Disarming female stereotypes: How Wonder Woman conquers ideals of the cookie-cutter woman

A few years ago, I became convinced that being weird was better than being normal. As a tall, athletic girl with a stubborn mindset but introverted approach to social gatherings, I have always struggled with what being a woman and a feminist in today’s society currently looks like as opposed to what it can look like.

For example, in my journey as a woman, I’ve been told that my 6-foot stature intimidates most guys. Often, I can’t find jeans even in the women’s “long” section. I love watching  airplanes and it’s fair to say I can always geek out over Star Wars. I’d rather watch reruns of M.A.S.H. than go dress shopping and or get my nails done. Sometimes I wonder if I am just too strange compared to how women are typically defined by mainstream society.

I’m not saying I can’t have fun doing more “girly” activities (like getting a manicure). I can and I do. But I’m glad I grew up with a broad exposure of what it means to be female. I was involved in competitive swimming and collegiate rowing. I loved writing — and still do. I witnessed my other girlfriends diving into their own unique and exciting opportunities. These range from working on film sets in Los Angeles to HIV labs at UNC-Chapel Hill to working at a Christian college in the heart of Manhattan. My closest groups of friends and I are athletes, Christians, scientists, experts in sarcasm, writers, Star Trek quoters, and more. The point is, we all rock our own definition of being interesting people and, yes, interesting women.

After all, the same old stereotypes get so boring, right? Recently, I realized how hungry I was for a change in those stereotypes when I watched the Wonder Woman movie. Finally! A female superhero I could relate to. I had no idea how much one film could break my heart in a positive way. To witness Diana Prince embodying a strong, captivating woman who didn’t bend to a patriarchal society — frankly because she had never grown up in it —  was incredible. To know that she, in fact, saw no logic in a purely male-dominated society gave me hope.

I had no idea how much one film could break my heart in a positive way.

I have a lot of male movie idols I look up to, like Kirk and Spock, Hawkeye and BJ, etc., but Diana Prince is by far the strongest female film character I have ever encountered. The slow motion Amazon fight scenes animating the fierceness of their culture brought tears to my eyes. And the No Man’s Land scene made me wish I could be next to Diana, fighting with her, following her into battle.

One has to credit Patty Jenkins, the first female director for a superhero movie in more than a decade, and Chris Pine, who mastered the line of balancing his co-star role with great humor and character support. And, of course, Gal Gadot herself, the breakout female star of the summer.

The most lasting impression I have from this movie is Gal Godot’s unique personality. I had read about her background in the Israeli Defense Forces, serving as a combat trainer. This experience helped her win a role in The Fast & the Furious franchise. I found out after the film that she also won the Miss Israel 2004 pageant, and subsequently sabotaged her path to winning the Miss Universe 2004 as Miss Israel. She was even pregnant during filming for Wonder Woman and still brought Diana Prince to life with strength and athleticism!

Evolving Feminist Marketing

Take the new ad campaigns like Yoplait’s “#MomOn” commercials and Target’s “A New Kind of Strong” campaign for their C9 line. These are shattering female trends and exposing viewers to what it means to be a woman —any woman. If the true definitely of being a feminist means advocating for women’s rights based on a belief in the equality of rights for both men and women, then there also needs to be equality amongst women. Victoria’s Secret models are not the only ones who can take great photos in lingerie — Olympic female athletes with powerful bodies of all shapes and sizes can too. And, something I think the world forgets, we don’t have to negatively comment on either group or their intentions. We can celebrate the many definitions of what it means to be strong, beautiful, feminine, and womanly.

I am hopeful that marketing is slowly moving in the right direction by acknowledging different types and shapes of women, and that women will carry the responsibility to continue that movement forward. The best kind of change is the one that proceeds with positivity, knowledge and unity. It’s up to us as women to continue redefining our places in the world, just like Diana Prince does in Wonder Woman. To confidently represent who we are as women — in advertising and in our everyday life.

What thoughts do you have on the topic? I’d love to hear from you.

Ashley Cox Headshot

Ashley Cox is a SoCal-born and North Carolina-bred swimmer, writer, and Star Wars fan. Ashley works in graduate admissions for Elon University and coaches the women’s varsity swim team at Guilford College. Her long-term dreams are to write a hit one-hour TV drama and learn to fly!