The controversial two-month tenure for Wonder Woman as a U.N. ambassador ends today.
Wonder Woman was appointed honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls in late October. The announcement came on the heels of the failed effort to elect the first woman secretary-general. Portuguese diplomat and former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres led the polls from start to finish.
Not only did the effort to elect the first woman to the role fail, but the consolation was a cartoon ambassador. Critics charged that the appointment of a cartoon character as an ambassador for women and girls illustrated the U.N.’s approach to gender parity.
“The message the United Nations is sending to the world with this appointment is extremely disappointing,” stated a public petition started by U.N. staffers. “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 round the world should look up to.”
Nearly 45,000 people signed the petition calling for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to end the campaign. It argued that the character is not representative of the diversity of women and girls around the world. Further, it is “an overtly sexualized image” that is insensitive to the objectification of women and girls everywhere.
A new petition to reinstate Wonder Woman as ambassador has garnered fewer than 3,500 signatures. The U.N. defended the campaign, saying that it brought attention to the rights of women and girls, particularly the fifth Sustainable Development Goal – gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
“It was very unfortunate that some people felt it was inappropriate, but we felt it was a good opportunity given the audience of Wonder Woman fans that we were able to reach,” spokesman Jeffrey Brez told Humanosphere.
He said that the pushback did not lead to the end of the campaign. There were discussions to run through the end of the year, but a few days after launching they decided to end it on Dec. 16 so as not to compete with the holidays.
The timeline was not made public until this week. At the launch of the campaign, Diane Nelson, the president of DC Entertainment told the audience the campaign would extend “over the course of the next year,” according to Reuters.
The U.N. has forged similar partnerships in the past. They often last for short periods, said Brez. He cited the partnership with the popular cell phone game Angry Birds as one example. Red of the Angry Birds was named Honorary Ambassador for Green in March. The character served for a month promoting climate action culminating in the signing of the Paris Agreement at the U.N. Headquarters.
Wonder Woman was brought on as an ambassador as a way for DC Comics to mark the 75th anniversary of her first appearance. The company worked with the U.N. for months to create the campaign. It sought to promote girls rights as well as the character ahead of the release of a new comic book featuring her in 2017.
“Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment are extremely pleased with the awareness that this partnership brought to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 5 as well as elevating the global conversation around the empowerment of women and girls,” DC Comics spokeswoman Courtney Simmons said in a press statement. “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 U.N. Honorary Ambassadorship.”
Brez said the U.N. does not regret the campaign and feels that they need to take chances to reach more people.
“We thought we really had a nice campaign, we thought we could really reach out to a new audience about the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said. “Whenever we see an opportunity to reach a new audience we take it.”
Campaign opponents can take solace in Guterres’s first major staff appointments. He selected Nigeria’s Environment Minister Amina Mohammed as his deputy secretary-general, Brazilian diplomat Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti as chef de cabinet and South Korea’s Kyung-wha Kang as the newly established special adviser on policy. Guterres said the picks hopefully uphold his pledges on gender parity and geographical diversity.
“I am happy to count on the efforts of these three highly competent women, whom I have chosen for their strong backgrounds in global affairs, development, diplomacy, human rights and humanitarian action,” he said in a statement announcing the picks.