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The contradictions of an Israeli Wonder Woman

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Comic book character Wonder Woman was appointed a UN honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls in October 2016. Two months later, she was stripped of the role after much backlash. More than 16 000 people signed a petition calling for her removal, stating, “It is alarming that the United Nations would consider using a character with an overtly sexualised image at a time when headline news is the objectification of women and girls,” and calling the choice “not culturally encompassing or sensitive”.

But let’s be holistic in our criticism of Wonder Woman in 2017, then. While calling out the UN for their decision to use a fictional character to represent an ideal for women’s empowerment – when there are actual women, doing actual life-changing work, that would serve as wonderful role models – is totally correct, why are we not criticising the choice of actress as one of a former Israeli army soldier?

Because in 2017, when conversations around issues such as gender and representation are as prevalent as they are, we cannot be selective in what we consider.

Gal Gadot was chosen to play Diana Prince, AKA Wonder Woman, warrior princess of the Amazons. She starred in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, in 2016, and Wonder Woman – the first-ever superhero movie featuring a female lead character – will be released on 2 June 2017.

As an Amazon, ideally Wonder Woman is someone tall, voluptuous, and probably not white. To be fair, the original actress, Lynda Carter, didn’t really satisfy these criteria either. But that was in the 70s. Surely we’ve progressed since then?

Gadot was born in Israel in 1985. She won the Miss Israel title at the age of 19 and resultantly represented Israel at the 2004 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Ecuador, which launched her career as a model and actress. A year later, Gadot joined the Israeli army and worked as a model throughout her two-year service as a sports trainer in the army. In 2007, she took a part in the Maxim photo shoot, Women of the Israeli Army, which focused on models who served in the IDF.

According to DC Comics spokesperson, Courtney Simmons: “Wonder Woman stands for peace, justice and equality, and for 75 years she has been a motivating force for many.”

So if that’s the case, is it really okay to be having Wonder Woman be someone complicit in a system of oppression, fully supportive of a regime that is wholly suppressive of the human rights of an entire nation?

Somehow, rejecting Palestinian rights to self-determination doesn’t seem to quite be in line with upholding justice and equality.

Some of her perceptions of the character she represents are also troubling. In an interview with Collider, Gadot remarked about her character that “she doesn’t see that difference between any gender difference. It’s not even an issue, you know. She comes from this world where men and women are equal and it’s not a thing to be a man or to be a woman”.

In a world that is fraught with gender inequality is it really okay to be so nonchalant about the importance of representation of women, particularly in such a male-dominated space as superheroes/comics? While in theory, men and women should be equal, the reality is far from that. And before constructive change can come about, we need to accept that.

It may just be entertainment, but at the same time, when the kinds of conversations around issues of discourses and representing are as prevalent as they are, it’s not. What kind of subconscious messages are we sending out about justice and empowerment if we aren’t critically thinking about what goes into representing a certain character?

Because as it stands, what I’m getting is this: the current Wonder Woman can do it all – target innocent civilians, and wear lipstick at the same time.

Update: In December 2016, the UN dropped Wonder Woman as an ambassador for empowering girls and women following international outrage over the decision to appoint a fictional character as a women’s ambassador.

“It is alarming that the United Nations would consider using a character with an overtly sexualised image at a time when the headline news in United States and the world is the objectification of women and girls,” the petition’s authors wrote.

Featured image via Flickr
13 Comments
  1. Dave says

    Completely lame attack on Gal Gadot. Tacky. She was born in Israel and had no choice but to complete mandatory training, as does every other Israeli. She was a personal trainer. Your article will lead less discerning individuals to believe she was sniping children or something. She has called for peace, but I guess you were only looking for negative tweets… Which, by the way, have very little effect. Once again, tacky.

    1. Eric says

      I’m sure she snipped children and adults in her spare time as mostly all idf does!

  2. Steve Amusern says

    So actors who do not share your political view should be banned? The fact that she was born in Israel and have to serve in the army should disqualify her from being a public figure? How about Muslims? If you want to ban people who were born in oppressive countries shouldn’t you start with Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudia, etc.? Or are they ok because they share your antisemitic views (otherwise how do you justify your singular focus on Israel?).

    1. Eric says

      Theres a big difference, Israel is an Apartheid State! And finally the UN recognized that fact, however you are still trying to defend Israel. Shame on you!

