Wonder Woman has been named being named the United Nations’ Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls.
But the honour has sparked a backlash among some of the organisation’s staff who believe a comic book character is an inappropriate choice.
The Amazonian warrior got the honour at the UN’s Manhattan headquarters at a ceremony featuring both Lynda Carter, who played the character in the 1970s television series, and Gal Gadot, who will star in 2017’s Wonder Woman film.
The character, first seen in print 75 years ago, will front a campaign promoting women’s rights and gender equality.
Using the slogan “think of all the wonders we can do”, the campaign aims to promote the achievements stemming from female empowerment.
It will also highlight examples of “women and girls who have made and are making a difference every day by overcoming barriers and beating the odds to reach their goals”.
Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls is one of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals, which aim to tackle poverty and inequality.
Cristina Gallach, UN under-secretary-general for communications and public information, said:
While we have achieved progress towards gender equality, in many parts of the world women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence.
Gender equality is a fundamental human right and a foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.”
— #WonderGal (@amazonheroicon) October 21, 2016
But Wonder Woman’s appointment was strongly criticised by some UN staff. Some 1,000 UN staffers and women’s groups signed petitions calling for a human ambassador, rather than a fictitious character, and social media is questioning whether Wonder Woman is qualified for the job.
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. It is alarming that the United Nations would consider using a character with an overtly sexualized image at a time when the headline news in United States and the world is the objectification of women and girls.”
The petition also pointed out that the rights to Wonder Woman are owned by DC Comics, “a for-profit entertainment corporation.”
A Wonder Woman film will be released next year and the association with the UN campaign is unlikely to harm its marketing campaign.
Around 50 UN staff turned their back on the ceremony of Wonder Woman’s appointment and others voiced their disapproval.
“Disgusting that the UN substitutes sexualized fake for real woman leader. Hope Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth reveals hypocrisy.”
However, some people praised the decision.
Film critic Anna Smith told Sky News:
Wonder Woman the film is coming out next year, this is an opportunity to have a film directed by a woman, starring a woman as a first major female superhero. It has got to be a positive strike for women and I think this helps draw attention to that.”