THE ‘F’ WORD: WONDER WOMAN’S FEMINISM SHOULDN’T BE COVERED UP
By Janelle Asselin
DC has a Wonder Woman problem. Or perhaps more accurately, Wonder Woman has a DC problem. The idea of Wonder Woman as a feminist icon is so imprinted in her history, and in analysis of the character, that separating her from feminism should be near impossible. But that hasn’t stopped people trying.
Much has been written over the years about the ebb and flow of feminism in the Wonder Woman comics, the relative feminism of her appearances on the small screen, and her role as an icon for the movement. A recent interview with the new Wonder Woman creative team of Meredith Finch and David Finch has brought the topic back into focus.
To give a bit of background for those who may need it, the character’s creator, William Moulton Marston, was actually not a feminist – he didn’t believe that men and women were equal; he believed that women were superior to men. Most of the early Wonder Woman stories were about women dominating men to make the world a better place.
This isn’t feminism, because feminism is about all genders being equal. It’s an interesting world view, though, and one Marston believed would see fruition through the events of World War II. Women were gaining power as Wonder Woman’s story began, thanks to more women entering the work place to replace men who had gone to fight.
The character’s roots in an island made up entirely of women explains any belief she had in female superiority. However, Wonder Woman has evolved to be more of a true feminist.
Over the years, Wonder Woman’s story arcs have ranged from feminism to par-for-the-superheroine-course. Like all other female characters, she’s too often used as a prop in storylines about male characters, but unlike most other female characters she had a unique tool: her own television show.
That show, occurring when it did in the 1970s, struck a chord with women of all ages and cemented Wonder Woman’s place in the culture. She had already famously featured on the cover of the first issue of the feminist magazine Ms. in 1972, and for decades after, regardless of the quality of the comics, Wonder Woman has remained a feminist icon.