Tag: Feminism

Nubia: Wonder Woman’s Black Sister by Kelsey Miranda

During our class discussion on Wednesdays we mentioned the new Superman vs.sfnubia Batman movie features Wonder Woman as a main character.  The actress who was casted for the role is Israeli actress Gal Godot. A good choice but in class we discussed how songstress Beyoncé Knowles would have been better. During my frantic Google searches of why Beyoncé was not cast as Wonder Woman, I came across something interesting.

In 1973 the writers of the Wonder Woman decided to change her origin story revealing that she was not the only Wonder Woman.  WW Issue #204 “The Second Life of the Original Wonder Woman” the cover depicts a fully armored woman ready to kill Diana and they are surrounded in an arena of Amazons.  In the background there is Hippolyta stating “Unless I revel there are two wonder women, my daughter Diana will die!” In this issue Diana’s memory and powers are restored after the efforts of her mother, Hippolyta, bring Diana back to the Paradise Island. Prior to this issue, Wonder Woman was living as Diana Price and gave up her Amazon powers to live in the “Man’s World”. Memories of her life as an Amazon disappeared until flash backs of her birth come back “as Hippolytasculpted a toddler girl and Athena endowed her with the powers of the gods.”[1]  Issue 204 hints that Diana is missing a part of her birth story. Diana gains back her memory and reasserts herself as Wonder Woman but is interrupted by armored woman who claims she is “Wonder Woman of the Floating Isles.”

iamnubiaThe armored woman challenges Diana in a series of games. While Diana and this mysterious armored woman are sword fighting and the armored woman defeats and knocks the sword out of Diana’s hand.  In a position to kill Diana, she stops and reveals herself as Nubia.  This is the first time Nubia is introduced in the comic book. Hippolyta’s immediately recognizes her long lost daughter who was captured by long time enemy of the Amazons, Ares god of war. In the origin story of Nubia, at the same time that Diana was created out of white clay Nubia was created from black clay by Hippolyta.  Aphrodite gave both babies the gift of life and beauty but Nubia was immediately captured after her creation by Mars. Nubia is Diana’s black sister but Hippolyta only refers to Diana as her daughter. Kind of messed up of Hippolyta especially being reunited with your long lost child! Nubia returns to the floating island where she is the leader of male warriors. Nubia’s life away from Paradise Island depicts a life of loneliness.

In WW #206 “War of the Wonder Woman” the cover shows Diana and Nubia chained together at the ankles and wielding swords at each other. In the background there is Ares face and it seems that Nubia is being controlled by Mars to kill Diana and destroy the Amazons.  Interestingly Mars chooses Nubia, Diana’s sister because he knows that she is the only woman with enough strength to challenge and destroy her. Nubia’s sword is the only weapon that can counter act Diana’s lasso.  Nubia and Diana cross paths again and we find out that Mars raised Nubia to be an “”instrument of vengeance against the Amazons — whom I hate because their ways of love — will eventually destroy my ways of war — unless I annihilate them first! Nubia will do this for me!”[2]

In the Midst of the fight Diana recognizes that Nubia is wearing a ring that belongs to Ares and it is being used to control her. Diana changes her focus to destroying Ares’s ring. Once the ring is destroyed Nubia and Diana realize how fearful Mars is of women and their peacemaking ability.  Mars disowns her at the end of the issue and Nubia decides to lead her “warriors into ways of peace!”[3] The two do not decide who carries the title of Wonder Woman but share a “sisterhood” like alliance instead.

Gloria Steinem’s article “Wonder Woman” discusses the influence comic books especially Wonder Woman had on her life. Writing during the 1970’s in the midst of the women’s movement and the civil rights movement Steinem connects second-wave feminism to Marston’s Wonder Woman. “While Wonder Woman symbolizes many values of the women’s culture that feminists are trying to introduce into the mainstream, strength and self-reliance for women; sisterhood and mutual support among women; peace fullness and esteem for human life.”  Steinem dismisses the concept Marston created that women are better than men and argues that the social hierarchy must be eliminated so individuals can be free of assigned roles because of race and sex. Marston’s use of Mars to display how men are threaten by women which the writers in the 1970’s show but also how women maybe standing in the way of other women.

