'Wonder Woman's Feminism Is Strong As Hell, But It's Not Intersectional

Ad failed to load

As both a woman and a longtime fan of superhero movies, the success of Wonder Woman at the box office has made me happier than I can express. But as a black woman and a longtime fan of superhero movies, the actual content of Wonder Woman depressed me. Racking up $200 million worldwide on its first weekend, Wonder Woman's status as a superhero film starring a woman and directed by a woman has made it a feminist victory in ways having nothing to do with the all-female island of Themyscira and the inclusion of lines like "Be careful in the world of men, Diana. They do not deserve you." But I'm sorry to say that Wonder Woman is just a white feminist victory — barely. For black feminists, it's exactly like every other superhero movie, just with a white female lead.

By my count, there were four lines spoken by black women in the entire two-and-a-half-hour runtime of Wonder Woman — and one of those lines was just the repetition of "Diana!" by her black caretaker. In fact, all of those lines were spoken by black Amazons who were, of course, subservient to Diana and her all-white ruling family. (And of course Diana's black sister Nubia, who in the comics was kidnapped and raised by Ares to later oppose her, was not put in the movie.) Once Diana leaves Themyscira, the very appearance of black women drops down to none. It was such a radical change that I found myself combing through the background of scenes as she walked through the streets of London with Steve Trevor, desperate to catch sight of even one black face, if not at least one black woman's face.

But even the crowds of Wonder Woman were overwhelmingly white.

Ad failed to load
Warner Bros. Pictures

Thus, the film quietly played into the same misconception that black people didn't exist in history; you know, that old excuse that the casts of period dramas are all-white because people of color apparently only existed in times of slavery or civil rights movements, and to have them anywhere else would be unrealistic. (For the record, not only were port cities like London filled with black immigrants during World War I, but black soldiers fought in the war — for Britain and Germany. Wonder Woman included some soldiers of color, which made the overwhelming whiteness of the civilian crowd scenes that much more unforgivable.)

Once I noticed the lack of people of color in this world of men, it was hard not to notice the other ways that Wonder Woman fell short of being a true feminist victory. After leaving her island, aside from a few short scenes with Steve Trevor's secretary Etta Candy, Diana spends little to no time in the company of other women. That means that the second half of the film gives as much screen time and focus to men — Steve, Chief, Sameer, Ludendorff, Ares — as it does to women. I wonder, if we counted the lines spoken by women versus men in Wonder Woman, would women win out by very much? Would women win at all?

Ad failed to load
Warner Bros. Pictures

Yes, having her surrounded by men did emphasize Diana's disinterest in gender stereotypes and social constructs, and it contrasts the values she'd been raised with against the values of the men around her. But the lack of other women fighting in their own way for the war effort — be that the women who dressed as men to serve in World War I or the female nurses that helped the injured and dying on the front lines — gave Diana's adventure a "not like other women" theme. As a character, Wonder Woman believes in nothing but supporting and lifting up other women, but when other women, especially other women of color, are eliminated from the majority of her first film, the movie loses the message that "Women can do everything men can, see?" and replaces it with "This white woman can do everything men can, see?"

And Wonder Woman failed the LGBTQ feminists as well. Sure, it was said from the start that the movie would not explore Diana's comics canon bisexuality, with actor Gal Gadot telling Yahoo in October 2016, "That’s an option — but we never experienced that." However, early into the film, Wonder Woman appears to reinforce the harmful "bury your gays" trope, which gives the LGBTQ community rare representation on-screen, only for the character in question to be killed off. The blink-and-you-miss-it moment happens when Diana's aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright), is killed in the battle against the German soldiers on the beach. In addition to Diana and her mother Hippolyta's reactions, the Amazon Menalippe screams out her own anguish and runs to Antiope's side — a move that loosely implied the two were lovers. Did I mention this implication came up only once Antiope was dying?

