I am Wonder Woman, hear me roar

This post was originally posted at the blog of New Voices Magazine. The author, Elle Weiss, is a law student and Emerson fellow from New York City.
Wonder Woman, old and new
Being a comic book nerd is hard enough when people think you have no social life. But is it un-American? Phyllis Chesler seems to think so.
In her latest article, Chesler cites how Wonder Woman’s new costume shows American submission to the evils of globalization. Chesler says Wonder Woman’s getup is “non-American, and therefore anti-American” because it is no longer red, white and blue; for her, this is a sign that “many Americans are ashamed of their own country.”
Is she reading the same comic book as me?
Chesler claims to be a feminist and writes that Wonder Woman “ fought evil in fabulous female form” that was “half-naked, dressed in a low cut bodice, high, sexy boots, and a short ice-skater’s skirt.” This is a great example to set for my niece: ff you want to fight evil, make sure to bring the stripper boots. Wonder Woman’s original costume made her into a sex symbol–but as long as the costume was red, white and blue, Chesler had no problem. Welcome to America, people, where the women are beautiful and wear nothing.
She adds that “Wonder Woman was conceived as a counter to the bloody ‘masculinity’ of most American comic books,” and rhapsodizes on how the series shows women as “natural leaders who could rule the world.” But in the comic, Wonder Woman was shoe-horned into being the Chick for two more popular male characters. In some continuities, she ends up de-powered and running a flower shop. Behold your feminist goddess.
For me, Wonder Woman was the girl who got to look pretty next to the real heroes, Batman and Superman. I never wanted to dress like her or be her, because she seemed so ridiculous. It’s neither empowering nor liberating to force women to dress a certain way for men, be it modestly or immodestly. Freedom is about loving your body and dressing in a way that makes you feel comfortable, not about submitting to chauvinist societal norms.
DC Comics has decided to re-brand Wonder Woman as a more universal symbol. That makes her anti-American? As forward-thinking people, we should be dancing on the rooftops to see a woman being de-sexualized and commanding respect. Wonder Woman doesn’t look like she’s fighting crime in a bathing suit anymore, there to make men star at her body. She looks like a sleek, sexy, crime fighter who is fantastic, practical and less silly. She may not wear the American flag, but she represents the best of America: strong, intelligent women who fight for justice. She can finally be my hero. For a formerly Orthodox girl who dreamed of flying, this represents a turning point. You can be modest and still save the world.
One thing Wonder Woman wouldn’t like is criticizing women for “slumming” in foreign dress, calling it “their native, imprisoning clothing,” as Chesler writes. Respect for other cultures has always been a heroic virtue. Yes, many women wear more modest clothes when entering a more religious environment, but many non-Jewish men (including Superman in one memorable comic) wear yarmulkes in traditional Jewish homes. It’s called mutual respect. Comic books emphasize these universal values, and Ms. Chesler does a disservice to the genre by politicizing it.
I will end with a review from “The Simpsons’” Comic Book Guy himself: “Worst. Article. Ever!”

8 thoughts on “I am Wonder Woman, hear me roar

  1. Let’s also remember that Wonder Women is not, you know, American. Not born here, not of American descent, and in many versions of the story (although not, I believe, the current one), working as an ambassador for her home country, so wearing an American-flag-based outfit never really made sense to begin with.

  2. Doesn’t seem like either writer is really a comic fan. The assertions made above about Wonder Woman hardly hold water if you’ve actually read many of the comics in which she is a prominent character. And she’s not being rebranded as a universal symbol, either. She’s always been a universal symbol; she’s being messed with temporarily in the attempt to sell more comics. It’s well-known rule of the comics world that it’s nearly impossible to permanently change the costume of an important character.
    Also, this is fodder for any one of a million comics websites. Why is it on Jewschool? Because it’s attempting to critique the words of a Jewish person on a topic that has nothing to do with Judaism?

  3. It’s here because it’s interesting, because Jews practically invented comics and because it deals with themes that we deal with at Jewschool regularly, like right wing loons and faux patriotism. It’s implicitly Jewish.
    And as an aside, you generality about new costumes holds somewhat true in the DC Universe, to which Wonder Woman does belong. Superman’s costume has changed little, Batman’s more, but still not much. Green Lantern, however, who I would say is on par with Wonder Woman in popularity, changes costumes far more frequently than Wonder Woman.

  4. Just to make sure I understand your response… anything dealing with right-wing loons and faux patriotism is implicitly Jewish? Or all comics are Jewish because many Jews were involved in the creation of the artform?
    I just want to make sure I’m attacking your actual point of view before unleashing the hounds.
    (Please note: the hounds are implicitly Jewish because I got them from a breeder named Finklestein.)

  5. dlevy, I’m not trying to define what’s implicitly and explicitly Jewish and what’s not Jewish at all. All I’m saying is I saw the post and liked it and thought it could belong here so I asked the author if I could re-post it here and she said ok. And here we are.
    I don’t know that I gave it so much thought. It FELT like us when I read it.

  6. I wasn’t questioning what the post was doing here (although it seems that Balaam’s Donkey is doing that). I am pushing back at this idea of “implicit Jewishness.” I don’t think you can use a phrase like that and not defend it.
    Is Christianity implicitly Jewish because it was created by a bunch of Jewish guys?

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