Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dr. Cyber defeats Wonder Woman!

Bad PR for Wonder Woman!  Her recent appointment as an honorary UN ambassador for the empowerment of female humans planetwide has been revoked.

Four key women (President of DC Entertainment Diane Nelson, director of the planned Wonder Woman film Patty Jenkins and that film's titular star, Gal Gadot, although with television's Wonder Woman actress Lynda Carter) participated in a ceremony at the UN celebrating Wonder Woman's honor.  A substantial chunk of UN staff, however, weren't having it. Literally turning their backs on the procedings, they dissed Princess Spangle-Pants as #notmyambassador.

The FDA is still testing protesters for traces of the Reverso drug from Sensation #2.

They set up a successful on-line petition (garnering 45,000 signatures) to revoke the honor, excerpted below:

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.

Hm.  On the one hand I have to laugh at how completely wrong the first part of this is.  It seems to frame Wonder Woman as if she were originally a perfectly fine character and symbol of female empowerment who has since been debased through oversexualization.   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.  No, the reality is that the character's EVERY incarnation has been been a white woman 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".

Except for this one.  I wonder if this would be more to the UN staff's liking?

Gotta call foul on the 'large-breasted/of impossible proportions'. That IS a modern debasing. Golden/Silver/Bronze Age Wonder Woman wasn't breasty at all.

See? Much too hard to draw bondage scenes with big-breasts.  Marston liked breasts, I'm sure.
But I'm sure he liked bondage better.  Much better.

Wonder Woman's breasts aren't special. She's not Power Girl and never has been. She is generally drawn just like every other female comic book hero (if sometimes a bit taller).  But they ALL got hyperbreasty some time in the '80s/'90s.  We can all name the artists at fault and picture the readers who rewarded them for it.

Truth is, this is Wonder Woman's 'current iteration', folks:

Tall, svelte; sure. But nothing that deserves condemnation as "impossibly proportioned."
As usual, the people who complain about comics loudly are people who don't actually read them. But their ignorance of Wonder Woman's precisely representation in the Golden Age and current one don't completely undermine the core of their complaints, which seem to be (1) WW is eye-candy and (2) she's a fictional character.

As for (1)...well, they are right.  Her creator was a shameless perv, as I have detailed through many posts, with evidence.  Wonder Woman was created as and for titillation for her author and those like him, and her outfit reflects his sexual fixation on majorettes.  Hence all the bands and marching in her Golden Age.  Why she doesn't have a Baton of Punishment I never figured out.

Even Marston realized that would be ridiculous.

While I concede WW's origins as a 'pin-up' style figure, I would side with the world's Lynda Carters and Gloria Steinems in believing that, as a character, Wonder Woman has risen above those origins to become a symbol of female empowerment for those cultures familiar with her.  As Carter said when interviewed:
"It's OK that not everyone agrees, but get over it and say, 'What else is new?'" The actress noted that she has weathered criticism of the role for years. "In the beginning, in the '70s, it was 'Well, she's objectified.' It's like, 'She's too tall, she's too this, she's too this.'"
I'm much more comfortable with her as an honorary UN ambassador than, for example, Winnie the Pooh (1998), who is whiny, stupid, fat, lazy, and gluttonous.  AND pants-less. At least Wonder Woman is wearing SOMETHING down there.

But then again...I'm not really the target audience, am I?  As Shazi Rafi, a former UN official and a proponent of the petition, put it:
"This whole issue of taking a cartoon figure who is clad in a bustier, with cleavage, high-cut shorts — a sort of muscled version of a Barbie — and saying 'This is what represents gender equality' is incredible. It's culturally insensitive. It's insulting."

It's really hard to say Rafi is wrong about that.  I think those of us who love Wonder Woman as a character and who have striven to view her and help others view her as a symbol of female empowerment bristle when Wonder Woman is condemned as sexist through what we perceive as "no fault of her own".  But when you reframe the question as Rafi has, it becomes not "How sexist/sexualized is the Wonder Woman character?" and more "Is this best way of representing the worldwide sociological issue we are trying to address?"

In this case, then, perhaps BOTH sides are right. I doubt that I would have signed the petition if I were a UN staffer. But I also doubt that I would have been blindly unaware in the first place as the UN seemed to be of the mixed message choosing Wonder Woman would send.


r duncan said...

Gal Gadot is an Israeli, too. The UN can't have that.

Unknown said...

So the UN promotion deal fell through, I wonder how this bodes for that upcoming Wonder Woman movie.

SallyP said...

Wait...Winnie the Pooh was a U.N. Ambassador?

I...I am gobsmacked.

Scipio said...

Andrew said...

Thanks for a thoughtful post. I didn't guess where you were going with this, but I agree with your conclusions.

Unknown said...

Nothing to do with be Appointment, just saying if the UN in the DCU were as bad as they are in real life, the Batman family would have thrashed them by now. They even have a negative sounding acronym. UN.

Unknown said...

I think Greg Rucka has proven to have a better grip on diverse issues and social justice than anyone in the UN. I think that's a fair claim, even if not everyone agrees.