In October, the United Nations appointed Wonder Woman as an Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. The move, which hit amidst the DC Comic character’s 75th anniversary celebration, was made to help raise awareness for Sustainable Development Goal 5, a campaign designed to “achieve gender quality and empower all women and girls,” according to the UN’s website.
It seemed a fitting choice, given the feminist ideals Wonder Woman has championed since her 1941 inception. Portrayed as a strong, capable heroine, she’s made great strides in breaking gender stereotypes, including the long-outdated trope of a “damsel in distress.” But an online petition soon popped up to protest the decision, arguing that Wonder Woman is a fictional, overtly sexualized character that isn’t culturally inclusive, and calling for Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to reconsider. The UN eventually obliged the request, and Wonder Woman was stripped of her title earlier this month.
Gal Gadot, who began portraying Wonder Woman in this year’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and will reprise the role for 2017’s Wonder Woman, has now weighed in on the controversy. During an interview with Time published on Monday, the actress said the backlash seemed trivial against the world’s broader issues.
“There are so many horrible things that are going on in the world, and this is what you’re protesting, seriously?” she asked. “When people argue that Wonder Woman should ‘cover up,’ I don’t quite get it…They say, ‘If she’s smart and strong, she can’t also be sexy.’ That’s not fair. Why can’t she be all of the above?”
It’s a fair point. Wonder Woman may not be representative of every woman – or any woman, for that matter – but should that invalidate what she stands for? If we chastise her image for being too revealing, does that indicate all women are obligated to cover their bodies, regardless of what larger issues they may be fighting for? Why must Wonder Woman be defined only by what she looks like?
On the other hand, the petition suggested plenty of “flesh and blood ambassadors” that would have made excellent representatives, highlighting Graça Machel of Mozambique, Alaa Murabit of Libya, Leÿcmah Gbowee of Liberia and Queen Mathilde of Belgium for their commitment to fighting gender inequality, as well as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson and Messenger of Peace Charlize Theron.
It seems the UN selected Wonder Woman in an attempt to pick a figure that was globally recognizable, but it also overlooked several women making real, tangible change. Being outraged over a lack of recognition for others is a valid contention, but it also shouldn’t take away from what Wonder Woman represents. In any case, another petition has been launched to reinstate Wonder Woman as an ambassador, so it’s up to the UN if it wants to stand by its initial decision.