With the new DC movie out, I thought it best to dedicate an article to one of the first super heroines –Wonder Woman. When we think of Wonder Woman we either think feminist icon or objectified mascot. Though she is undoubtedly a symbol of female empowerment, she is severely bound (pun intended) by society, even to this day.
Comic books were used as propaganda during wartime, inspiring patriotism with homegrown heroes that were meant to be one dimensional; representing unchanging traditional morals. Wonder Woman was created in order to encourage women to support war efforts by taking up jobs that men left behind.
As an Amazonian female warrior who comes from a matriarchal society known as Paradise Island, she is called to action by the United States to save the “last citadel of democracy and of equal rights for women.” Though it may seem ironic now, during the war, women’s economic rights were greatly expanded. However, her heroic efforts were all to be done in secret as she played the beautiful fool in her dual identity as an army nurse, Diana Prince. Her weapons, being chains and ropes were constant reminders of her submission to the patriarchal society. William Moulton Marston, the creator of the she-warrior, meant for the bracelets to represent the Amazonians’ previous enslavement to the patriarchy. Once bound with her own weapons by men, she would be unable to break them. What’s worse, if any man were to set foot on Paradise Island, all of its inhabitants would lose their powers. Though Marston had strongly believed that women would one day take over the world (I’m not even kidding), his portrayal of a strong, independent Wonder Woman left much to be desired.
By the second wave of feminism, she was stripped of her superpowers entirely as she was forced to face the everyday struggles of women in the real world that dealt with feminist politics. She was forced to “sell out” as a superhero in order to support herself, causing her to choose between fighting for rights and fighting to make a living. At the same time, male readers began to fear women empowerment. By hypersexualizing her, men who had seen feminists as a threat were able to reign in any female power.
The latest reboot has borne Diana as a product of an affair of Zeus. The Amazons are no longer peace loving or immortal and Wonder Woman is quick to resort to violence and has even become the Goddess of War after having slain her arch enemy, Ares.
To this day Wonder Woman has remained a contested figure in the realm of feminism. Though she is just as almighty as her fellow superheroes, she does not have the power to self-proclaim her heroism. She must either hide it under her Diana disguise or her hyper sexuality. The problem lies with the power of the readers and our current cultural outlook. And though we may not be superheroes, we have the power to change our society and our own world.