This is an interesting concept because of the time period of 1973, after the passage of Roe V. Wade there was a significant split in the woman’s movement.  I agree with Jill Lepore the writer of “The Last Amazon” that passage of Roe v. Wade narrowed the movement. “If 1972 was a legislative watershed, 1973 marked the beginning of a drought.”[4]  Pro-life feminists and Pro-choice feminists separated but also many minority women thought of the women’s movement as white heterosexual women’s movement.  This created splits between Black feminists, Chicana feminists, and Lesbian feminists to split from the women’s movement to discuss other inequalities such as race and sexuality.

It also poses an interesting concept of Mars the male figure that is everything nubia_2012that Wonder Woman is against creating divides against women. How Nubia was “brainwashed” by Mars for his agenda against the Amazons. Hmmm. It may possibly a reference to anti-feminist women during this 1970’s creating more conflict with the women’s movement. Unfortunately this is the last we will see of Nubia in the Wonder Woman comic until the late 1990’s and 2000s. After talking to my friend Leo, who has been reading the “post-crisis” Wonder Woman he says that Nubia becomes Wonder Woman of an alternative DC world and may be modeled by Beyoncé. Can you see the resemblance?     [5] [6]

[1] http://www.carolastrickland.com/comics/wwcentral/misc_indexes/nubia/nubia.html

[2] http://www.carolastrickland.com/comics/wwcentral/misc_indexes/nubia/nubia.html

[3] http://www.carolastrickland.com/comics/wwcentral/misc_indexes/nubia/nubia.html

[4] http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/22/last-amazon–

[6] Final Crisis #7 (2009) // DC Comics (Earth 23)

Wonder Woman as Feminist Icon: Two Different Perspectives by Calvin Thrall

Our class discussion about whether or not Wonder Woman truly is a feministwonderwomanimage icon really made me think about the complexity of the question – Wonder Woman was created by a man, after all, and she behaved differently under different writers and in different time periods. We know that William Marston created Wonder Woman with feminism in mind, but could a white man in the early 20th century even really grasp the concept? Is Wonder Woman a feminist icon?

I have two separate answers to this question – though they might sound like they are in opposition, I believe that they are equally true and equally important. I arrived at these answers by splitting the question into two questions, the first of which being: Is Wonder Woman a feminist icon in 2015?

My answer is a resounding no.

Analyzing past media (movies/articles/books/etc) through a feminist lens is an important practice for the furthering of modern feminist theory. It allows us to better understand the prejudices and biases of a time period, and by extension to better understand the problems in our society today. It’s also true that it’s just as important to critique past works of feminism as it is to critique non-feminist media; modern feminism is no longer the “if you educated women they’d be better wives for men” argument that Mary Wollstonecraft once wrote about. Wonder Woman can be critiqued in just the same way. Yes, it’s true that she is a woman and a superhero; it’s also true that many of the plots of her comics (at least in the 40s) aimed to teach lessons of gender equality.

But Wonder Woman was never quite allowed to be as strong or as capable as the male superheroes that she associated with – she was secretary of their league, she had to stay home when they went war. Wonder Woman is also problematic when viewed from an intersectional standpoint. As Gloria Steinem points out, the Wonder Woman comics tended to get racist and jingoistic around wartime, while she still claimed to be a supporter of human rights. One hardly has to watch the news for 5 minutes in the U.S. nowadays to understand that we still do the same thing when it comes to our depictions of Muslims. Perhaps the patriotism of the 40s simply won out over the attempts at feminism (for example, though Wonder Woman is Amazonian she’s also… a white American woman?), or perhaps a nonwhite or non war-supporting heroine just wouldn’t have sold comics at that time. Either way, Wonder Woman certainly does not pass inspection when it comes to the standards of feminism in 2015.

