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Wonder Woman a Feminist?

Updated on November 28, 2016
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A Feminist Idol

Young women have issues identifying who they are as women in society. Some even get a little lost in the cracks and need icons to lead the way. One icon/idol for young women to admire is Wonder Woman. The character of Wonder Woman was created during a time when women were being encouraged to join the workforce and help in the war efforts during WWII. So you could say she has a feminist appeal to her, perhaps maybe the first of her kind. She is by far one of the most popular superhero among young women. Young girls and women find strength and a sense of power within her character and I feel it can help lead them to leading strong and powerful lives. She is a character who is actually on a level playing field of men. She can go toe to toe with the great Superman and defeat him (arguably) and still retaining her feminine features. She doesn’t have to be this buff, bulky chick, yet possess the power to take down the mighty Kryptonian. In fact, she is one of the few women characters of the comic book world that has her own successful book, with stories that are centered on her. Wonder Woman is a true feminist and an iconic character for women of all ages to look up to and admire.

Image from the Graphic Novel Wonder Woman: The Spirit of Truth
Image from the Graphic Novel Wonder Woman: The Spirit of Truth | Source

Feminist or Sex Object?

When William Marston created Wonder Woman I bet he never envisioned her becoming a true feminist icon. She was originally created, “in the 1940s, her character’s focus was directed towards the resilience and charisma that women showed in the war effort during WWII. She was meant to be the start of an 'American matriarchy'," one ruled not by force as previous superheroes dictated, but with reason and compassion.” (Lafferty). Wonder Woman was created to represent the women who served as nurses to fallen men during WWII and who knew that she would develop into a feminist heroine for women everywhere. It was until the 1970s that her character went back to this feminist character, when “Gloria Steinem called for a revamping of Wonder Woman and a return to her more feminist roots” (Lafferty). Gloria Steinem is a feminist activist who co-founded Ms. Magazine in 1972 and used Wonder Woman on the cover of her first issue. In that issue Steinem, “featured a critique of contemporary Wonder Woman comics that was partially responsible for urging DC to reconsider and revamp the character in keeping with the feminist movement.” (Cawley). After the WWII was over and women went back to their homely lives and allowed the men to get back to their jobs, the character of Wonder Woman followed suit. Gloria Steinem was a reader of the Wonder Woman comics and wanted her character to go back to her previous feminist role. In 1975, Wonder Woman was again a feminist, but not the kind of feminist that Steinem had envisioned her to portray. While she remained a strong and independent woman, she became an ugly image for the feminist movement. She turned into this anti-male character and painted the feminist movement as something negative. The negative stigma wasn’t lifted until the 1980s when a new writer took on her books. Her new writer was a “staunch feminist” who worked with Steinem in order to rebuild Wonder Woman into the iconic feminist that woman grew to love in the 1940s (Cawley).

Before the 1990 Wonder Woman wasn’t seen as a sex object. Instead she was viewed as a strong powerful woman who stood up for freedom and equality. She was a modest character for young women to look up to. However from the 1990s to today Wonder Woman turned into more of a sex symbol; while she still retained her moral qualities, her appearance changed. She became the curvaceous voluptuous woman and became “hypersexualized” to fulfill a male fantasy (Cawley). During this time all women comics were being portrayed this way and the new writer of Wonder Woman was keeping up with the times. The sexualizing of Wonder Woman creates a problem for many feminist because it creates an unrealistic image for young women to aspire to be. It’s the similar problem that many feminist have with supermodels or strippers. Yes, they are strong women who are taking charge and in many ways taking advantage of male sexuality, but they have to fit into this perfect image or take off their clothes in order to gain that power and independence. I feel it’s not the message that many feminist want portrayed in a strong heroine. It’s like telling our young girls, “yeah you can be strong, independent and make a difference, but if you don’t have a banging body it won’t make a difference because no one will pay attention.” I can see where many feminist have the issue with Wonder Woman after the 1990s, but the writers still retain her feminist qualities in what she stands up for. In the graphic novel, Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth, Wonder Woman is seen as a diplomat for the world. She goes around the world helping and making a difference and she goes to the Middle East to help free the women and rescue them from their cloaks, I suppose. She is liberating women who are being oppressed and abused and pretty much held hostage, and there is a part in the book where she removes her disguise to reveal this hypersexualized body. Cawley points out in her article that, “Wonder Woman presents American liberation through “feminism” as the route for freedom for Middle Eastern women but displays this liberation on her distorted, hypersexualized, exposed body.” My question would be why was it necessary for her to reveal her skimpy outfit in order to make a point, and what kind of message does that send.