Ad failed to load
Warner Bros. Pictures

The most disappointing part of Wonder Woman was that it would have been so easy to film a movie that considered all of these intersectional issues and made the effort to avoid these criticisms. More extras of color could have been cast to show Diana a diverse world that reflected the diverse world of the Amazons. Diana could have happened across a female soldier-in-hiding who was inspired by her, or been shown to feel at home around the female nurses at the front lines because this is what she grew up with: women doing everything. Just imagine how much more amazing that No Man's Land scene would have been if Diana climbed out of the trenches with an army of human women, denied the right to fight until now, streaming out after her like the Amazons did on that beach.

There was even a moment that would have been a perfect way to work in Wonder Woman's bisexuality. When Diana and Steve Trevor kissed for the first time, it was clear from the way that she handled the kiss that she had done it before. We know she came from an all-female island. Why not throw in a line of either of them acknowledging her practical experience when it comes to kissing? Would such a line actually have detracted from that scene in any way?

Ad failed to load
Warner Bros. Pictures

Sadly, all of these opportunities were missed, and instead we got a movie that was as white and heteronormative as every other superhero movie we've seen. So yes, Wonder Woman is a great victory for women. Yes, it's a historic landmark that a superhero movie starring a woman and directed by a woman blew up at the box office the way we all knew films like this could. And yes, I hope that Wonder Woman opens the door for more women-led films with female directors at the helm.

But no, Wonder Woman wasn't a great victory for all women. And we're doing all women a disservice by pretending that it was.

Ad failed to load

Read More About Wonder Woman

Why Women Are Crying During 'Wonder Woman' Fight Scenes

Wonder Woman's Biggest Weakness Isn't What You'd Expect

Ad failed to load

'Wonder Woman' Reclaims The Iconic Costume To Make It A Symbol of Strength

'Wonder Woman' Is The Best DC Comics Movie In Years

'Wonder Woman's Steve Trevor Gets To Do More Than Other Love Interests

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In March, So You Can Plan Your Next Marathon Now

Even though the groundhog saw his shadow — forecasting six more weeks of winter — a nice spring thaw is already on everyone's minds. Fortunately, Netflix has things squared away for March. Whether you're ready to cozy up in front of a fire or get you…
By Sophy Ziss

11 Thoughts That Mean You’re Not As Happy With Your Partner As You Might Think

Even if your current dating situation seems to be going well — you're hanging out, having fun, having sex, etc. — it's still possible that you might not be happy with your partner, and thus not truly happy in your relationship. This can be a gut feel…
By Carolyn Steber

25 Book Recommendations From Your Favorite TV Characters

Although the two may seem like natural enemies, the truth is, television and reading are a match made in bibliophile heaven. Not only are some of the best shows based on or inspired by literature, but whenever you turn on the tube you can be sure to …
By Sadie Trombetta

It Took Heather Graham YEARS To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men.

They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam thro…
By Kelsea Stahler

Bustle's Editors On Rachel McAdams + Parkland Survivors

Happy Thursday, everyone! I don't know about you, but I feel like February has gone by so so fast (wasn't January, like, yesterday?). This year is hurrying along, and with so much happening every day it's hard to keep up all the time. But, I've got a…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

7 Signs Your Energy Is Closed Off To Love, According To A Psychic

Finding love requires more than just the actions of going on dates or setting up an online dating profile. It also requires opening yourself up to love and giving off the vibe that you're open. You may not even realize it if you're energetically bloc…
By Suzannah Weiss

Target Just Launched A Gorgeous New Home Brand — And Most Pieces Are Under $30

Design lovers rejoice! Everyone's favorite store for pretty much everything is about to make all your daring decorating dreams come true. Today, Target's corporate blog issued a press release that provides a peek into Target's new homeware line, Opal…
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

17 Brilliant Ways To Support Parkland Survivors Wherever You Are

Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are demanding Congress take action. A large group of students who survived the shooting are opposing politicians' "thoughts and prayers," arguing that inst…
By Sarah Beauchamp

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale