It is insane to make Wonder Woman a UN Honorary Ambassador

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In latest news, the UN has apparently reached a consensus to appoint DC Comics character Wonder Woman as its Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. 

In this blog, I argue why designating a hypersexualized, superheroine goddess with unattainable body proportions and sex appeal as an inspiration for women on an international platform defeats the very purpose of doing so.

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The new cover for Wonder Woman. Image Credit: Frank Cho/DC Comics

At the very outset, it is abundantly clear to any conscious citizen that the intentions behind this move are rather noble indeed.

In a world plagued by patriarchy where women are denied equal opportunities merely for being female, and atrocities committed against them in the name of patriarchy and bigoted beliefs held by individuals and the society, it is one of the crises of our generation to empower women, in order to make the society conscious that every human being deserves an equal opportunity, and that the oppressed shall not sit silent against oppression.

The women of the world are in need of a role model, a mentor with the potential to open their eyes to the fact that denying them equal opportunities is merely a Machiavellian tactic to keep women inferior to men, and that they have the power to change the status quo. 

To my mind, the UN Goodwill Ambassadors for Women, such as Emma Watson, Anne Hathaway and Sania Mirza, amongst others, are the individuals with the potential and calibre to inspire women to break apart from their shackles, by showing them what women can achieve when freed and given equal opportunities.

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British actress Emma Watson, UN Goodwill Ambassador for Women, is an advocate for the HeForShe campaign, which encourages men to stand up for women when the latter are denied equal opportunities. Image Credit: UN Women

Moving forward, how about Wonder Woman as a UN Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls? A comic character, she has nevertheless inspired perhaps thousands of women not to be repentant about being a woman or their sexuality.

No, it’s insane. But, of course, statements must not be taken at face value, whether they be mine or that of any other entity (rings bells, huh?). Allow me to justify my stance.

The Good

At the very outset, allow me to make it abundantly clear that I would like to refrain myself from running the risk of appearing biased. I find that a loss of legitimacy is the unfavourable consequence thus. Therefore, allow me to err on the side of caution.

There is some substance to the argument that Wonder Woman is an inspiration, albeit very little. Prevailing socio-cultural circumstances and widespread patriarchy have only served to elevate this character to fame, by virtue of the fact that she is the cultural symbol for the empowered woman: an ambitious ideal all women naturally yearn to live up to, and rightly should.

That, to my mind, is the appeal of Wonder Woman, if any, in a nutshell.

The Bad, the Ugly

If Wonder Woman is the quintessential symbol of the empowered woman, what, if any, is wrong in this comic character being designated UN Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls? Truth be said, a ton.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to open one’s eyes to the fact that Wonder Woman is a hyper-sexualized superheroine goddess. The creators of this comic appear to have dramatized feminine sexual energy, portraying the character as a sex goddess. And that is precisely the problem with all of this.

UN staff members stage a silent protest against this event. Image Credit: Justin Lane/EPA
UN staff members stage a silent protest against this event. Image Credit: Justin Lane/EPA

My concerns about this issue have been wonderfully summarised, shaped rather, by a Scientific American article The Problem with Female Superheroes

The article, aptly subtitled, “From helpless damsel to powerful heroine, but still hypersexualized”, makes known to the reader in no uncertain terms what exactly is wrong with female superheroines:

“Although women play a variety of roles in the superhero genre… the female characters all tend to be hypersexualized, from their perfect, voluptuous figures to their sexy, revealing attire.”

Female characters in superhero comics have evolved from helpless damsel in distress to superheroine goddess, but they nevertheless remain hypersexualized, with rather unattainably “perfect” body proportions and oozing sex appeal. It is costing the society hard.

The results of the study referred to in that Scientific American article point towards a rather disturbing trend. Elevating a cultural symbol with unattainable body proportions and sex appeal to the podium of “ideal woman” is costing women hard: it’s lowering their body image and self-esteem.

In Conclusion

Wonder Woman, perhaps unintentionally, reinforces the notion that the ideal female must conform to the archetype of the powerful, erotic, sex goddess in a revealing, skimpy outfit clomping around the building in boots, wowing many with her oozing sex appeal.  

While Wonder Woman offers lip-service to the noble ideal of an empowered, free woman with no qualms about her choices, in a world increasingly plagued by low self-esteem and body confidence amongst women precipitated by their inability to live up to seemingly “perfect” skin tones, body proportions and appearance, Wonder Woman doesn’t offer social service by further reinforcing this degrading archetype of Western “beauty”.

There is no lack of so many other wonderful, amazing, imperfect, human women out there who are, and should be, truly an inspiration to the women of this world. They have broken all stereotypes, shattered boundaries, and have looked the society in its face while breaking free from the shackles it ordinarily imposes on women.

The journey of such women from ordinary to extraordinary is an inspiration. They are in possession of the power to inspire, and to create change. They are the ones who deserve to be UN Ambassadors, not a hypersexualized superheroine goddess who only serves to reinforce the patriarchal notion that women should be objects and targets of lust, clomping around the building skimpily dressed, in high heels boots.

Saddeningly, this course of action adopted by the UN to ostensibly inspire women is counter-productive, and defeats its very purpose thus. 

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