It may still come across as news to some that Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, was appointed a UN Ambassador for Gender Equality in October 2016. And it will come as a further surprise that no less than two months later, she was removed from her position. The two main reasons were that 1) many women felt that they needed a real-life representative as opposed to a fictional “mascot” and 2) wonder woman was deemed an “over sexualized” character due to her choice of wardrobe and was consequentially inappropriate for a UN position.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit my bias as a huge enthusiast of our Amazonian warrior goddess goes a long way, but I’m fairly convinced that the UN did her dirty on this one.
Let’s begin by expounding on the fact that this is not the first time a “mascot” has been bestowed the title of UN Ambassador. This esteemed honour has previously been shared with the likes of Tinkerbell as an Ambassador for Environmental Awareness in 2009 and Winnie the Pooh as an Ambassador for Friendship (I still have no idea what exactly that entails) in 1997. The character in itself is not meant to personify the discourse of the issue at hand; rather, it is the connotations they carry and their cultural significance that lend a hand in fostering the desired message. In the case of Wonder Woman, it is her valor as a warrior, her sexual liberation, the fact that she was among the first female superheroes not to be motivated by a love interest and her defilement of the meek and subservient woman archetype that cemented her status as a feminist icon.
And yet, all people could focus on were her boobs and thighs?
Over 44 000 people signed a petition apparently started by “concerned United Nations staff members” which was addressed to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, imploring him to remove Wonder Woman from her role. A direct quote from the petition’s author reads “It is alarming that the United Nations would consider using a character with an overtly sexualised image at a time when the headline news in the United States and the world is the objectification of women and girls”. The author went on to attack the “scanty” wardrobe choice, “a shimmery, thigh-baring bodysuit with an American flag motif and knee-high boots”. There was no mention of Diana’s incentives, disposition or ambitions — the plea was based nearly exclusively on her “scanty” outfit. Yet, it was enough to get her removed.
Now, I find all of this somewhat curious in light of Emma Watson’s “topless” Vanity Fair cover, a decision on her part which has caused a great deal of repercussion and disparagement. Emma Watson, who was appointed a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador way back in July 2014 and was commended for her contribution to the 2015 #HeForShe campaign recently made the choice to go “topless” (I mean, she’s still wearing a shirt, she just doesn’t have a bra on) during a recent Vanity Fair photo shoot, with one of these images shot by Tim Walker, now being displayed on the magazine’s March issue cover — and people are losing it.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that Emma Watson is the epitome of feminism, that’s another article all on its own, but her response to the situation earned my respect.
“They were saying I couldn’t be a feminist… and have boobs,” she began in an interview with People magazine. “It just always reveals to me how many misconceptions and what a misunderstanding there is about what feminism is,” she said. “Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality. I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it.”
Aptly phrased, Emma.
You’d think that by now, it would be rather apparent that being an empowered woman has nothing to do with your choice of clothing or your sexual history; feminism has everything to do with the way in which you uplift all other women, irrespective of background, and embrace their individual choices — something you could even do naked, if you so desired.
The question I can’t help deliberating now is if the UN still would’ve appointed Watson had this shoot occurred three years ago instead of one month ago. And if not, what does this expose about the way in which a majority of world leaders truly perceive feminism?
Author: Marisha Krishna
Editor: Ammaarah Mookadam