Between Declared Feminism and Hidden Misogyny

Back in the ‘30s, the screen appeared to be taken over by male superheroes. William M. Marston thought he should challenge the status quo, and created what proved to be his most treasured legacy: Wonder Woman (well, that and some key elements of the nowadays polygraph, but that’s not the point here).

His creation inspired the production of the namesake sellout in the ‘70s, staring the handpicked Lynda Carter. The heartfelt profession of Marston, according to which women should be encouraged to aspire to leadership, cannot be doubted. However, what I would like to argue here is this feminist stance is enacted in a manner which is replete with misogynistic elements.

First, let’s focus on the name. Superman, for instance, is first of all a being the powers of which transcend the natural abilities of the average human individual. Then, if we see his deeds, he becomes the object of our admiration. As viewers, we objectify him only following his feats as autonomous subject.

If we now take Wonder Woman, her name takes us on the exactly opposite route of thinking: she first makes us wonder, because the name tells us she is worth wondering, and then we pay attention to her achievements meant to justify her name. In so many words, she is first objectified and then turned into a self-standing character. As if her destiny was to live up to her name and to viewers’ expectations. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Secondly, think about her accessories. Belt, bracelets, tiara? A lasso even? The typical superhero, sure, has his tools, his artifacts. But this one is particular seems more like a fashion victim. Plus, Superman can fly and work his miracles bare naked. His powers are his own; he owes nothing to his garments, except for the disguise.

And, finally, what about that cleavage? What super power can come out of that? Of course, some might say femininity must be exalted in all its aspects: beautiful body showcased to draw attention, garments and accessories that highlight pluses and hide flaws, as all women tend to judge driven by principle or by transitory whims.

It’s OK to be beautiful, it’s perfectly healthy to be aware of it, and it’s quite natural to try to capitalize on your natural assets. Yet I have a penchant for criticism: Wonder Woman is a superhero. But not because she does what she does – things no common man could do – but because she does not fall from her heels and because her breasts never jump of the generous cleavage. Hi five, girls! How many of you relate to that?

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