The only thing revealing here is a double standard.
It’s sad the United Nations has fired Wonder Woman as honorary ambassador for gender equality, because she was the perfect choice. The DC Comics heroine was named to the post in October amid great fanfare. But privately, some UN employees grumbled that her skimpy outfits made her too sexualized to represent women of various cultures around the world. Almost 45,000 people signed an online petition asking for her removal.
“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.”
?—?The Petition Site
The petition also bemoaned that the 75-year-old character was owned by a for-profit corporation.
Never mind that “Sexy” Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, with her skimpy Union Jack dress and Virgin Records backing, was named UN Goodwill Ambassador for reproductive health care, gender equality and the empowerment of women throughout the world in 1998.
At the time I thought: Who better to preach equality and the responsible use of contraceptives than Halliwell, with her advocation of “girl power” and legions of adoring?—?and impressionable?—?tween girls in every corner of the world? But after the conservative New Republic and others complained about the “airhead as figurehead,” the UN met to draft stricter standards for honorary ambassadors.
Still, Halliwell, and indeed her fellow Spice Girls, have continued to serve with distinction as UN ambassadors. In fact, the UN’s Project Everyone in July released a video of their song “Wannabe” that recasts it as a call for equal rights and equal pay for women! One shot features female students singing in hijabs.
Just like Halliwell, Wonder Woman has sexy origins. The Amazonian princess was dreamed up in 1941 by a husband-and-wife-and-wife team who were members of a polyamorous sex cult. They practiced bondage?—?hence the kinky magic lasso with which Diana bound men and women. But importantly, her creators also believed women were not just equal, but superior to men. Diana was specifically designed to give young girls a strong female role model who didn’t need the help of men. In fact, it was Wonder Woman who habitually rescued her hapless and inept friend, Steve Trevor.
In the 1970s, Lynda Carter inspired countless young girls with her starring role on the “Wonder Woman” TV series, at the height of the women’s lib movement.
The “Wonder Woman” film coming in 2017 is one of very few superhero films centered on a strong female character. Star Gal Gadot, a former Israeli soldier who considers herself a feminist, says she wants to give girls like her daughter a strong role model.
“I just had a conversation with my daughter, Alma, and she was saying something about the prince she saw in ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and she was saying he’s brave and he’s strong,” Gadot told Entertainment Weekly. “And I said what about the princess and she said, she’s weak.”
Women deal with double standards at work every day. From their wardrobe choices to how they should act, women from Hillary Clinton to your local Starbucks barista must straddle the razor’s edge between being characterized as either a “bitch” or a “slut.”
It’s hard to imagine 45,000 people protesting Spice Girls’ UN work today. But then, Halliwell and her bandmates are real women who can fight back, and Wonder Woman is not.
As the Spice Girls example ably points out, merely being “sexy” should not prevent a woman from holding any job, even an important ambassadorial one. It’s sad the UN has bowed to pressure instead of sticking with its choice.