Why It’s Such A Fail That The UN Chose Wonder Woman As Their Ambassador For Women Empowerment

Female superhero Wonder Woman, named by the UN as Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. Credit: DC Entertainment

When it was announced that the UN had appointed Wonder Woman as honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls I did an eye roll. But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

The fact that the appointment comes days after the UN announced another male Secretary General (despite plenty of highly-qualified female candidates) and at the same time Trump calls Hillary Clinton a ‘nasty woman’ in a live Presidential debate, shows that in 2016 misogyny is alive and well. So I feel I need to explain *just why* Wonder Woman is a terrible choice for UN Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women.

1. We don’t need another sex object as a role model
The UN has justified their decision to choose Wonder Woman because she fights for peace and justice. Which is really great. But she does so in a skimpy outfit, wearing a tiara, forever trapped in the body of a 25-year-old. Everywhere I go (both online and offline) women are celebrated for youth, beauty and large breasts. The UN had a chance to challenge the messages women receive every day, that we are sex objects whose value increases with cup size, and instead they chose to reinforce it.

2. A real woman might get something done
I’ve been really impressed with the work that Angelina Jolie has done as her work as Special Envoy for the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency). She’s used her celebrity to raise awarenessfund schools for refugees, and lobby the UN Security Council to do more to address the crisis in Syria. Wonder Woman can’t turn up to a meeting, let alone start a school.

3. She reinforces the idea that the United States is the keeper of freedom and equality
She wears red, white and blue and her knickers are made from the fabric of the American flag. The UN is meant to be a global agency and yet they’ve chosen an icon whose outfit represents just one nation. The UN Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women is meant to raise awareness worldwide but I think lots of nations will feel angry and alienated by the choice of an American icon.

Launch of a global campaign supporting Sustainable Development Goal #5 on the occasion of  Wonder WomanÕs 75th Anniversary Designation of Wonder Woman as the UN Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls

4. Choosing a fictitious character creates a UN puppet
By choosing a fictitious character the UN has chosen an ambassador that’s completely pliable: they can choose what she says, where and when she appears, and how she dresses. I can’t help but question, was this intentional? Were they scared that a real woman would bring her own thoughts and opinions to the table?

5. It’s an insult to the women who ran for UN Secretary General
The ninth Secretary General was announced last week. Antonio Guterres from Portugal will succeed Ban Ki-Moon on 1 January 2017 despite a hard fought campaign for a woman to take the office for the first time. When a woman fails to get a top job people sometimes defend the decision by saying there weren’t any qualified female candidates. On this occasion there were plenty. I think it’s an insult to these highly-qualified women when a week later they award a senior position that can only be held by a woman to a cartoon character.

6. Using a fictitious character sends a message they couldn’t find a real one
UN Ambassadors and Special Envoys tend to be celebrities because they have the profile to raise awareness that women working in policy and politics often don’t. None of the women running for UN Secretary General have the profile of Wonder Woman. But there are plenty of famous women that would have made a better choice. A few suggestions: Emma Watson, Malala Yousafzai, Lupita Nyong’o and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie all have a gazillion Twitter followers and live in the real world.

7. It patronises young people
The UN said it appointed Wonder Woman to reach a younger audience… by choosing a character that was born 75 years ago?!

8. It undermines the very goal of having an ambassador

The first goal of the UN Ambassador is to speak out against discrimination and limitations on women and girls. But they’ve chosen a woman who cannot speak unless she’s performed by someone else. It’s hard to define ’empowerment’ but I think of it as who can speak and who gets heard. Wonder Woman cannot speak on her own and so it’s less likely her message will be heard.

I feel so strongly about this that I’ve decided, for the first time, to start a petition calling for the UN to stop using Wonder Woman as their Ambassador for Women.

Are you with me? Please sign and share on social media.

[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared here.]
Felicity H. Barber

About Felicity H. Barber

Felicity H. Barber is a speechwriter, executive communications specialist and coach. She writes speeches, advises business leaders on messaging and coaches people in the art of persuasion. Before moving to San Francisco from London and setting up her business, Thoughtful Speech, she was an in-house speechwriter at Lloyd’s of London, the global insurer. Prior to Lloyd’s Felicity worked in British politics formulating policy to tackle Violence Against Women and Girls. In 2010 Felicity stood for election, campaigning in the area where she grew up. Fun Fact: Felicity has written a book presented as a gift to HM The Queen. She can be contacted at felicity@thoughtfulspeech.com or via thoughtfulspeech.com
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One Response to Why It’s Such A Fail That The UN Chose Wonder Woman As Their Ambassador For Women Empowerment

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