Won­der Woman named UN am­bas­sador

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

The United Na­tions cel­e­brated Won­der Woman’s 75th birth­day on Fri­day by nam­ing the comic book char­ac­ter as its new Hon­orary Am­bas­sador for the Em­pow­er­ment of Woman and Girls, de­spite frus­tra­tion from both in­side and out­side the world or­ga­ni­za­tion that the spot should go to a real - and less sex­u­al­ized - woman. The care­fully chore­ographed cer­e­mony was marred by some 50 UN staffers protest­ing by the vis­i­tors’ en­trance to the UN, who then went in­side the Eco­nomic and So­cial Coun­cil cham­ber and silently turned their back to the stage dur­ing the open­ing speech, some with their fists in the air.

UN staffer Cass Du­Rant, who held a sign say­ing “Real Women De­serve a Real Am­bas­sador”, said the pro­test­ers “don’t think that a fic­ti­tious comic book char­ac­ter wear­ing ba­si­cally what looks like a Play­boy-type bunny out­fit is really the right mes­sage we need to send to girls or even boys for that mat­ter”. The su­per hero­ine’s image will be used by the UN on so­cial me­dia plat­forms to pro­mote women’s em­pow­er­ment, in­clud­ing on gen­der-based vi­o­lence and the fuller par­tic­i­pa­tion of women in pub­lic life (us­ing the hash­tag WithWon­derWo­man). The push, hop­ing to reach young peo­ple, is backed by DC En­ter­tain­ment and Warner Bros., which pro­duce both comics and films fea­tur­ing Won­der Woman.

But an on­line pe­ti­tion , started by UN staffers, asked the sec­re­tary-general to re­con­sider the ap­point­ment, say­ing, “The mes­sage the United Na­tions is send­ing to the world with this ap­point­ment is ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing.” As of Fri­day af­ter­noon, it had more than 1,100 sig­na­tures. Hon­orary am­bas­sadors - as op­posed to good­will am­bas­sadors like Ni­cole Kid­man and Anne Hath­away - are fic­tional char­ac­ters. The UN pre­vi­ously tapped Winnie the Pooh to be an hon­orary Am­bas­sador of Friend­ship in 1998, and Tinker Bell as the hon­orary Am­bas­sador of Green in 2009. But the protest on Fri­day seemed to un­nerve many of the UN’s press of­fi­cers.

The Fri­day event brought to­gether ac­tress Lynda Carter, who played Won­der Woman in the 1970s TV se­ries, and Gal Gadot, who has taken on the role in the forth­com­ing “Won­der Woman” film, as well as Girl Scouts in Won­der Woman T-shirts and UN staffers’ kids who skipped school, with one girl wear­ing a full Won­der Woman cos­tume, com­plete with head piece. Diane Nel­son, pres­i­dent of DC En­ter­tain­ment, gave a speech in which she ar­gued that sto­ries - even comic book sto­ries can “in­spire, teach and re­veal in­jus­tices”.

Carter, who gave a mov­ing speech about how Won­der Woman em­bod­ies the in­ner strength of ev­ery woman, was the only one to ac­knowl­edge the pro­test­ers in her re­marks, say­ing “Please em­brace her,” she said. “To all those who don’t think it’s a good idea, stand up and be counted.” As for Gadot, she said af­ter the event: “I’m the kind of per­son who al­ways looks at the half-full glass. I care for the peo­ple who care and I’m here for a won­der­ful cause to­day.” She added, through a thin smile: “That’s all what my fo­cus is.”

But among those think­ing the glass was half empty was Shazia Z Rafi, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the con­sult­ing firm Global Par­lia­men­tary Ser­vices. She ar­gued that the choice of Won­der Woman was tone deaf at a time when real women are fight­ing against sex­ual ex­ploita­tion and abuse. “I think it’s a lot of rub­bish that you can ap­point a cartoon fe­male to rep­re­sent gen­der equal­ity in this day and age, even if it is to reach younger women,” said Rafi. Rafi said there were plenty of real hero­ines that could be the face for gen­der equal­ity.

The Won­der Woman ap­point­ment came af­ter many women were dismayed that an­other man, An­to­nio Guter­res, the for­mer prime min­is­ter of Por­tu­gal, was cho­sen to be the next sec­re­tary-general, even though more than half the can­di­dates were women. Rafi, who had cam­paigned for a woman to be ap­pointed the world’s diplo­mat-in-chief, said the de­ci­sion to name Won­der Woman as an am­bas­sador was ef­fort to ap­pease dis­ap­pointed staffers.

Rafi and the pe­ti­tion also take is­sue with Won­der Woman’s skimpy out­fit, ar­gu­ing that the world might not em­brace a scant­ily clad char­ac­ter in a thigh-bar­ing body suit with an Amer­i­can flag mo­tif and knee high boots. It is not the first time the United Na­tions has part­nered with a huge me­dia com­pany. In March, the UN ap­pointed Red, the leader of the “An­gry Birds” mo­bile game char­ac­ters, as an en­voy to tackle cli­mate change. That cam­paign is in part­ner­ship with Sony Pic­tures En­ter­tain­ment. — AP


NEW YORK: Ac­tress Lynda Carter speaks dur­ing a cer­e­mony as the UN named the comic char­ac­ter Won­der Woman its Hon­orary Am­bas­sador for the Em­pow­er­ment of Women and Girls at the United Na­tions Eco­nomic and So­cial Coun­cil Cham­ber on Fri­day. Carter played Won­der Woman in the 1970s tele­vi­sion show.

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