Wonder Woman New 52 Jim Lee
Wonder Woman New 52 Jim Lee | Source
Amazon preparing for the battle (Queen Antiope or Armed Venus)
Amazon preparing for the battle (Queen Antiope or Armed Venus) | Source

Another interesting fact about Wonder Woman is that she is an Amazon princess who fights alongside men. Her characters real identity is Princess Diana of Themyscira, and her character is based on Greek mythology relating to the Amazons. Now in Greek mythology the Amazons where strong women and in their society they would never be caught fighting alongside men. I guess you could consider them extreme feminist, the kind that would have held the negative stigma. In some cases the Amazons would even capture men and kill them for sport. They saw men as less than equals and it’s said that they only used them once a year for breeding purposes. When the Amazons went to war with men they wouldn’t kill all of the men, some they would keep as slaves and thus use them for sex the way a man would do to a woman. This isn’t the character of the Wonder Woman that we know; instead she fights alongside men and is even a part of their organization, The Justice League. So I think it would be safe to say that her deeply rooted feminist nation would have shunned her character for what she has become. Yet she continues to hold that Amazon quality of standing up for women and fighting for the rights of women, so I don’t think you could completely classify her as an anti-feminist.

Wonder Woman is no doubt an iconic figure in the world of comics, but her history is a bit shaky for most feminists. From her birth up until now her character has changed and morphed into this sexualized creature for men to objectify. She was created in a world where women were being called upon to step up to the plate, but they weren’t allowed to remain there. So it’s ok for women to take the place of men in times of war, but when that war is over their efforts are almost ignored as they are asked to return to their domestic lives of preparing a home. Wonder Woman is a complicated character and should be examined with careful eyes. You have to be willing to look past her sexual appearance in order to fully take hold of her message, because ladies, until women write her story lines she will remain this strong heroine that is sexual eye candy for men.

Gal Gadot the new Wonder Woman?

New Face for Wonder Woman

The video is discussing the new casting of Wonder Woman and if Gal Gadot is a good fit to portray this iconic character.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman
Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman | Source

Lynda Carter: Wonder Woman

Vintage Wonder Woman

Lynda Carter discussing her audition for Wonder Woman.

Vintage or New School?

Who embodies Wonder Woman?

See results

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    • profile image

      Gadfly 6 weeks ago from Olde London Towne

      I've contributed to the several new Wonder Woman hubs that have appeared since the premiere of the latest Wonder Woman movie.Obviouslywe are seeing the re emergence of the Wonder Woman saga to fit into modern times. Diana a princess from Themiscyra has entered man's world right on the very era of Women's emancipation with a view to bring justice into being.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 2 months ago from London England

      Wonders never cease!

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 months ago from London England

      The ideals coming out in the new Wonder Woman motion picture exemplify force, strength and power in the re emergence of Feminism.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 months ago from London England

      The latest Wonder Woman motion picture has been directed by a Lady. This should auger well to be a fitting expose for the Women's cause in respect of ability, achievement and success.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 months ago from London England

      Quite impressed to say the least on seeing Wonder Woman's latest costume and accoutrements. W.W.'s garb is now virtually a corset that tapers into a skirt. She wears her tiara now inverted with the star motif replaced with a diadem. The bracelets are now more like gauntlets. She wields a sword and is skilled in karate. At this time we are experiencing a re emergence in the Feminist cause so i summise Wonder Woman will deliver the goods!

