Friday, October 21, 2016

Wonder Woman Stands For More Than Her Fashion


The United Nations declared today, October 21, Wonder Woman Day. They've recognized the Amazon as a fitting representation for female empowerment. In these harsh political times, that's something we can all get behind, right? Um, maybe not. Familiar cries of "But she wears a bathing suit!" and "She's not a real person!" are echoing 'round the Internet. In this other New York Times piece from yesterday, Vanessa Friedman argues:
On the one hand, allowing girls to revel in their physicality and femininity is a good thing. I am not saying they should dress like nuns or adopt a pantsuits “r” us mentality. They should own their womanhood and all that is special and different about it. You can argue that refusing to apologize for or hide your body under a sackcloth is a feminist act.
But most women, I would guess, would not choose to display their allure while wearing a star-spangled maillot and cape, which is to say an outfit that no one could actually wear to work, unless she were working as the impersonator of a comic book character.

I lean towards arguing that refusing to apologize for your body is a feminist act, myself. Friedman's reasoning that most women likely wouldn't choose to dress as Wonder Woman does seems to be besides the point. Women can love what Wonder Woman stands for—empowerment, compassion, strength, intelligence, to name just a few—but not desire to dress like her. I think admirers of her are able to simultaneously love Diana and choose not to replicate her fashion choices. Because, you know, she's a fictional comic book character residing in a highly exaggerated fictionalized world where garish and uncomfortable-looking costumes are the norm. Why is everyone so focused on what she wears, as opposed to what she stands for? I realize you can show concern for the former while still appreciating the latter. But I think trying to fit Wonder Woman within the framework of reality is a mistake. She's a fictionalized representation of the best qualities in all of us, or at least those qualities we aspire to possess. To me, that means she's held to a higher standard and needn't be reduced to her clothing choices.

Besides, today she's being portrayed more often within the comic book world (and in the upcoming film starring Gal Gadot) as wearing more of a figure-flattering armor than a bathing suit. Arguing about her classic bathing suit costumes seems retrograde and reductive to me in 2016. Then again, while I'm a feminist I'm also a man and its likely my perspective on this isn't one anyone really cares to here. That's fine. Personally I'm just happy we have Wonder Woman in the world for my daughter—and son—to discover soon. She's a popular culture icon who is awfully important to so many people, generation after generation, that she'll endure no matter what she's wearing.

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