The United Nations has just announced that Wonder Woman will be named an honorary ambassador as a “women’s champion.” Did you hear that, fellow nerdy comic-book-loving feminists? Rejoice, for the days of women’s subjugation will soon be at an end. Our savior is here!
Wait, hold on…I just double-checked Wonder Woman’s Wikipedia page and I learned that she’s….fictional? Can that be true? So the new women’s champion appears to be the first wholly fictional character to ever be an ambassador for the UN, which seems like more of a coup for fictional characters than for women.
Don’t get me wrong–this wouldn’t be the first time I thought the UN missed the mark on an ambassador. After all, the Honorary Ambassador for the Decade of Literacy is Laura Bush, a woman who couldn’t even teach her own husband to read. But Wonder Woman pisses me off like nothing else, for a few reasons:
- SHE IS FICTIONAL. There are actual, living, breathing women who can “promote messages about women’s empowerment and gender-based violence.”
- She is a product. I know, this is tough to hear. You’ve bonded with this strong, beautiful female character. You cheered when she came out of the closet. You can’t wait to see what she does next. But you also bought her comic books, and her Underoos, and her officially licensed t-shirts and purses and earrings and action figures. And in a few months, you’ll buy tickets to her new movie. Yes, Wonder Woman is a beloved character of literature, but Wonder Woman is also a product that is very carefully marketed and sold to you. Yes, it feels good to be able to support a character that seems to line up with your own feminist ideals, but your support is a transaction that DC Comics has noted in a spreadsheet and used to make decisions on how they can extract more money from you and your friends to improve their bottom line.
Don’t believe me? Go ahead and read to the end of the BBC article I linked above. Pay attention to this bit:
The campaign is being sponsored by Warner Bros and DC Entertainment
And don’t forget this:
There is also an upcoming Wonder Woman film starring Gal Gadot of Batman v Superman fame, due out in the UK next year.
This is known as public relations. Someone in the marketing department at DC or WB came up with this way to make you buy more movie tickets, and they probably got a bonus for it. Those billion dollar corporations then either gave some money to the UN (great!) or just allowed them use of the Wonder Woman license (eh) in exchange for an absolutely tremendous amount of publicity, as all the feminist nerds dutifully rush to support the venture.
I fully admit that I often buy things I don’t need just because they reinforce my philosophies. I’d rather reward faceless corporations for being progressive than for being regressive. At the same time, I get sick of feminism being bought by conglomerates, repackaged, and sold back to me. Wonder Woman is great, but she’s not going to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” as the UN has laid out in their 17 goals to transform the world. That takes more than a corporate sponsorship from companies that continue to focus on telling men’s stories while shoving scantily clad women into refrigerators. That trope, of course, was popularized by Gail Simone, the amazing comic writer who writes Wonder Woman, amongst other titles. She’s great, and she’d be a great choice of someone to work with the UN on empowering girls through comic books. Even more than that, she’s a real human being who can actually accomplish things, unlike Wonder Woman, who is a fictional character who can only say and do whatever the man or woman writing her allows her to say and do.
An even better idea than nominating an actual living human being to the role of Women’s Ambassador might be for the United Nations to not give 9 out of 10 senior positions to men, or to just once in its entire history nominate a female Secretary-General. Those would be actual steps toward gender equality, and not empty PR stunts that are more capable of selling movie tickets than empowering anyone.