Wonder Woman became an honorary U.N. ambassador and a lot of people are pissed

Global politics just got superpowered thanks to Wonder Woman’s appointment as an honorary United Nations ambassador for gender equality. The U.N. announced her new status at a ceremony featuring Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman in the 1970s TV show, and Gal Gadot, who appeared as the iconic character in Batman vs. Superman and will be bringing her back for DC’s upcoming Wonder Woman solo movie. 

Carter and Gadot were joined by United Nations Under-Secretary-General Cristina Gallach, as well as DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson and Patty Jenkins, director of the Wonder Woman movie, which is set for a 2017 release. They spoke to an audience of U.N. delegates and young children about the significance of Wonder Woman, strong female role models, and how girls and women can find their own power in today’s society.

The Amazon princess’s official appointment kicks off the U.N.’s campaign to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,” which is one of its key sustainable development goals. As Maher Nasser, outreach director of the United Nations’ Department of Public Information, told NPR, “Wonder Woman’s character is the most iconic and well known female comic book superhero in the world, known for her strength, fairness and compassion, and her commitment to justice, peace and equality.”

True facts. So why are people so upset?

Wonder Woman UN Ambassador Ceremony
CREDIT: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

It’s not solely for the reasons you think. Sure, some people might be pissy about a female superhero getting there before Superman or Batman (ignoring that, as the Princess of Themiscyra, she knows much more about statecraft than either of those guys), but rank sexism is only one part of the objections to Wonder Woman’s ambassadorial appointment.

Anonymous U.N. staffers started a petition decrying the choice 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’ to represent the fight for global gender equality.” I take their point on the white woman part, but less so on the impossible proportions and the flag motif; although male comics artists often draw female characters with wasp waists and giant boobs, recent Wonder Woman comics portray her as a warrior with a more realistic physique in armor that’s mostly ditched the flag design, because a good artist should be able to do that.

Other objectors argued that the U.N. should work on promoting real women within its ranks before turning to fictional ones, pointing to the controversy over its recent leadership race. Despite the presence of several women on the shortlist to take over as Secretary-General, the role once again went to a man — António Guterres. This raised questions about the U.N.’s attitude toward its female delegates and its decision to pick a fictional character rather than a real-life stateswoman to tackle gender equality issues.

Maybe having Wonder Woman as an honorary ambassador will encourage the U.N. to start empowering its female officials. Her story might be fictional, but with a genuine commitment to improving the lives of girls and women around the world, the spirit of it can become a reality.