Question #2: Did Wonder Woman symbolize the ideals of Western feminism in the 1940s?

My answer here is yes, absolutely. Wonder Woman has a lot of flaws that are important to acknowledge and keep in mind, but in my opinion she was a positive step in the advancement of feminism in the United States. Perhaps Wonder Woman presented a slightly watered down version of the ideas that were really circulating among feminists at the time, but she offered a strong and independent female icon to a world that desperately needed them. Wonder Woman never explicitly tells her readers to dismantle the patriarchy or to use birth control, but consider what she does do: she encouraged woman to earn their own living, to join the WAVEs or WAACs, and she (at least originally, under Marston’s control) demonstrated to her young readers that women can be just as successful without a husband or children. Her existence alone as a female superhero allowed girls to see that world as one that they belong in too, instead of the boys’ club it used to be (and mostly still is, sadly).

The image I’ve included, the closing panel from 1944’s All-Star Comics #22, is an example of Wonder Woman’s progressive nature relative to her time period. Does she follow this creed unfailingly? No, she doesn’t; but she played an important role in bringing feminist ideas to the general public, and inspired many women (like Steinem) to defy the patriarchic order and learn about feminist theories. 70 Years from now, that which we believe to be progressive now will probably be considered conservative and problematic, as it should be. There is merit both in acknowledgment of Wonder Woman’s faults and her successes, and though she’s lost her status as a feminist icon, her American iconicity is undebatable.

Rolling a Natural One: Wonder Woman and the Weighted Dice by Elizabeth A Yazvac

In Dungeons & Dragons, players roll dice to accomplish actions. Simply put,Wonder Woman breaking the chains! rolling a higher number increases the chances of success. On a 20-sided dice, rolling a natural 20 (a 20 is displayed on the die) means instant success! Not only success, but really awesome things happen. On the other hand, rolling a natural 1 means instant failure. And not only failure, but bad things happen to your character, too. Reading about Wonder Woman, her origins, and her evolution made me think about the role that women play in comics and the Fantasy genre, and how it so often feels like we are constantly rolling a natural one.

In the same way that Dungeons & Dragons characters are appealing, superheros are popular because of their power; they can accomplish things that the audiences cannot, and that makes them cool! Wonder Woman’s creator, William Marston, made her powerful but also a model of “strong, free, courageous womanhood”, making her even cooler! (Lepore 1). Yes, she has Amazonian super strength, but she also has to be talented enough to successfully execute her plans (Steinem 204), so no rolling natural ones allowed!

When talking about the appeal of comics, Martson brings up the concept of “wish fulfillment,” claiming that wish fulfillment is tied to human emotion, and emotions are exactly what comics play at (Martson 39). While reading that passage, all I could think about was how true it was for my own experiences with my Dungeons and Dragons character.

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in high school. I had given up attempts to stifle my inner nerd (I planned my senior prom… and made the theme outer space) and decided that not only did I want to play D&D, but I wanted to chop as many imaginary goblins in half with my imaginary enchanted two-handed battle axe as possible. But as I got to creating my character – Ellywick Silverleaf, half-elf, fighter class – I realized that I didn’t want to make her a one-dimensional killing machine. I wanted her to be a complex and multi-faceted killing machine.

Much like my own struggle to find balance between femininity and the Fantasy genre, I wanted Ellywick to have all the power that I don’t (wish fulfillment!) but still be a relatable female who wants a husband, children, and a modest castle in the hills. So, I created Ellywick to be a symbol of “strong, free, courageous womanhood”, because other symbols like her were, and still are, so lacking.

Sexy Woman D&Dd and d

Wish fulfillment is not something that only appeals to men. Just as much as my brother liked video games, so did I. Wonder Woman, obviously, appealed to female audiences, but female audiences were also reading Superman and Batman, and they continue to do so today. Yet, despite large numbers of female comic book fans, women continue to hit a glass ceiling (keeping in line with the theme of this article, I am imagining women like lasers unable to penetrate the Gungan deflector shields at The Battle of Naboo).

