@PBS 's #WonderWomen: White Feminist Superheroines And Invisible Women Of Color

gina torres wonder woman

“This post has been cross-posted from my Blerd Theologian Tumblr

Tonight, I watched PBS’s Independent Lens’ episode entitled, Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines. To be honest, this documentary played out unfortunately like a piece of white feminist triumphalism, when it really did not have to. My favorite comic writer Gail Simone said at the conclusion of that Wonder Woman was a feminist symbol of hope and inclusion. The vision for the future promoted by this text, however, was one of racial exclusion and classist & ableist propaganda. Wonder Women was not a documentary geared towards ALL American women, but specific white American women with middle & upper class privilege.

Let’s go through the U.S. American history lesson we were given, shall we? Wonder Woman was the comic book version of Rosie the Riveter during World War II, and afterwards, her and Lois Lane were depicted as less ambitious. So basically, white women were told to take care of homes! Okay, but this WAS NOT THE EXPERIENCE OF ALL WOMEN! No, this documentary spoke to the white side of segregationist economics and white women’s experience, but when it comes to blacks, perhaps those women who were HAD NO CHOICE but to work (because choice is a luxury, based on class, don’t forget that), Wonder Women could not address this issue.

Moving on, let’s read about the Women superheroes who inspired the women’s rights movement in the 60s and 70s. Big surprise: All white, all without disability, and with class privilege. Yeah, a picture of Storm from Marvel’s X-Men was put up as a token. Yeah, they talked about Nubia as “Wonder Woman’s sistah counterpart” but that was false. Any google search will show you that Nubia was a villain, and has since the 70s, fallen off the face of the DC universe. What an inspiration!

Wonder Woman. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Xena the Warrior Princess. All able-bodied. All white women written by white men. At the conclusion of Wonder Women,the documentary shameless did a highlight reel of famous American women, and showcased WOC such as Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, Rosa Parks, and others. It’s funny that this played out sort of like Season 7 of white feminist legend Buffy, where the show all of a sudden becomes more culturally diverse, as if the first six seasons & it’s First World Western feminist vision didn’t happen!

In Buffy, a number of POC scholars have taken issue with portrayals of racial minorities in the BuffyVerse, and DC Comics (as much as I’m a New 52 fanboy), continues to have more problems than Marvel (but atleast DC doesnt have the Doctor Voodoo problem– you can look that up). Works of fantasy, myths are always social and political. Pop cultural exclusion leads to perpetual political exclusion, and that’s what we continue to see, esp when it comes to voting rights, access to public education, and the prison-industrial complex.

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0 thoughts on “@PBS 's #WonderWomen: White Feminist Superheroines And Invisible Women Of Color

  1. Heather aka She Dork

    That’s a shame. I would love a documentary highlighting heroic american women throughout US history… but one that includes all categories not just feminist rights or white chicks. You know who was the one women I learned about in elementary that struck me like a lightning bolt and inspired me? Harriet Tubman. I’m obsessed to this day.

    1. RodtRDH Post author

      One of the best essays I’ve read on Harriet Tubman was in a Smart Pop book on Dollhouse. It was great. It compared Harriet Tubman’s scars/disability with that of Claire Saunders.


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