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Wonder Woman’s UN Ambassadorship Is Already Coming to an End

The super hero’s tenure as an advocate for empowering women and girls ends after less than two months

(DC Entertainment)
smithsonian.com

Wonder Woman is having a big year—not only is she celebrating her 75th anniversary, she's also starring in a highly anticipated super hero movie slated to come out next year. Another highlight: she was named an honorary UN Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls in late October. According to a press release, the campaign was slated to include social media graphics and messaging, and a comic book in six languages to support the empowerment of women. But Wonder Woman’s ambassadorship is already coming to an end, though the UN says it was always intended to be short-lived.

From the beginning, many were uncomfortable with the selection, reports Erik Alexander at CNN. Just days after the announcement, unhappy UN staff members started an online petition to give Wonder Woman the boot. “Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent “warrior” woman with a feminist message, the reality is that 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,” the petition states.

The petitioner also objected to the use of a fictional character when, they say, there are so many inspiring “flesh-and-blood” women the campaign could have chosen. At the time, UN spokesperson Cristina Gallach told Alexander those concerns weren’t particularly relevant. “I would say what matters more are the values and substance that [Wonder Woman] will represent—and this will be the challenge, and goal—of the campaign.”

Nurith Aizenman at NPR reports that Wonder Woman’s ambassadorship will officially end Friday, less than two months after it began. Aizenman writes that a UN staffer initially claimed the campaign would last a year, but the organization told a reporter earlier this week that the campaign was always scheduled to end December 16, though that was never officially announced.

Jeffrey Brez of the UN’s Department of Public Information says that while the organization respects the criticisms of Wonder Woman, they did not impact or shorten the campaign. “You never want to make someone feel like you’ve done something that makes them feel uncomfortable,” he tells Aizenman. “So nobody's happy that some people felt that [Wonder Woman] wasn't the right choice, obviously.”

At the same time, he says the campaign was a success in raising awareness of the UN’s goals for gender equality achievement as part of its 2030 campaign. “These goals need to become a household word,” he says. “[Wonder Woman] was a great way for us to reach out to an audience that we'd probably never reach."

"Wonder Woman stands for peace, justice and equality, and for 75 years she has been a motivating force for many and will continue to be long after the conclusion of her UN Honorary Ambassadorship,” Courtney Simmons, from DC Entertainment, says in a statement reports Sebastien Malo at Reuters. The company also plans to release the Wonder Woman comic about empowering women and girls in 2017.

Fans of Princess Diana of Themyscira agree. In one of the counterpetitions created this week to , which has been signed so far by more than 4,000 people, Chloe Behrens of Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, writes: "Wonder Woman is so much more than appearances and this petition will hopefully prove the point. Wonder Woman is the embodiment of feminism, peace, justice, and truth." 

Wonder Woman’s tenure may have been brief, but it’s actually not the UN’s shortest collaboration or only partnership with a commercial brand. In March, Malo points out, the UN appointed Red, a character from the Angry Birds Movie as a climate change ambassador for a single day. Tinkerbell and Winnie the Pooh have also served as honorary ambassadors.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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