By Lela Gilbert, ,
Published October 21, 2016
On Oct. 18, a rather unusual and unexpected news story materialized on my computer screen, and it came as a pleasant respite from the rest of the headlines.
You might even call it comic relief.
I needn’t remind anyone that America is mired in the most outrageously disgusting presidential campaign in history.
The Middle East is aflame on several fronts, threatening to explode into one massive inferno, with hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.
Russia, armed and dangerous, is elbowing its way into renewed superpower status, and Vladimir Putin has actually been smiling in recent photographs.
The Far East is rumbling with ominous threats, including North Korea’s repeated success in testing nuke-capable ballistic missiles.
In the midst of it all, on Oct. 18, we learned that the United Nations has selected its “Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls.”
And the new ambassador is … Wonder Woman!
I have to confess: At first, it was a little difficult to take this announcement seriously.
My own choice might have been Malala Yousafzai, the brave Nobel Prize-winning Pakistani teenager who took a Taliban bullet for the sake of women’s education.
Or maybe Aung San Suu Kyi, who courageously endured 15 years of house arrest, only to step into the future as Burma’s prime minister.
Or even Theresa May, who emerged from the U.K.’s controversial Brexit referendum as a worthy successor to Britain’s Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher.
On the other hand, consider the context: While cartoonists are being threatened and even murdered for their artwork, some of today’s world figures seem (alarmingly) to resemble cartoon characters.
So maybe, all things considered, the U.N.’s choice of a comic book superhero — Wonder Woman — makes perfect sense.
I must confess that I expected more negativity from the feminist universe. After all, it hasn’t been so long since certain scholarly types frowned upon women who were smart and strong and savvy if they also happened to be glamorous.
Thankfully, those days seem to have passed. In fact, the U.N. even received some kudos from the feminist quarter. The Mary Sue, a feminist comics site, applauded the choice: “Wonder Woman is a great, easily recognizable symbol of what women can become once freed from a patriarchal society.”
And, of course, there was the potentially controversial matter of Wonder Woman’s attire – you’ll not likely find a hijab or burkini in her closet.
As New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman carefully pointed out, there is an “outfit issue”:
“Wonder Woman does most of her power work, as we all know, in a star-spangled strapless bathing suit and knee-high boots, with a healthy amount of cleavage and leg on display. Her clothes have not, to put it mildly, caught up with her politics — or many other people’s, for that matter … [But]In the end, the United Nations determined that, ‘You have to look beyond the superficial to her actions…’”
I couldn’t agree more. We all definitely need to look beyond the superficial.
I, for one, am all for a beautiful, sexy, strong, kind, loving and heroic female, comic or otherwise, serving as a role model for girls and young women all around the world.
But there’s another plus to the U.N.’s choice. As our Nobel Prize-winning poet Bob Dylan would put it, the new ambassador is “forever young.”
Until this week, I hadn’t realized that Wonder Woman is 75 years old. And she’s still rocking the bright red bustier and star-spangled shorts.
If that isn’t an empowering inspiration to us all, I don’t know what is.