Gloria Steinem discusses the importance of Wonder Woman in her own formative years, reading about a character that (“Great Hera!”) was a woman with an active role (Steinem 204). But, today, Wonder Woman fails to achieve the fame of her male counterparts, instead being tossed into the background of a Superman/Batman mashup movie and being subjected to fashion critics looking at her outfit more than anything else.

Early on in my creation process of Ellywick, I almost made her a man. I wanted her to be as strong as possible, and that seemed to better fit a male persona. But this, I realize, is exactly Martson’s point. That “not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, power” (Marston 42). We need to stop rolling natural ones for ourselves, stop accepting worn-out, sexist roles for our female characters, and demand that the efforts of early Wonder Woman not be in jest.

wonder woman


Photo credits

Woman Woman breaking chains: Gardner, Dwight. “Her Past Unchained.” The New York Times. 23 October 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/24/books/the-secret-history-of-wonder-woman-by-jill-lepore.html

D&D Character 1: Dungeons and Dragons, armour and underwear.http://blog.rhiannonlassiter.com/2012/09/12/dungeons-and-dragons-armour-and-underwear/

D&D Character 2: DeviantArt. http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/artists/149223458?view_mode=2

Wonder Woman comic: Asselin, Janelle. The ‘F’ Word: Wonder Woman’s Feminism Shouldn’t Be Covered Up. Comics Alliance. 2 July 2014. http://comicsalliance.com/wonder-woman-feminism-meredith-finch-david-finch-dc/

Wonder Woman’s Costume Woes by Jenelle Janci

Throughout our classroom discussions of Wonder Woman, there’s one thing that continues to bother me: the irony of her skimpy, sexualized costume.

While Wonder Woman is a model for feminism, I can’t get past the icky feeling of knowing the male gaze was upon her before she even hit the page. Her creator, William Moulton Marston, and her original illustrator, Harry G. Peter, were both male.

“The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of a Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman,” Marston wrote in “Why 100,000,000 Americans Read Comics.” It’s as if Marston couldn’t think of a way to show Wonder Woman was, well, a woman without baring her thighs and giving her an ample bosom. This quote from Marston also worries me, because it suggests that a woman must be beautiful in order to be good and liked by readers.

Even in modern depictions of Wonder Woman, her breasts seem to be the most prevalent thing about her. In this collection of Wonder Woman art, a few (like the image I’ve embedded from the collection) even feel a bit pornographic to me. While it’s not fair to judge the original based on later depictions of her, these sexualized images show how these artists think of Wonder Woman today. Those meanings are attached to her status as an American Icon.


There’s a clear double standard when it comes to the worth of a superhero and his or her body. Spiderman seems kind of scrawny to me, and Superman gets to enjoy the modesty of his muscles being covered up. The only instance I can recall of male superheroes’ body parts being hyper sexualized, the characters were “ambiguously gay.”

An article published on pop culture news site “AV Club” suggests Wonder Woman’s costume was inspired by pin-up girls in the 1940s (the time of Wonder Woman’s creation), and that any oddly kinky comic strip scenes of her being tied up and escaping them was a metaphor for women escaping social injustices. That’s all fine and good, by why do I have to see the top of her breasts for that metaphor to work? The answer is: I don’t. I’m more likely to believe a second explanation offered by the same article: by making her sexual and attractive, male readers will feel positively toward a female superhero. Gag.

While it’s not hard to argue the stupidity of wearing a skimpy costume as temperatures begin to drop in late October, our discussion of Wonder Woman will surely have new meaning when I see women dressed up in less-than-modest costumes depicting her on Halloween. While becoming a recognizable Halloween costume is one of my personal benchmarks of what makes something an American icon, it’s hard to ignore the irony of women dressing in skimpier versions of an already scantily clad female superhero who was meant to represent feminism.