Actress Gal Gadot stands in front of a Wonder Woman banner.

James Cameron was right: Wonder Woman is a step backwards

James Cameron did as white people so often do this week: he opened his mouth to share an unsolicited opinion when he could have as easily kept his mouth shut. In an interview with The Guardian on Thursday, the director called the first superhero movie directed by a woman and starring a female lead a “step backwards” for women. I agree – but for different reasons.

“All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided,” Cameron said about the film. “She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing! I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards.” Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins fired back on Twitter Thursday night, saying female characters don’t need to always be “hard, tough, and troubled to be strong.” Jenkins added: “There is no right or wrong kind of powerful woman [...and the film’s female audience] can surely choose and judge their own icons of progress.” Feminist twittersphere ripped into Cameron and gave Jenkins a standing ovation for her clapback.

Cameron wasn’t totally off-base in his comment: Wonder Woman — and lead actress Gal Gadot — are super sexualized; and the film’s success is undoubtedly tied to Gadot meeting gross beauty standards. There is a reason Jezebel asked this week if Gadot — but not a fat, disabled, or Muslim woman for example — could be cast as the next James Bond. But Cameron’s arrogance in thinking his opinion was relevant, reports of his own extremely controlling behavior around women, and the general lack of nuance in his comment makes him sound like a total buffoon. And I’m not mad about the internet going after buffoons.

What does piss me off though are the droves of feminists cheerleading Gadot in response. Women whose response to shitty old white dudes is to celebrate women who champion occupation and genocide. Women who think that experiencing sexism (or simply being a woman) is somehow sufficient for becoming an icon of progress. Jenkins assertion — that there is no right or wrong kind of powerful woman — is woefully oblivious and/or more likely, reveals a cruel disregard for the violence people of color experience at the hands of white women. There are certainly wrong ways to be a powerful woman; advocating for occupation, genocide, and colonialism, for example, fall squarely into that bucket. It is absurd to suggest otherwise.

And in case you missed it, Gadot, a former Israeli soldier and avid Zionist, ascribes to all of these wrong ways. In July 2014, during the Israeli assault on Gaza, Gadot praised the Israeli Defense Forces for “protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children.” Gadot’s willingness to spew this level of bullshit during one of the deadliest military assaults on Gaza is especially stunning: that summer, the IDF murdered at least 2,100 Palestinians (the youngest was four days old); wounded over 11,000 Palestinians (at least 1,000 of the over 3,300 children injured now live with a lifelong disability); and totally destroyed or severely damaged 18,000 homes, (leaving approximately 108,000 of Gaza’s 1.8 million Palestinians homeless). On at least seven different occasions, Gadot’s fellow colonists deliberately attacked UN schools sheltering displaced civilians, killing approximately 43 people. Gadot cheerleaded military assaults on hospitals, medical facilities, journalists, water, electric, and other civilian infrastructure. Jenkins’ “icon of progress” participated in and applauded another horrifying chapter in a long history of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

I could care less about what James Cameron thinks of Wonder Woman’s attractiveness. But I do care about self-proclaimed feminists throwing their weight time and time again behind women who stand for state violence. IDGAF if Wonder Woman was a blockbuster directed by a woman. If its lead actress champions genocide and opposes Palestinian liberation, Wonder Woman is a step backwards for all women.

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Mahroh Jahangiri is the former Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She cares about the ways in which American militarization, racism, and sexual violence impact communities of color transnationally. You can say hi to her at @mahrohj.

Mahroh Jahangiri is the former Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools.

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