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 months ago from London England

      Re visiting this Wonder Woman hub just out of interest to see if any new content has been posted.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 months ago from London England

      With the release date for the premiere of WONDERFUL WOMAN a little over a month away, it surely is something to look forward to seeing and who else but wonder Gal could be more suited to portray the action hero/heroine. I hear she has been honing her karate skills as well.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 4 months ago from London England

      With a new Wonder Woman movie due for release mid 2017 it would be good to keep the W.W. hub pages current. Viewing the trailer it does appear to have relevant Feminist content.

    • profile image

      Gadfly 4 months ago from Olde London Towne

      Greetings Darklings.

      As i've previously mentioned, Wonder

      Woman was around in the pre 'Woman's

      Liberation' era as a super hero/heroine.

      That was in the time when very few ladies

      on the silver screen were able to better a

      man at his own game. But W.W. was able

      to 'wipe the floor' with many of her male

      adversaries. With the advent of the new

      wave Feminism W.W. has never more

      than now a place in the highest

      conception.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 5 months ago from London England

      Definately the 'Feminist' category.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 5 months ago from London England

      I am asking myself is the topic actually a Wonder Woman hub or should the article come under the genre of Feminism, given W.W. did feature on the front cover of MS. magazine becoming an icon in the socialogy realm.

      I looked up the definition of Feminism only to discover that the dictionaries give different interpretations. Now i have gone back just to reminisce just how many times a woman has mentioned Wonder Woman in conversation. Never during the comic book era and seldom since the T.V. series. The Ladies seemed to prefer Charlie's Angels or Cagney & Lacey.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 11 months ago from London England

      After careful consideration i've decided to retract my opinion of some months ago when i mentioned Wonder Woman is unlikely a Feminist. I was viewing W.W. in retrospect as a 1940s /50's super heroine but with the emergence of the Women's Liberation movement and subsequent new waves of Feminism i'd hazard a guess more women are embracing the women's cause and i think that is highlighted in novelty shops where they are selling Wonder Woman drinking mugs. These are depicting W.W. in her 1970's garb.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 12 months ago from London England

      Prefer to see Wonder Woman as a Feminist than a sex symbol !

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 12 months ago from London England

      Well then, the reason for iconic status of the Wonder Woman saga is that she has been around in all forms of media for three maybe four generations of fans. She was my first super heroine and as the others came and went, W.W. endured particularly in the Wonder Woman genre branching into different directions and with ownership of her 'intellectual property' that certain T.V. series could not go ahead. Wonder Woman will continue to amaze us with her exploits. So as this site is connected with Feminism and that should reflect in the W.W. character with strength, indepedence, not just a pretty face as well as more than a match for any male.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 13 months ago from London England

      Wonder Woman certainly deserves an iconic status.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 13 months ago from London England

      Re visiting the Wonder Woman site once more i see much more needs to be said on the rights of women within society and making the 'playing field' more level for the competitive edge. There is still a lot W.W. can do as an inspiration for women in general and as an inspiration for girls.

    • profile image

      Gadfly 15 months ago from Olde London Towne

      Greetings my little Darklings.

      Wonder Woman is an Amazonian super hero/heroine who is secret alter ego of Diana Prince. Initially from Paradise Island through to D.C. Universe via man's world. The definition of Feminist is one who supports Feminism. Wonder Woman always excelled in her skills occasionally finding the going a little tough at times She'd never 'crack' under interrogation and always made her escape. She did gain acceptance in man's world and had a boyfriend. I think W.W.'s intellect was far higher than the creeps and hoodlums she did battle against. Another thought is how the Wonder Woman costumes evolved to suit the fashions of each era.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 17 months ago from London England

      Activity on this page seems to be more active than other W.W. hubs. I would sumise that the keyword 'Feminist' may come into play here. This particular term involves so much discussion, firstly starting with the precise definition and then continuing with all aspects of the topic.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 17 months ago from London England

      It is always a delight to re visit site to see any new content and also to see my thoughts at a time now long gone.There doesn't seem to be as much W.W. coverage now as when i was younger, perhaps this is do do with who currently has the rights to the Wonder Woman genre.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 18 months ago from London England

      WONDER WOMAN lives, forever !

