Since her first comic appearance in 1941, Wonder Woman has always stood for love, peace, diplomacy, and female empowerment. Now, she will continue to stand for all of those things — but with the official backing of the United Nations.
On Friday (October 21), coincidentally also the day of Wonder Woman’s 75th anniversary, the United Nations kicked off a campaign to empower women and girls around the world that will feature Wonder Woman as its honorary spokeswoman.
The campaign, in support of the fifth of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, “will fight to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”
Current “Justice League” actress Gal Gadot, ‘70s “Wonder Woman” icon Lynda Carter, “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, and DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson were there to mark the occasion with the blessing of UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Cristina Gallach, along with members of the Girl Scouts and other young girls who were invited to witness the event.
In a speech before the assembly, Nelson spoke about the potential that Wonder Woman has to inspire girls and women around the world, and quoted Wonder Woman’s creator, William Mouston Marsten, who once said that “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks strength, force, and power."
Nelson also announced that DC would be working with the UN to “initiate leveraging the power and appeal of comic books to launch this effort” with a special comic book in 2017 that will promote female empowerment in several different languages. DC and Warner Brothers will also create other materials in support of the campaign, particularly with regard to their bestselling “Super Hero Girls” brand aimed at young girls.
“Wonder Woman is already an ambassador from the Amazons to Man's world, with the goal of uniting men and women to achieve equality for everyone,” she said. “But what makes Wonder Woman powerful isn't that she represents, ‘look what girls can do.’ It's that she represents, "look what girls can already do.’”
But not everyone agreed. During the beginning of the event, a few dozen members of the UN held a silent protest in the back of the room, facing the wall with fists up in the air.
According to the New York Times, these critics object to the idea that a fictional superhero character is a suitable representative for the United Nations and would have preferred that a real living woman (in particular, a female Secretary General, as four women were recently in the running to replace Ban-Ki Moon and all of them were passed over for Antonio Gutteres) be invited to champion the cause instead. In a petition they have circulated online, they condemn Wonder Woman as “a large-breasted white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring bodysuit with an American flag motif and knee-high boots.”
Of course, Wonder Woman is not the first fictional honorary UN ambassador — so is Winnie the Pooh, who in 1997 was sworn is as an international ambassador of Friendship Day. (One wonders what these members of the UN would have thought at the time, considering that he wears less clothing than even Wonder Woman does.)
By the time Lynda Carter took the podium, however, most of these protesters had left.
Carter spoke candidly about how her role as Wonder Woman in the hit television show changed the media landscape at that time, and indirectly challenged the notion that Wonder Woman is any less inspiring because she is fictional.
"In some magical and mystical way, there lies within each of us a Wonder Woman. She is real. She lives and she breathes," she said, her voice cracking with emotion. "I know this because she lives in me, and she lives in stories that these women tell me, day in and day out. I see it in the eyes that dance before me. I see it in the letters and in the stories. I read it on social media. I see it in the tears that fall from the eyes of the women who say it saved them from or inspired them through some awful thing in their lives."
“Wonder Woman lives, do not doubt it," she added. "She brings out the strength every woman has. We are stronger together. We are half the world. We have a voice. We are the mothers of mankind.”
“Let us be able to look back at 2017 as the year we made huge progress for women's equality,” she concluded to a standing ovation.