On 21 October 2016, the Secretary-General of the United Nations decided that the new Honorary Ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls will be Wonder Woman, a fictional character, the rights to which are owned by DC Comics, a for-profit entertainment corporation.
Since that date, over 16,000 people have expressed their concern with this appointment.
Wonder Woman was created 75 years ago. 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. This is the character that the United Nations has decided to represent a globally important issue – that of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. It appears that this character will be promoted as the face of sustainable development goal 5 for the United Nations at large.
At a time when issues such as gender parity in senior roles and the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls is at the top of the United Nation’s agenda, including the “He for She” campaign, this appointment is more than surprising. It is alarming that the United Nations would consider using a character with an overtly sexualized image at a time when the headline news in United States and the world is the objectification of women and girls. The image that Wonder Woman projects (life-size cut outs of which have already appeared at UNHQ) is not culturally encompassing or sensitive –attributes the United Nations expects all its staff members to embody in the core value of respect for diversity.
The message the United Nations is sending to the world with this appointment is extremely disappointing. The bottom line appears to be that the United Nations was unable to find a real life woman that would be able to champion the rights of ALL women on the issue of gender equality and the fight for their empowerment. The United Nations has decided that Wonder Woman is the role model that women and girls all round the world should look up to.
Having strong (living, breathing) female role models is a critical aspect of the goal of empowerment of women and girls. If the United Nations would like a list of incredible extraordinary women that would formidably carry out this role, we could surely be able to come up with a list from which the Secretary-General could choose.
Since 2007, the Secretary-General has launched campaign after campaign under the banner of the empowerment of women and girls. However, the United Nations cannot on the one hand claim that “providing women and girls with equal access to education, healthcare, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large,” and on the other, award this key ambassadorial role to Wonder Woman, relegating the importance of the issue of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls to the previous appointment of fictional characters for ambassadorial positions, such as Tinkerbell (Ambassador of Green) and Winnie the Pooh (Ambassador of Friendship).
We would urge you to please sign this petition to ask the Secretary-General to reconsider the appointment of Wonder Woman as the Honorary Ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls. This role is too important to be championed by a “mascot.” We need to also ask that he consider the appointment of a real-life female role model that women and girls the world would be able to look up to, irrespective of their cultural background. While Wonder Woman can of course be part of the conversation, an animated character surely cannot be charged with what it is a very important role. Finally, this concern is not just an issue for women. It also for men, as stressed in the United Nations “He for She” campaign, to question gender-based assumptions and be advocates for gender equality.
According to the UN: "To those who say that they don't need a fictitious character to empower them or to tell them about women's empowerment, we agree, you are not the intended audience for such campaigns. We are not going to preach to the converted. We are trying to reach new audiences and young people who do not follow UN news or read the organizations reports and resolutions. Young people who get their world views and often, inspiration, from pop-culture icons such as Wonder Woman."
To him, we say WE ARE THAT audience! We are WOMEN, GIRLS, MEN and BOYS that actually care about the image of the United Nations that is beamed across the world! Do not patronise us for voicing our views! Over 12,000 of us have done so in 10 days! We will contine to make our voices heard. So please: Share! Sign! Stand up and be counted!