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 19 months ago from London England

      Bottom line since Wonder Woman's inception. The lady wanted to eliminate all evil and to simply bring justice to man's world.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 20 months ago from London England

      Just to reflect back on the use of a speculum at one era in the Wonder Woman saga. On seeing her wielding that instrument for the first time i summised it to be a 'send up' of W.W.'s character. Now upon reflection i recently remember how at that time there was a controversial inter uterine device that was causing complications and even a big court case over the I.U.D. which lingered for years. There also were other issues pertaining to women's reproductive rights involved, therefor some 'bright spark' came up with the idea of the speculum and who better than Wonder Woman?

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 21 months ago from London England

      I firmly believe the closest Wonder Woman came to being an actual feminist when another (one of the many) writer/s to continue W.W. in their own fictional escapades to enhance the Wonder Woman saga. By the early 1970's not an itellectual era in my stage of life but the Feminist movement was advancing in leaps and bounds thanks to an array of glossy women's magazines formated for male readership too. Wonder Woman receives a new accessory for her kit bag namely a speculum! There is a plethora of imagery with captions such as "With this speculum i am stronger and more powerful" or "With this speculum i can conquer the world!" I too wrote some W.W. spin off's but gave my Amazon warrior the name Maglia with her two daughters Leyti and Nahnoo, all three capable horse women and skilled in practically everything.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 2 years ago from London England

      But whether Wonder Woman herself is a feminist is the main theme of the article. From a male perspective i think that Feminism and Wonder Woman compliment each other. Wonder Woman is a feminist icon along with other ladies with exceptional qualities and due to W.W.'s now legendary status (more than half a century) independent, bold and sassy W.W. must be feminist.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 2 years ago from London England

      I recently learned that Wonder Woman was devised mainly to appeal to a male readership where as here in U.K. a comic strip featuring a woman pilot aimed at adolescent girls did not rate the popularity of her male counterpart Dan Dare. What has struck me as significant is the original W.W. being both spy catcher and crime fighter has evolved into a more aggressive super hero dealing with malign entities. Says a lot on our society's progression into the computer age.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 2 years ago from London England

      Finally come to the conclusion on Wonder Woman a feminist? Not likely!

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 2 years ago from London England

      From the male perspective there are variants to the definition of 'Feminism' depending on cultural and social norms. Lets put a definition on 'Femininity' first of all. At risk of being branded an old dinosaurus i venture to describe 'Femininity' as all aspects pertaining to Women including status, traits, hopes and aspirations etc. In the case of Wonder Woman i'd place her greatest attribute as her self confidence. Next her intuition, then her ability to bond with other women into a close knit force to be reckoned with. I'll wager W.W. is even capable of having a good laugh at the end of each escapade.

    • profile image

      Gadfly 2 years ago from Olde London Towne

      Darklings!

      As far as Aristasia adopting Wonder Woman as the official icon of their ordinator (computer) site, i do see the parallels here in that Aristasia a modern Themiscyra, is set in the 1940s/50's as is Man's world of Wonder Woman. Other action women and super heroines occur as well but Wonder Woman symbolises it all!

      sweet dreams.

      the gadfly

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 2 years ago from London England

      'WONDER WOMAN FOREVER!'

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 2 years ago from London England

      I still don't think we have come up with a result on whether Wonder Woman is feminist or not. The sexualisation of W.W. in the 1990s didn't do her any favours, there were many at the time for example Lara Croft. It would be fair to say that initially W.W. harboured feminist ideals but then she didn't ever have to prove anything but to accomplish tasks.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 2 years ago from London England

      Wonder Woman (in the original genre) has been nominated as the official icon of Aristasia: the Feminine Empire.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 2 years ago from London England

      merrie we meet

      as an avid enthusiast of the original Wonder Woman i can't help admiring her character over the newer bevy of super heroines!

