Wonder Woman announced as UN ambassador amid staff protest
Decision to make the DC superhero an honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women led to a petition and silent protest by employees
By Nicole Puglise
Oct 21 2016
“This is the most fun the UN has had, I’m pretty sure right?” Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment said at a ceremony appointing Wonder Woman as the United Nations’ honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls. The ceremony was meant to honor the fight for gender equality and the 75th anniversary of the character.
Not all agreed with her sentiment, as UN staff members protested against the appointment both inside the event and in the lobby of the building.
It was announced that Wonder Woman would become an honorary ambassador earlier this month, in support of the UN’s sustainable development goal number five – “to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. The sustainable development goals were adopted by the UN in 2015 and hope to fulfill their agenda by 2030.
The news was met with both praise and criticism, and a petition was created by “Concerned United Nations staff members” asking the UN secretary general to reconsider. It mentioned concerns over her “overtly sexualized image” that is not “culturally encompassing or sensitive”.
“The bottom line appears to be that the United Nations was unable to find a real-life woman that would be able to champion the rights of ALL women on the issue of gender equality and the fight for their empowerment. The United Nations has decided that Wonder Woman is the role model that women and girls all around the world should look up to,” the petition read.
The petition, which had over 1,180 signatures by Friday afternoon, announced the plan for the “silent but non-disruptive” protest inside the Ecosoc chamber where the official ceremony took place.
Protesters entered the chamber at the start of the event, and stood with their backs turned and their fists raised. They walked out of the event about halfway through, but three women stood outside for a few minutes to speak about their actions.
Though they didn’t intend to speak about their protest to the media, one, who was asked if the Guardian could mention her remarks anonymously, said she wished a real person had been chosen for the role of ambassador.
“For something that is this important, you need a woman or a man who can speak, somebody who can travel, somebody who can champion these rights, somebody who is able to have an opinion, somebody that can be interviewed, somebody that can stand up in front of 192 member states and say this is what we would like you to do,” she said.
Another woman who agreed to be quoted said the choice of character sent a toxic message about strong women and that the UN should be countering such representations of body image, not reinforcing it. “On every imaginable level, we think she is a poor choice,” she said. Wonder Woman’s American flag costume, she said, was akin to “pop culture imperialism”.
Other protesters gathered in the visitor’s lobby of the UN. According to CBS News, about 100 staff members demonstrated holding signs reading “I am not a mascot” or “Let’s get real”.
CBS reported that Shazia Rafi, former secretary general of the Parliamentarians for Global Action, drafted the petition. “There are enough credible living models, we don’t need a mascot or a cartoon,” she told CBS of Wonder Woman’s new role.
The UN also recently faced backlash for its choice of Antonio Guterres, the former Portuguese prime minister, as the next secretary general, instead of a female candidate.