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Thursday 8 December 2016

Protests as Wonder Woman named special UN ambassador

Published 22/10/2016 | 04:56

Lynda Carter addresses the UN (AP)
Lynda Carter addresses the UN (AP)

The United Nations has celebrated Wonder Woman's 75th birthday by naming the comic book character as its new honorary ambassador for the empowerment of woman and girls.

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But the carefully-choreographed ceremony was marred by around 50 UN staffers protesting by the visitor's entrance 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.

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.

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.

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 that, "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."

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," she said.

She added 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.

Ms 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 an effort to appease disappointed staffers.

AP

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