Commentary: Wonder Woman and Alice Waters are perfectly fine role models for boys

Commentary: Wonder Woman and Alice Waters are perfectly fine role models for boys

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. (Clay Enos/Warner Bros./TNS)

Wonder Woman made a comeback in the past few years - not only the movie, but the icon, the archetype. The world needs Diana Prince more than ever.

Most recently she was featured in the viral Halloween PSA "My Heroes." We see two siblings - one male, one female. They carve pumpkins. Their parents hand them superhero costumes. They're seen from behind trick-or-treating. The end reveals that the boy was dressed as Wonder Woman and the girl as Batman.

The PSA, co-written by Alexander Day and Brian Carufe and directed by Almog Avidan Antonir, is about acceptance, but it may also speak to role models and gender norms as much as gender identity issues. Ten years ago my son Joe was in fourth grade. At the public school he attended in Santa Monica, Calif., the students were given an assignment to become famous Californians. Their task was to research that person's life, come to school dressed as them and do a presentation. Joe chose Alice Waters.

The following year his teacher called me. Unrelated to the issue that prompted the communication, she said that his record indicated that he's transgender. This news wouldn't have fazed me, but since my son had never expressed gender identity issues, I was flummoxed.

When I inquired she said, "He loves musical theater, most of his friends are girls and there was the 'Alice Waters incident.'" I hadn't realized it was an incident. Given options like Richard Nixon and the fact that Joe loves cooking, his choice seemed obvious. Why can't our role models and heroes be anyone worthy of admiration, whether we share their identity or not?

Why wouldn't the boy in the PSA pick Wonder Woman? If he wants to grow up and be Diana, great, but if he wants to grow up to be a cis male who embodies some of her superpowers like extraordinary humanity and compassion, that'd be respectable too.

Wonder Woman was born in the mind of American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston, who also invented the polygraph. It was World War II and Marston wanted to create a figure who could triumph, not with fists or firepower, but with love. His wife, Elizabeth, and their life partner Olive Byrne - the three were in a committed polyamorous relationship - suggested the figure be female. Not only would she possess extraordinary physical strength, but her strength would come from empathy for humans and animals alike. It would come from honesty even if it took the lasso of truth to eek it out. And unlike the damsels in distress we'd seen before in comics who required male superheroes to free them she'd have the ability to free herself from bondage.

It's no wonder then that Wonder Woman's image graced the cover of the second issue of Ms. magazine in 1972. It was time for women to free themselves. No one else could do it for us. But as someone who's both fierce and nurturing, Diana is a role model for any person. Period.

My son Joe grew up to be a cis straight male. It's not something to be celebrated or frowned upon - just his particular truth. He met Alice Waters at her restaurant, Chez Panisse. She later hand-wrote him a letter saying she'd give him a job someday. He was delighted, but he's pursuing a BFA in musical theater. And many of his closest friends are still female.

Today when our children look to the world and its leaders, who and what will influence them? Will it be honesty or getting away with lies? Will it be firepower or will it be love? And will they learn to free themselves from whatever bondage society puts them in? I hope they won't stop looking until they find worthy role models, regardless of how those role models identify.



Michelle Fiordaliso is a freelance writer.

Visit the Chicago Tribune at


Get Breaking News delivered directly to you.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

On Nov. 1, presidential candidate and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced a proposal billed as a financing plan for "Medicare for All." Unfortunately, it does not even acknowledge, let alone finance, the costs of Medicare for All. There is an analytical consensus on the approximate costs of Medicare for All, to which my 2018 study for the Mercatus Center has contributed - as have studies ...

  • Updated

Republicans have been engaging in some interesting contortions in conjuring a defense for President Donald Trump's attempt to get Ukrainian officials to investigate the family of political rival Joe Biden. The most plausible approach is one Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey signed on to last month, saying that he is keeping an open mind but that even if Trump asked Ukraine for a favor, the offense ...

It's an all but foregone conclusion that the House of Representatives will impeach Donald Trump, and it is almost as certain that the Senate will not convict him. For those convinced of the president's venality, the latter prospect makes it imperative that the formal indictment in the House - the articles of impeachment - be detailed and all-encompassing. The articles' content, the exact way ...

The Fourth Amendment prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures." But the Supreme Court has interpreted that protection pretty loosely when it comes to traffic stops, for which the police need only "reasonable suspicion" that the law is or has been broken. (The same indulgent standard applies when police stop and frisk a pedestrian.) Last week the justices heard arguments in a case that ...

President Trump has offered multiple lines of defense against House Democrats' allegations that he appeared to abuse the power of his office in his dealings with Ukraine's new government. Some are situational and temporary, such as his argument that the process was illegitimate because it hadn't been authorized by a vote of the full House (which it now has been). But one that we are likely to ...

The mission of public libraries is to provide equitable access to information for all. So when something stands in the way of our core values, it is imperative for us to speak out. Macmillan Publishers has recently announced a new policy, beginning Nov. 1, that restricts public libraries from purchasing more than one e-book copy for the first eight weeks of a new release. This is regardless of ...

It's hard not to be reminded, on a daily basis, that racism in America is alive and well. One recent instance to make the news took place on Oct. 26 at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant near Chicago. A group of about 20 family members and friends, including several children, were approached by an employee who purportedly asked group member Justin Vahl, "What race are you?" When Vahl asked the ...

Katie Hill's farewell speech after less than a year as a member of Congress from California's 25th district was apologetic, to the people she said she let down, and it was defiant, to the people she said had set her up, who practiced the "gutter politics" of a "misogynistic culture," and who exploited and punished her with a double standard about sexual conduct whose male transgressors, she ...

There's a good reason that most political debates are so frustrating: They often present us with false choices. Take how some in the media reacted to the news that President Donald Trump wants another tax cut. Pointing to the growing budget deficit, they labeled the prospect of another cut as sheer folly. Concerns about the deficit are well-placed. But the answer isn't to abandon plans for Tax ...

In Washington, it is an article of faith that "the cover-up" is always worse than the crime. President Trump has upset that notion. Up to now, the conventional wisdom had a lot of empirical grounding: There is no evidence, for example, that President Nixon knew of the Watergate break-in in advance. He resigned from office because he covered up a "third-rate burglary" that he had no role in ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News