4 Responses

  1. Ashlee Betteridge
    Ashlee Betteridge October 26, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    When Camilla and I were Googling for this post we also found some miscellaneous Wonder Woman facts and analysis that others might find interesting.

    We didn’t want to go on a tangent so I’m just sharing some of them here in the comments.

    Wonder Woman: Feminist Icon, Feminist Failure, or Both? – this is an interesting article with some of the history and different perspectives, particularly on the worldview of Wonder Woman’s creator

    “[Comic book historian] Hanley’s curiosity over Wonder Woman’s curious career begins with her curious creator, writer and psychologist William Moulton Marston. Marston “wanted to impart to his readers a specific message about female superiority,” Hanley writes. Marston’s feminism didn’t hold that men and women were equal. Instead, he believed that women were superior and could bring about a more just and peaceful society than what men had achieved so far, especially in the midst of World War II. Wonder Woman’s women-only homeland of Themyscira thus became a utopian ideal. In the context of wartime America, Wonder Woman became “a superpowered Rosie the Riveter, constantly encouraging women to join the auxiliary forces or get a wartime job,” Hanley argues. While Wonder Woman inspired women to realize their full potential, she also prepared young boys reading the comics for the coming matriarchy, which Marston was devoutly believed would come after the war.”


    “Marston’s worldview came with complications, particularly a connoisseur’s eye for bondage, which went far beyond just the heroine’s “golden lasso of truth.” “For Marston,” Hanley defends, “bondage was about submission, not just sexually but in every aspect of life.” For the female utopia to happen, men must submit control, but everyone must submit individual desires to the greater goals of society.”

    Also, if you like vintage comic book artwork, there’s some selected feminist panels from Wonder Woman cartoons in these posts here and here, and some arguments backing up her feminist status.

    And it’s interesting how the UN has glossed over her being a LGBTI icon, in typical UN style. There’s a lot online about that as well.

  2. Wendy Levy
    Wendy Levy October 25, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    The suitability or otherwise of Wonder Woman is only part of the issue. International celebrity ambassadors were novel once, but not any more. Barely a day goes by without some famous person in logo cap and t-shirt weeping into their cornflakes about the cause they have just embraced. Although they are billed as having international reach, many are barely known outside the western world.

    Regional and national celebrities may provide a more authentic voice for their cause. Here’s a long list from UNICEF of their ambassadors in various places.

    This article from 2011 looks at the wider debate about ambassadors.

    While this 2006 UN report [pdf] makes recommendations about the future of use of goodwill ambassadors — it is unclear what suggestions, if any, were acted on.

    1. Ashlee Betteridge
      Ashlee Betteridge October 26, 2016 at 12:11 pm

      Thanks Wendy (and sorry for the delay in getting your comment up, our spam filter is sometimes a little overzealous).

      I’m not entirely opposed to hijacking pop culture/celebrity to help communicate a socially beneficial message, as long as it doesn’t compromise the message or come at a big cost. And as long as it is done really well and effectively, which as those reports show, is often not the case.

      From a comms standpoint, I think the Wonder Woman appointment comes with a risk of confusing the UN’s already kind of fuzzy gender equality messaging – recently it was all #HeforShe, which I always found a bit patronising and vague but I at least kind of understood what they were trying to do with it (even if the execution was off). Now it’s about a woman who comes from an all woman planet and who has been both sexualised and objectified by men throughout history but on the other hand has at times espoused a very hardline feminist message that could be seen by the overly sensitive as ‘anti-male’. It’s all just really confusing from a messaging point of view. Who are they trying to communicate with and mobilise with this campaign? Which version of Wonder Woman is their ambassador (she’s had many iterations throughout history)? Is empowerment about equality and partnership between men and women, or is it about women becoming dominant? Such messy messaging.

      So I oppose this one, but not all. But a big communications question for me in using celebrity/icons would be – whose pop culture do they represent? I think you are spot on about needing to look at regional and national celebrities if you are going to get messages to have traction in particular countries or regions. There is a real dominance of American/Western celebrities on the books as ambassadors and Wonder Woman is no exception. Yes, some of these celebs are truly global, but I completely agree that there is a real need to look at how they play with certain audiences.

      I’m not convinced of the need to call these people ‘ambassadors’ though. I think that’s where this really sunk. Sure, if there is a good comms and messaging strategy, give some Wonder Woman related tweets a go and tie it in to the anniversary and the movie. But don’t call her an ‘honorary ambassador for women’s empowerment’ – that’s going to annoy real women who are tired of living up to impossible standards and pressures, let alone fictional superhero ones.

      It does seem really trivial to appoint someone who has superhuman powers to be an ambassador for an issue that includes gender violence. What, are women supposed to just get superpowers and kapow bang whoosh their way out of violent situations? It’s like the UN think that women just need more inspiration to be powerful, instead of actual structural change.

  3. Mel Dunn
    Mel Dunn October 25, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Ashlee, Camilla

    It is so good you wrote this yet what a shame it ever needed to be written!

    While I observe your comment in other media as this being a “rant” I think otherwise…it is an articulate expression of your frustration (on behalf of others, the many) of the idiocy of an organisation that should know better.

    Maybe there is a method in their madness as you observe that raising the vibration on conversations is good – but I agree that of all the ways in which this important global issue could be prioritised, this seems polar from the better options.

    I also comment, with some embarrassment, that as a male my voice was slow to condemn – no excuse, just slow.

    Thank you for not being silent.


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