The United Nations recently fired Wonder Woman from her ambassador post, forcing her to fight back with valiance and diplomacy.

No, I'm not pitching you a comic book right now. This is real.

Wonder Woman through the ages. Photo by Matt Cowan/Getty Images.


The U.N. appointed the iconic superhero as its honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls back in October 2016. It's not the first time the U.N. has appointed a fictional character to an ambassadorship, either. They've given jobs to Winnie the Pooh, Tinkerbell, and Red from Angry Birds.

This time, however, things were a little different.

Wonder Woman's appointment to the U.N. was quickly met with controversy.

It began with an online petition started by U.N. staffers urging the council to reconsider its choice (emphasis added):

"Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent 'warrior' woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character’s current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots –the epitome of a 'pin-up' girl. This is the character that the United Nations has decided to represent a globally important issue – that of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls."

I hope she's not going anywhere chilly. Photo by Matthieu Alexandre/AFP/Getty Images.

Those might seem like fair points, sure. In a world where there is an abundance of (real) feminist role models who don't professionally wear costumes designed for the male gaze and who didn't get their start in sexualized and submissive comic book stories, it's easy to see why the 44,000 people who signed the U.N. petition thought there might be a better choice.

Ultimately, the U.N. dropped Wonder Woman from her post.

If this sounds familiar, that might be because it's eerily similar to a plot line from an episode of the early '00s "Justice League" animated TV series.

Facepalm. GIF via "Justice League."

But reducing Wonder Woman to her costume reinforces the idea that a woman's value comes from her appearance — and that what a woman has to say doesn't matter if she doesn't look the way we feel she should.

Of course, when the U.N. decided to revoke the character's ambassadorship (which Jeffrey Brez, the U.N.’s chief of NGO relations and advocacy, told The Guardian was the plan all along), the Amazonian superhero had supporters in her corner to defend her.

Among them, of course, are DC Entertainment, which owns the Wonder Woman franchise, and actress Gal Gadot, who played Wonder Woman in "Batman v Superman" and the upcoming solo "Wonder Woman" film.

Gal Gadot (left) speaking at the U.N. along with Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman in the 1970s "Wonder Woman" TV show. Photo by Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

In a Time profile, the Israeli actor responded to the U.N.'s decision, lamenting that people would be so focused on what a fictional woman appointed to an honorary position is wearing when there are more pressing issues affecting women and girls.

“There are so many horrible things that are going on in the world," Gadot told Time. "And this is what you’re protesting, seriously?”

Gadot also noted that just because Wonder Woman is "sexy," that doesn't mean she can't also be smart, strong, and a good role model. "That’s not fair," said Gadot. "Why can’t she be all of the above?

GIF from "Justice League."

And what has Wonder Woman been saying?

Oh, you know, just some casual feminist critique of the way rigid gender roles hurt girls (from the 2009 animated "Wonder Woman" movie):

Images from "Wonder Woman."

And this wonderful moment from the recent "Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special #1" comic, in which she is the very embodiment of empowering, encouraging a young girl to put her heart and wisdom to good use — and to be her own kind of superhero.

Images from "Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special #1"/DC Entertainment.

Not to mention the times Wonder Woman stood up for nonviolent diplomacy in the "Spirit of Truth" comic book, confronted a man who was using sexist slurs in "Justice League: War," and put a guy who tried to get her drunk on a date in his place shortly before saving his life in the 2009 animated movie. And that's just to name a few. A short Google search will lead you to dozens of articles highlighting the feminist contributions of an incredibly rich female character who has influenced generations.

Whatever side you fall on, you have to admit that Wonder Woman is much more than her costume. She's an icon.

It's hard to think of a more male-dominated field than comic book superheroes, and Wonder Woman has transcended that to become one of the most recognizable faces of justice and baddassery in the world.

Women in Sydney pose in Wonder Woman costumes after a charity race. Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images.

For 75 years, Wonder Woman has been a bulletproof, ass-kicking symbol of strength who's given girls and women someone to idolize. And frankly, when your résumé includes uppercutting Adolf Hitler, being an honorary U.N. ambassador is nothing.

Just like Superman, Batman, or any other male superhero, Wonder Woman represents an ideal slice of humanity. She's a person who fights for what's right no matter what she comes up against. She's a myth, a legend, and an allegory for what's good and fair and just in all of us.

And look, this doesn't mean there isn't a serious problem with female comic book characters being over-sexualized or drawn specifically for the male gaze. But discrediting Wonder Woman completely because of her outfit or her body type (both of which change depending on who draws her) completely ignores what she really stands for and what she represents as an icon to so many people around the world.

Yes, her costume is revealing, but ultimately, isn't it more important to actually listen to what she's saying?

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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