United Nations, New York, USA, October 21 2016 – Lynda Carter is escorted by the United Nations Elite Security force into a side door to avoid the protester waiting for her at UN Visitors Lobby. Lynda Carter was at U.N. for a meeting to designate Wonder Woman as an Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls.
By Britta Schmitz
UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 22 2016 – The new Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls is a fictional comic character and the cause for anger amongst UN employees and women’s advocates around the world.
The comic character Wonder Woman has officially been appointed as a new Honorary Ambassador at the UN Headquarters 21 October, while UN employees participated in a silent protest and boycotted the event. Insiders describe the nomination as an unprecedented UN fiasco.
Wonder Woman’s designation is part of a campaign supporting gender equality and promoting the Sustainable Development Goals.
More than 1.000 UN staff members signed an online petition against Wonder Woman’s designation, as they are unhappy with the Secretary General’s choice for this special position.
“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. This is the character that the UN has decided to represent a globally important issue,” it says in the petition statement.
Around 100 protesters participated in a silent protest at the designation ceremony. When the event was about to start, a few dozen protesters entered the chamber and turned their backs on the stage.
United Nations, New York, USA, October 21 2016 – United Nations staff stand and turn their backs, top, in a silent protest, during a U.N. meeting to designate Wonder Woman as an Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls today at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Photo: Dennis Van Tine/EuropaNewswire
Some angry staff members raised their fists in the air before leaving the room. Outside the chamber, the silent protesters carried signs reading statements such as “I am not a mascot“, “No to Wonder Woman“ or “Real women deserve a real ambassador“.
Protesters claim that choosing a fictional character shows the UN’s inability to find a real woman for the post.
As the first female comic character ever, Wonder Woman has a pioneering role when it comes to equality in the fictional world, while critics do not consider her “overly sexualized” outward appearance to be adequate for the position of an Honorary Ambassador.
Not only is Wonder Woman’s sexual appearance a cause for controversy, but also the fact that the appointment coincides with a PR campaign for the new Wonder Woman movie to be released in 2017.
The anger is primarily directed at the Secretary General. Cristina Gallach, Under Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, spoke at the designation ceremony, as the Secretary General himself could not be there.
“We are working with new and unconventional partners and forming creative alliances, so that we can reach the widest possible global audience. We inform them about the goals and the critical importance of gender equality,” said Gallach at the ceremony.
Wonder Woman actresses Gal Gadot and Lynda Carter, both invited to accept the designation in the name of the fictional character, continued their speeches at the ceremony.
In the online petition, UN employees also offered “a list of incredible extraordinary women that would formidably carry out this role … from which the Secretary General could choose”.
Other fictional Honorary Ambassadors include Winnie-the-Pooh, designated in 1998, Tinker Bell, who became an Ambassador in 2009 and Red from the Angry Birds earlier this year.
While the UN has had other fictional Honorary Ambassadors before, the timing of this special appointment is part of the uproar. The UN recently announced that António Guterres will become the new Secretary General and was criticized by women’s advocates around the world. Many urged for the first female Secretary General, but were disappointed.
Given that Wonder Woman is now an official UN Ambassador, it remains to be seen whether a fictional superhero can adequately serve as an Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls or not.