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Wonder Woman named UN ambassador for women and girls

Comic superhero Wonder Woman is set to be named an Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. Critics have said the choice is demeaning to women.

The cartoon character Wonder Woman turns 75 on Friday with a big party: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is due to designate the comic superhero an ambassador for women's empowerment.

Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment, the company that owns DC Comics which invented Wonder Woman, is expected to attend the event as well as a surprise guest, expected to be Lynda Carter, who portrayed Wonder Woman in the hit TV series in the 1970s. 

The cartoon character Wonder Woman will be the face of a social media campaign dubbed "All the Wonders We Can Do." The initiative will focus on gender equality and women's empowerment, which are among the UN's global goals for the next 15 years.

Real women over Wonder Woman

Many have criticized the choice of the fictitious comic character Wonder Woman over a real woman as an ambassador for women's empowerment.

"It's ridiculous," said Shazia Rafi, one of the leaders of the She4SG campaign, a women's group who had campaigned for the first woman to be appointed UN Secretary General.

"The campaign for women's empowerment is represented by a cartoon when there are so many real-life women who could have been chosen," she said.

Rafi has written to Ban urging him to skip the ceremony and is pushing for a boycott of the event on Friday, demanding that Wonder Woman be dropped from the campaign. "It should be scrapped," she told the AFP news agency.

United Nations employees were also unhappy with the choice

Almost 800 UN staff members have signed an online petition calling on Ban to reconsider the decision to appoint a comic book character as an ambassador for women empowerment.

The character of "a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit" is hardly suitable to promote gender equality and to fight objectification of women, the petition said.

UN rejects criticism

The United Nations on Monday defended the choice of Wonder Woman to lead the social media campaign, saying it is simply an attempt to reach younger audiences.

"In order to reach young people, in order to reach audiences outside this building, we need to be creative," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told AFP.

Dujarric urged critics to wait for the formal announcement on Friday before drawing any conclusions about the goals of the year-long campaign.

kw/sms (dpa, AFP)