One has to wonder what the UN were thinking in appointing Wonder Woman as Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. Indeed, we could also ask who was doing the thinking. Certainly it was not the hundreds of UN staffers, many women, who turned their backs in protest at the presentation last Friday.
In a statement drafted by UN staff members, the main criticism made is that the comic book heroine cuts an oversexualised figure, one that has negative implications for the objectification of women. Certainly Wonder Woman with her skimpy outfit and unrealistic bodily proportions seems to undermine the UN’s stated development goal which is to promote gender equality and empower women.
The online petition accompanying the statement- and which garnered over 1000 signatures within hours of its release- also questions how culturally appropriate a ‘large breasted white woman...scantily clad in a thigh bearing body suit with an American flag motif’ is as a global ambassador for women. A protestor quoted in the Guardian suggested that her selection was akin to ‘pop culture imperialism’.
Given the bureaucratic nature of the UN- the process of appointing the Secretary General is notoriously oblique-it is perhaps unsurprising that it is hard to find out who was responsible. One could argue that Wonder Woman’s engagement is indicative of yet another problem that women face today. It is well known that women are not fairly represented at board level, and are therefore excluded from high level decision making. This is certainly the case at the UN where all but one member of the Security Council responsible for electing the Secretary General is male. The new incumbent, Antonio Guarres, is a man. No woman has ever held this position. In order for this to change- and for the UN to have a realistic chance of achieving its development goals- focus should perhaps be placed on lauding the achievements of ‘real’ women rather than celebrating the assets of a fantasy figure.