Wonder Woman's New Costume Revives an Age-Old Debate

The superhero ensemble was unveiled at Comic-Con this week, and her high heels have caused quite a stir.

New Wonder Woman costume unveiled at Comic-Con 2015. (Photo: Wonder Woman/Facebook)

Jul 10, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

From head to toe, nearly every aspect of Wonder Woman's costume doubles as a superpower: Her tiara has been used as a boomerang-like weapon, her lasso can force people to tell the truth, and her indestructible bracelets can block bullets. But when the iconic superhero's latest costume was unveiled this week at San Diego Comic-Con, many fans wondered what purpose her high heels served.

On Twitter, the shoes revived an ongoing debate about double standards for male and female superheroes that even Gail Simone, a comic book writer whose numerous credits include DC's Wonder Woman and Bat Girl, weighed in on.

The wedge heels in question—part of the gladiator-style getup actor Gal Gadot will wear in the 2016 Warner Bros. movie Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice—seem a bit impractical for fighting crime, killing bad guys, and saving the world. The new Wonder Woman costume is just the latest in the evolution of the character, which debuted in a comic created by William Moulton Marston in a 1941 issue of All Star Comics. Even then, the Amazonian princess in a star-spangled blue skirt wore calf-high boots with modest heels. By the time actor Lynda Carter made Wonder Woman a TV star in the mid-1970s, the skirt had long been dropped from the costume, but the heeled boots remained.

Wonder Woman's heels in BVS #SDCC

A photo posted by Patrick Willems (@patrickhwillems) on

Now as Wonder Woman appears in Batman v. Supermanshe won't headline her own film until the following year—the wedge heels have reignited an age-old debate over whether the heroine is a role model for women or an object of desire created to satisfy the male gaze. In her early days, Wonder Woman was often depicted shackled up in bondage; that's been interpreted as both a result of Moulton's sexual fetishism and a comment about women's struggles for liberation.

"I have volumes and volumes of requests for very specific scenes of heroines being restrained," Simone tweeted, suggesting that Wonder Woman's heels are often fetishized by male comic book readers. "One guy wrote me endless notes asking for heroines to be knocked unconscious. No story reason, just that they were helpless and sleeping," she tweeted.

One fan responded, "In the real world, I doubt Wonder Woman would wear heels. Not practical. If it was—more male characters would wear heels, too."

New Wonder Woman costume unveiled.
(Photo: Wonder Woman/Facebook)

So, Why Should You Care? High heels have become a heated feminist topic in recent months. Jurassic World was criticized for action scenes in which Bryce Dallas Howard's character runs from dinosaurs in towering, nude-colored stilettos. When elderly women were reportedly turned away from a red carpet premiere for wearing flat-toed slippers at the Cannes Film Festival in May, the controversy known as #flatgate spawned a debate over gender-biased dress codes. The following month, hundreds of airline employees signed a petition to protest the Israeli airline El Al's new policy requiring flight attendants to wear high heels until every passenger on the plane is seated.
The interest in Wonder Woman's new costume comes at a time of increasing scrutiny over women's representation (or lack thereof) in comics, superhero movies, and their merchandising. Black Widow, for example, was noticeably absent from much of The Avengers' merchandise, and fans—including Avengers actor Mark Ruffalo—took notice on social media. It's no surprise, then, that comic book fans are keeping a close eye on Wonder Woman, which will be the first female-led superhero movie in the decade since 2005's Elektra.
Warner Bros. reportedly sought out a female director specifically to helm the movie, but even that effort suffered a setback when Michelle MacLaren walked away from the production almost immediately after being hired. The studio cited "creative differences." MacLaren would've been the first woman ever to direct a major Hollywood superhero movie. Director Patty Jenkins now has that distinction. Fans can only hope that when the movie hits the big screen two years from now, there will be much more to marvel at than just Wonder Woman's footwear.
This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction 7/13/15: An earlier version of this article misnamed the creator of Wonder Woman. It was William Moulton Marston, not his pseudonym Charles Moulton.