The superpowers a UN women’s ambassador should really have
A decision by the United Nations to appoint Wonder Woman as an honorary ambassador for women and girls has not been widely celebrated.
The UN did it to celebrate the comic book character’s 75th birthday, but may now be thinking it should have just opted for a really large cake instead.
Over the weekend, 50 UN staffers turned their backs to the stage during a ceremony at the Economic and Social council chamber to officially anoint the character. Some ever put their fists in the air.
The UN plans to use Wonder Woman to promote women’s empowerment across social media, especially via the hashtag #WithWonderWoman, and with the backing of the character’s key distributors, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros.
So far, an online petition started by ‘Concerned United Nations Staff Members’ has thousands of supporters, and has just been opened to public support.
The petition claims the character’s current iteration is overly sexualized, featuring “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.”
Now it’s difficult to argue that the concerned staffers have a good point.
And you’d also think that with more than 3.5 billion women on the planet right now, the UN could find someone who’s actually living and breathing to serve in the role.
The petition calls for strong female role models instead of Wonder Woman, and offers to present to the Secretary-General with a list of excellent such women who’re actually living and breathing. It’s a role, they say, that’s too important to be championed by a ‘mascot’, and this should be as much of a concern for men as it is for women, given the UN has previously called on the world to challenge gender-based assumptions with its He for She campaign.
So instead of big breasts, indestructible bracelets, a ‘lasso truth’ and tiara that doubles as a projectile, these are some of the ‘superpowers’ a UN ambassador really needs. Indeed they’re traits we could all opt to improve on.
Empathy. She doesn’t need to have experienced everything other women have experienced, but to at least have the skills to listen and sympathize with their experiences.
Confidence to speak up. In a world where male leaders still dominate – despite the presence of a handful of women at the very top – confidence to speak up is essential. She doesn’t need to be the loudest or the most vocal, but does need to have the confidence to speak when it matters, with a level of cut-through that’s necessary.
Collaboration. An ambassador will only be as good as her ability to get others collaborating, across all segments of society, and both male and female.
Be tech savvy. This aids all other traits – offering a platform for listening, for collaboration and for speaking up.
Resilience. She needs to keep going, no matter how many times she’s knocked down. You don’t need super-healing capabilities to do that, but rather the mental capacity to withstand everything that comes your way.
You may not find such traits in a comic book, but you will find it in millions of talented women all over the world.
Meredith the Mentor is a contributing writer to Women’s Agenda. She is is not a consultant or a management guru. She’s not even a published author. Just someone who’s made plenty of mistakes, and learnt a few lessons along the way.