Last summer I went to Universal Studios in Orlando. While visiting Marvel Land I wanted to find a Black Widow or Jessica Jones poster or some other female superhero souvenir. To my great disappointment, not only was there no Black Widow or Jessica Jones poster, there wasn’t a single souvenir with a female hero on it. Unless you count one Black Widow action figure worth thousands of dollars. But the point is that the average consumer had nothing.
As I discussed this with my friend, I realized that this represents a bigger problem within the hero industry. Female heroes aren’t represented at all. But all that is changing with the first ever Wonder Woman movie. It’s a huge leap forward for women’s equality in the hero universe. Kids will have a woman to look up to in addition to the plethora of men who dominate the superhero scene. But what has been extremely disheartening to hear is the discussion that Wonder Woman is not a fit role model for young girls. I was devastated to learn that Wonder Woman had been retracted from the UN Ambassador list, due to people labeling her as slutty.
This outcry against our hero is evidence that we live in a sexist society, and it’s not just men perpetuating this issue. Women are also engaging in rhetoric that demeans women and doesn’t allow us to move forward. Instead of recognizing the empowering nature of Wonder Woman, all people can see is her body. Our society has been brainwashed to believe that a woman’s body is shameful and yet the most important thing about her. When we are taught that our bodies are shameful, it gives women an identity of shame and that makes us weak and easy to control. The most terrifying thing anyone could ever encounter is a woman who knows her worth and thus her strength. This is feminism.
Feminism. It’s a word surrounded by controversy. It’s been mystified to the point of being a vague term that is associated with angry women and men-hating. These two connotations drive people away from boldly claiming feminism as part of their own world view. But the truth is that feminism is neither of these things.
Emma Watson states that the definition of feminism is “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” (1) Feminism is equality. It is the belief that men and women should be treated with respect and that they both matter. When we apply this definition, the deficiencies in our society are revealed. Women do not have equal pay or the right to make choices about their own bodies. Men are thought to be weak and emasculated if they express emotion or compassion. But this is why Wonder Woman is so ground-breaking.
Princess Diana is strong and powerful. She is motivated to bring peace to the world. She genuinely cares about the hurting people around her, so much so that she refuses to turn a blind eye. She leaves her comfortable home on a hidden island and all of her family and friends to rush to the aid of humanity. But she isn’t alone. Steve, her companion, reveals humanity’s plight and he is a man. But he isn’t a weak, pathetic or demoralized man. He is strong and brave and quite handsome. Steve sees the evil that is in the world and he is not content to do nothing. He is willing to sacrifice whatever he has to help, even his own life.
The interesting part about this movie is both Diana and Steve are working towards the same goal, but the way they want to achieve it is different. Diana wants to use her powers to defeat the god of war who she believes is causing the chaos. Steve wants to bring down Doctor Poison, who he believes is the root of all the terrible weapons that are killing the soldiers. Out of their discussions of whose plan they are going to follow, Diana and Steve share this profound moment.
“I can’t let you do this,” Steve says.
Diana replies, “What I do is not up to you.” (2)
Boom. Those two lines sum up the entirety of how Diana champions for equality. It is the responsibility of women to decide how they look, what they do, who they love. Now I’m sure Steve didn’t mean to be controlling in that moment, but he recognized the fact that he was wrong and he changed. He followed her into battle and they fought side by side and they saved an entire village. It is not the responsibility of society to dictate who we are as women. That is our job. We stand and say this is who we are so take it or leave it.
Now the reason that I think Wonder Woman is needed for young boys as well as young girls is that she shows how a woman should be treated, and exemplifies what are valuable characteristics in a woman. She shows that strength is not a threat, it’s an asset. Intelligence isn’t boring, it’s intriguing. Empowering women does not mean imprisoning men. Steve and Diana’s relationship is about balance and about teamwork. Both of them have things to learn and goals that they want to achieve, but their goals aren’t reachable unless they work together.
In the same way, equality isn’t a reachable goal unless women and men work together. This must be a team effort and it won’t happen unless boys see that they should not feel threatened by strong women, and that equality is beautiful thing that is beneficial to all. Wonder Woman is the role model I wish I had as a girl, so go! Watch the movie and keep the conversation going!
(1) E. Watson. Gender Equality is your issue too. 09/20/14 http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/9/emma-watson-gender-equality-is-your-issue-too
(2) Jenkins, P. (Director). (2017, June 2). Wonder Woman.
Photo by tacit requiem
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