On Friday, October 21, the United Nations named Wonder Woman an honorary ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls movement. This superhero represents the universality of powerful women: each young girl and woman can be a wonder woman in her community as she fights gender inequality. Not only is this campaign geared toward acknowledging the power of women and girls everywhere, but it also appreciates the men and boys who continue to support the fight for gender equality.
There are five initiatives of this campaign that are centered on breaking stereotypes associated with women:
1. Speak out against discrimination and restrictions placed on women and young girls. The UN encourages media to provide positive stories that promote gender equality instead of reinforcing negative gender stereotypes.
2. Stand up against gender-based violence and assault. Nearly 1 in 3 women still experience violence – physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional– sometime in their lives.
3. Support equal opportunities for female leaders in all communities, especially in the workplace. Women and girls make up half of the world’s population, so they hold half of its potential.
4. Fight for all women and girls to receive a quality education. Over 63 million girls around the world are not in school.
5. Celebrate females who are making a difference in local, national, and global communities. Tell the world about these women using the hashtag #RealLifeWonderWoman.
Despite this campaign’s positive initiatives, a debate has erupted to discuss the UN’s choice of making Wonder Woman an ambassador. While this comic book character is “a muscled version of a Barbie doll chosen as the symbol to globally represent gender equality and empowerment of women and girls,” many women have faulted the United Nations for not selecting an actual woman. Caroline Feldkamp ’17, co-president of Feminism Club, however, believes that “choosing one specific person to represent all of female empowerment may have been very challenging because women are powerful in a plethora of different ways.” The United Nations instead chose Wonder Woman as a symbol of female empowerment rather than an example of what women should aspire to be. “Because this character is nonexistent, anyone can be her,” Caroline stated.
Many people believe that Wonder Woman’s physicality also detracts from the purpose of the campaign; they see Wonder Woman as a certain ethnic background, physical stature, and race. Because many UN officials are wary of Wonder Woman’s overpowering sexuality, a cape has been draped around her upper chest in order to make her bust less prominent. Though this addition to the image masks her femininity, her appearance is still loved by many feminists. She is the first female superhero in comic books among a world of male superheroes; she fought for fairness and peace just as women can do today.
In light of this debate, many women come to mind who could have been chosen to represent the United Nations’ campaign instead of Wonder Woman.
1. Malala Yousafzai: In 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman after she demanded that girls receive an education just as boys do. As a result of her courage and perseverance, she became the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Prize laureate when she was 17. Now at the young age of 19, Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education around the world.
2. Emma Watson: Watson currently serves as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and helped to launch their campaign HeForShe, which encourages men to advocate for gender equality alongside women. She is a strong believer in education for young girls globally and is a proud feminist and activist for women’s rights.
3. Alice Paul: Born in 1885, Alice Paul was a feminist and suffragette who dedicated her entire life to securing equal rights for all women, especially the right to vote in the United States. Because of her and other suffragists’ work to ensure a woman’s right to vote, President Woodrow Wilson announced his support for a suffrage amendment; this eventually lead to the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Whether one supports Wonder Woman as the campaign’s logo or desires for it to be an actual woman, living or deceased, all people can agree upon one fact: this United Nations campaign is fighting for the equality of all genders and should be recognized for its great initiatives.