The night Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, I was finishing Jill Lepore's fascinating bestseller, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, and came upon the strip in which Diana Prince--the bespectacled intelligence officer who was to Wonder Woman what Clark Kent was to Superman--runs for president of the United States. And wins.
The drawing of Wonder Woman's alter ego taking the oath is captioned in part, "After many years of faithful service to her country, [she] finally holds its highest office."
After 40 years of faithful service to her country and 240 years of male presidents, let's hope the same can be said of Hillary Rodham Clinton next January 20th.
I was struck, reading the book, by how much the first female presidential nominee candidate of a major political party and the first female mass market comic book superhero have in common. Wonder Woman used her superhuman strength to break free of the iron chains that her creator, William Moulton Marston, used as metaphors for the constraints of the conventional female role. Marston once confessed, "Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world." Clinton is that new woman, who has had to use her human talents--which are formidable--to break the bonds of gender stereotyping and sex discrimination that still exist.
Despite 50 years of feminist progress, female power can still feel threatening to men and intimidating to women, so, like Diana Prince, Hillary Clinton often has to keep her inner Wonder Woman under wraps. Everyone tells her to be authentic. But if her authentic self is cool and smart, she needs to hide it. When she speaks forcefully, she's called strident or shrill; when she demonstrates deep knowledge, she's accused of being an intellectual elitist, remote, too wonky to be likeable. I heard one young person say she "has no soul." David Brooks, writing in The New York Times, wants to know what she does for fun. Some say she should show more emotion, expose her vulnerability, be more family-oriented. But don't talk too much about being a grandmother; that makes you sound old.
On appearance, compared to Hillary, Wonder Woman had it easy. But not all that easy. Clearly, Wonder Woman's costume had to be red, white and blue and sexy enough to sell comic books. Beyond that, the specifics of her outfit aroused fierce disagreement among her creators...