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U.N. picks powerful feminist (Wonder Woman) for visible job (mascot)


By Somini Sengupta

New York Times

The United Nations just rejected seven female candidates vying to lead the global organization.

Now, to promote women and girls, it is picking a cartoon character as its mascot: Wonder Woman.

Yes, the comic book figure.

Dozens of countries pushed this year for a woman to be chosen as the next secretary-general, pointing out that the United Nations pledges to promote gender equality around the world and arguing that it needed to “lead by example.”

After months of internal jockeying, the Security Council last week picked António Guterres, who ran the U.N. refugee agency for 10 years, to be the world’s top diplomat.

Then on Wednesday, the United Nations announced that it would appoint Wonder Woman as an honorary ambassador for “the empowerment of women and girls.”

The appointment of the heroine will be made official on Oct. 21, when Wonder Woman turns 75, only slightly older than the United Nations itself.

Too bad Wonder Woman will not actually traipse through the halls of the U.N. headquarters. If she did she would inevitably have to vanquish a few problems, like peacekeepers who sexually abuse civilians and major military powers that bomb schools.

The United Nations, in making the announcement, said that Diane Nelson, the president of DC Entertainment, would come to the U.N. to accept the designation, along with “surprise guests.”

The outreach director of the United Nations’ department of public information, Maher Nasser, would not confirm whether Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman on television, or Gal Gadot, who plays her in a coming movie about the character, will be among them.

Wonder Woman’s avatar, Nasser said, would be used on social media platforms to promote important messages about women’s empowerment, including on gender-based violence and the fuller participation of women in public life.

That, too, is a bit awkward. The United Nations is woefully behind on its pledge of gender parity in senior appointments. One analysis found that nine of 10 senior leadership jobs last year went to men.

Not to mention, a woman has never led the U.N. system, and none will for at least the next five years. The Security Council chose Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal, to be the next secretary-general, dismissing the candidacies of seven women and five other men. Guterres, who is expected to be approved Thursday morning by the General Assembly, has promised gender parity in senior appointments.

Wonder Woman is not the only fictional character to be celebrated by the United Nations: Winnie the Pooh served as its honorary Ambassador of Friendship in 1998; Tinker Bell was its honorary Ambassador of Green in 2009; and “Angry Birds” dared fans on Twitter last year to make the game’s characters happy by conserving water and energy.

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