      Reasons; Wonder Woman did not need amulets or talismans as a source of her powers, it is true W.W. did possess a 'magick' lariat which was an accoutrement she could work with or without.

      Question over the invisible iterceptor W.W. flew on some missions; i'm inclined think that she had access to some of the advanced stealth technology available and invented by a woman scientist of course.

      Wonder Woman forever

      the limpet

    • profile image

      Gadfly 2 years ago from Olde London Towne

      Greetings my little Darklings.

      On reflection of Wonder Woman's views on Feminism we must realise that Feminism has been topical for quite some time now. She might well have been as such, but after all the W.W.'s central theme is to do battle with malign often more daunting foes and inevitably she saved the day. Wonder Woman never had to prove Herself to any one and incidentally she was the first of a line of superheroines. They don't make em like they used to any more!

      the gadfly

    • profile image

      Gadfly 3 years ago from Olde London Towne

      Greetings my little Darlings

      Wonder Woman appeared at a stage where there were two main super

      heroes and a number of lesser ones plus 'sidekicks' all male. It took over a decade for the Ladies to enter this genre. So it seems Wonder Woman has set the precedent well before the cusp of the Women's Liberation Movement. She was also an inspiration to me as a boy as it reinforced the premise of Women in the war effort. Deep down she did have maternal qualities, in one particular episode after she apprehended a perp, because he was just a scamp not a habitual criminal she forgave him and taught him the error of his ways.

      Batwoman was never so forgiving!

      gadfly

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      Brittany, i thank you for Your response and when i was travelling on the London Undergound network i noticed publicity for Madame Tussauds (the wax museum) and these days they tend to exhibit celebs rather than historical figures and for the kids there are all the Super heroes with the glaring absence of Wonder Woman among them.

    • Brittany Kussman profile image
      Author

      Brittany Kussman 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      My husband is a huge comic book nerd and so when I went to write this article I looked to him for some background, and he only had background on her as far as superman was concerned. He said he always knew she was a dominant figure and the only woman in the comic book universe that could destroy superman. So I would agree that her character wasn't discussed much among young boys, but as she evolved I'm sure she became a big bathroom/bedroom commodity. She became this sexualized character in order to keep up with the times and what sells.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      Regarding Wonder Woman and Feminism

      as boys we were aware of the Wonder Woman

      character but we never talked about it

      We were more into Tarzan, Robin Hood and

      Davy Crockett who all had lady friends but kept

      in the background mostly. The premise of Women

      seizing the initiative and challenging male sexists

      reached it's pinnacle with the advent of Women's Liberation

      the limpet

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      Wonder Woman i believe started a trend although i know that there

      were Heroines in the silent film era (on and off the set) they were known as Vamps but in Wonder Woman's case She doesn't grow older

      and would have to be in Her 90 s unless undergoing a rejunevation

      At one stage Wonder Woman's little sister arrived on the scene but

      the idea didn't take on

      the limpet

    • Brittany Kussman profile image
      Author

      Brittany Kussman 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I admire both female characters. They are strong women competing in a male dominated world and are still relevant. Wonder Woman has always been my favorite superhero and I wish they would do a movie centered around her.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      the idea of who would win a contest between Wonder Woman and Xena

      is a tantalising hypothesis; Wonder Woman an Amazon from an all Female

      commune was also in man's world an officer in the Women's Army Corpes

      therefore (Dianna Prince) was trained and skilled in both types of warfare

      Xena although royalty herself was more hunter/survivor so it is doubtful they

      would 'cross swords' but adhere to the code of the Sisterhood with Xena

      defeating male adversaries and Wonder Woman capturing spies and

      bringing criminals to justice. However they could join forces!

      the limpet

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      my first encounter with a Wonder Woman story

      was in my pre hormonal development which made

      me go so 'self conscious' it hurt my ego but now i

      think Wonder Woman is an icon of a golden era

      the limpet