By Claire Zillman
October 21, 2016

The United Nations is supposed to be an advocate for gender equality, but it has an awfully puzzling way of showing it.

This year, it rejected seven female candidates vying to become the organization’s first-ever female secretary general, choosing yet another man—former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres—instead. Then about a week after it was clear Guterres would become the world’s top diplomat, the UN gave us another head-scratcher. It appointed fictional heroine Wonder Woman as an honorary ambassador for “the empowerment of women and girls.”

There are three obvious problems with that. It gives the impression that the UN prefers a cartoon woman over a real, human one. The logic is also off. It’s promoting a septuagenarian comic book character—who’s older than the UN itself—to reach the next generation of women. And then there’s Wonder Woman’s appearance—a white American with laughable proportions who trots around in a cape and underwear, worthy of a truck mudflap, not the world stage.

This last point in particular has rankled members of the UN staff. Six hundred of them have signed an online petition asking current Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to reconsider the superhero’s appointment. The petition says “it is alarming” that the UN would choose a character with an “overtly sexualized image” at a time when there is so much news the world over about the objectification of women and girls.

A UN spokesman has said that the organization has listened to staff concerns, but Wonder Woman’s appointment ceremony is expected to proceed today, though a silent protest is planned. But at this point her tenure won’t serve its stated purpose—female empowerment—but will represent the UN’s own tone deafness instead.




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