The United Nations is facing backlash after appointing the fictional superhero Wonder Woman as its new Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls.
A petition started by “concerned” U.N. staff members asks the intergovernmental organization to reconsider the choice, arguing that Wonder Woman’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.”
The petition adds that it was “disappointing” that the U.N. “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.”
Critics also say that they would be more than happy to come up with a list “of incredible extraordinary women that would formidably carry out this role.”
Appointing Wonder Woman as an Honorary Ambassador is part of a U.N. campaign meant to "highlight what we can collectively achieve if women and girls are empowered," according to a statement on the U.N.'s website on sustainable development goals, which states that Wonder Woman will be used in support of Sustainable Development Goal 5, "to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls."
The petition to reconsider Wonder Woman as the ambassador goes on to say, "at a time when issues such as gender parity in senior roles and the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls is at the top of the United Nations' agenda, including the 'He for She' campaign, this appointment is more than surprising."
Life-size cutouts of the superhero have already appeared at the U.N. headquarters in New York, according to the petition.
The decision felt especially insensitive to some because of the recent U.N. decision to not appoint a female chief to replace Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon when he steps down at the end of this year. The U.N. has never had a woman as secretary-general.
Anne Marie Goetz, an NYU professor and former U.N. adviser, called the move "disgusting" on Twitter, saying that it substituted a "sexualized fake" for a "real woman leader."
Stéphane Dujarric, a U.N. spokesman for the secretary-general, defended the choice at a press briefing on Monday, saying "in order to reach young people, in order to reach audiences outside of this building, we need to be creative and have creative partnerships."
Dujarric continued: "I think this is a new and creative way for us to reach a different audience with critical messages about women's empowerment. ... The aim of using cartoon characters, whether it's Angry Birds, whether it's Wonder Woman, is not to reach people like you and I, or at least not to reach people like me."
Dujarric added that the vote on the next secretary-general and the launch of the Wonder Woman campaign are "clearly not related," and said that the aim of the Wonder Woman campaign is to "think of all the wonders" that "we can collectively achieve if women and girls are empowered."