” but what she fights for is more important.”
For the moment, the decades of confusion over the bondage and polyamory aspects of Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, and her origin. In fact, when you set your mind to it, all of this is just a footnote.
As the UN protest shows, however, decades of sexualized presentations of the superhero remain part of her legacy as well. And as the Riri Williams controversy shows, this attitude towards female superheroes continues to taint their image. While you can argue that saluting Wonder Woman at the UN is a great promotional stunt for next year’s film, her iconic power as a symbol can’t be easily dismissed, either.
“While the world has achieved progress towards gender equality, in many parts of the world, women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence. Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but also a foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world,” Gallash said in her speech. “Wonder Woman will be another valuable partner for us to achieve such a world by inspiring her millions of fans worldwide to stand up for gender equality.”
“The greatest honor and responsibility of playing Wonder Woman was serving as a role model for fans around the world, particularly girls,” said Carter. “I’ve seen first-hand how a powerful yet compassionate superhero can inspire women to believe in themselves and men to support equality.”
And the reasons for the battle are clear:
Despite many gains made in the fight for equality, one in three women still experience gender-based violence and 60% of the world’s illiterate are female. In collaboration with the U.N., DC and Warner Bros. will use multiple media platforms to spread awareness about the challenge and the steps both men and women can take to support a more just world that lives up to the ideals of Wonder Woman.
Next year DC will also release a a special Wonder Woman comic book with the positive message of empowering women and girls.
In a first for the company, the comic book will simultaneously be published in the six official languages of the U.N.: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
DC and Warner Bros. will develop special messaging supporting the U.N.’s initiative across a variety of studio platforms, channels and activities, including their “DC Super Hero Girls” graphic novels, television movie and toys.
The studio will also produce a special PSA featuring Gal Gadot in support of Sustainable Development Goal #5.
Visiting the UN, with its mid-century message tributes to globalization and peace, one sees how the actions of individuals around the world are the best ambassadors for change. But looking at the enthusiasm of the girl scouts in the room was a reminder that larger than life figures can also inspire.
Personally? I’d love to see a real woman as Secretary General of the UN, and that person be a role model for real life women and girls. Until that happens, Wonder Woman’s message of equality, fairness and justice for all might just do some good.
And a few photos:
Photo courtesy of DC. And now my bad snapshots!!!
This gallery of past UN Secretary General’s does look a little like a FIFA exec line-up….
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.