It’s been only two months since the United Nations appointed DC comic book heroine Wonder Woman as an honorary ambassador to promote women’s empowerment and fight for gender equality, a goal that the UN hopes to achieve for women and girls by 2030 (which, LOL—it’s so far away).
Wonder Woman’s role was supposed to last at least a year, but on Dec. 12, the UN announced that it had dropped her all together. The explanation? “Campaigns using fictional characters often lasted no longer than a few months,” according to Reuters.
While that’s sometimes true (the animated online video characters Angry Birds helped to promote awareness about climate change for just one day in March), the news does come after an unusually fierce backlash against Wonder Woman.
Though the role of “honorary ambassador” is actually very often reserved for fictional characters, nearly 45,000 people signed an online petition calling on the UN to reconsider its appointment of the comic book heroine, stating that the Wonder Woman’s “pin-up” image sent the wrong message to women and girls and arguing that an actual, real woman should be the face of the campaign. The petition reads, in part:
“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.”
Around 50 UN staffers also protested the decision, turning their backs and raising their fists during a celebration event with Wonder Woman actresses Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot and holding up signs that read: “Real women deserve a real ambassador” and “I am not a mascot.”
Also, the UN overlooked seven women running to gain to become the organization’s first-ever secretary-general and gave the job to another man instead at around the same time it announced the Wonder Woman selection—which was very bad timing.
Ironically, decisions such as “who should represent women and girls all over the world” are the exact moment when you want women in positions of leadership. Questions can then be easily answered, like: How do you feel as a woman with Wonder Woman as an ambassador? What fictional character do you think represents female empowerment? Is it fair to drop her from a campaign without making any real effort to also hire real women in leadership roles at the UN? What message does that send?
DC Comics still plans to release a special Wonder Woman issue dedicated to the empowerment of women and girls. The UN hasn’t announced any immediate plans to put more women in charge.