      1. Carl Max says

        How typical that all those who get so upset about Israeli human rights violations completely ignore all the human rights violations that Arabs and Muslims have inflicted on Jews for over a thousand years. And all the Jewish/Israeli children massacred by Palestinians and their supporters.

        As for human rights, how many Arab countries allow a synagogue to exist in their borders? How many Arabs are willing to admit that thousands of Jews were massacred by Arabs during the creation of Israeli and the wars for its survival? When will Arab and ‘pro-Palestinians’ stop circulating such notorious Nazi propaganda as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? And when will our die-hard leftists admit to any or all of the above? Its all in the historical record!

        1. NasB says

          Probably they’ll not admit to it because it never happened.
          Read real history, not Zionist propaganda.
          FYI: it was not Muslims and Arabs who persecuted Jews for centuries (not “thousands of years”) but Europeans and Christians. That one you could easily find in the history books if you cared to look.
          And also FYI: being anti-Zionist is not the same as being antisemitic. One could be the former without being the latter quite easily.

  3. De Jesus says

    Wow a whole 16 000 people? Let’s just take a conservative thumbsuck and say there are 1 000 000 people worldwide who actually give a fuck about this crap movie in the first place. That’s less than 2% of those with a vested interest who don’t want her there.
    Aaisha are you struggling for stories? Let me know if you want some ideas, I can hook you up 🙂

  4. Bob says

    Had you considered the possibility that perhaps the reason she feels that she “She comes from this world where men and women are equal” might be the fact that she’s served in a military that treats men and woman as equals and she doesn’t live in a country that locks women up for sex out of wedlock? (Funny how the daily vox has completely ignored the Iryna Nohai and Emlyn Culverwell story but aaaaaanyway)
    Also where on earth do these people get these ideas that conscripts are responsible for the decisions of their commanders! Do they actually understand how the military works? Idiots!

  5. Donny Mackay says

    Dear who ever you are posting this – It is a fact that the Israeli women are the Wonder Women of the 21st Century.
    There is no genocide, but a conflict that is being constantly instigated by Palestinian militias.

    Obviously there are three things here:
    1. You are very jealous
    2. Your religion and society taught you to hate Israelis by their ongoing propaganda.
    3. You became part of this pathetic propaganda – which, believe me, will go against you when you will grow up.

    In sum, find yourself something better to do than becoming racist. Zionists are from the land of Zion, and this is who the Jews are and what they need to keep. Tough luck darling – peace and love not hate and war – this is what you need to promote. Go take example from Israeli media and blogs and how they encourage and give good advertisement to Palestinian and other Arab personalities.

    Hate will kill you.

    Cheers

    1. Eric says

      The UN recently proclaimed Israel as a Apartheid State! You surely can’t argue with the righteousness of the UN!

      Zionism = Racism

      1. Etai says

        You mean the same UN that has Saudi Arabia in its human rights council? The same one that had Lebanon and Qatar in its security council? You’re right, cant argue with their righteousness…
        My god you are dumber than a roadkill

  6. Hypocrisy says

    Contradictions of a Muslim Feminist

    Surah An-Nisa 4:34

    Sahih International: Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.

    Pickthall: Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great.

    Yusuf Ali: Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all).

    Shakir: Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.

    Muhammad Sarwar: Men are the protectors of women because of the greater preference that God has given to some of them and because they financially support them. Among virtuous women are those who are steadfast in prayer and dependable in keeping the secrets that God has protected. Admonish women who disobey (God’s laws), do not sleep with them and beat them. If they obey (the laws of God), do not try to find fault in them. God is High and Supreme.

    Mohsin Khan: Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allah and to their husbands), and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband’s property, etc.). As to those women on whose part you see ill­conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful), but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.

    Now before you start those lazy apologetics about how those verses were “mistranslated by the patriarchy” at some point you gotta ask why an amazing feminist God would allow such “misinterpretations” to exist in the first place, seeing as countless woman have been abused as a result. As much as Israel is trash you gotta get off your high horse and confront the problematic shit in your own faith first. Islam is problematic. Don’t pass the blame to cultural practices, or patriarchy, the actual religion itself is trash, just like all the Abrahamic faiths. Until then, keep being a hypocrite, being woke about every thing on Earth yet conveniently unable to confront the bullshit that is personal to you.

  7. Zao says

    “As an Amazon, ideally Wonder Woman is someone tall, voluptuous, and probably not white”

    FACEPALM !

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