Wonder Woman: Bound by the Past
When you think of female superheroes, the first one who’s more than likely to come to mind is of course is Wonder Woman. Created by writers Elizabeth Holloway Marston and William Moulton Marston, and artist H.G. Peter, the Amazon princess has since been a symbol of gender equality and female empowerment throughout its 70-odd years of publication. But we’re not here to talk about that; we’re here to show you that it hasn’t always been the case that Diana of Themyscira was a shining beacon for women everywhere.
These days, you’ll be hard-pressed to think of anything that can slow down Wonder Woman as a superhero. Superman has Kryptonite, the Green Lantern Corps has – of all things – the color yellow, Batman has economic recessions, etc. But with Wonder Woman, you just have this equally inspiring and imposing female figure that can kick any form of villainy right in its dumb teeth. That wasn’t always been the norm, though. In the early days of the Themysciran princess, she did have a weakness; and it was one so ridiculously dumb and offensive in this day and age’s standards that it makes the Green Lantern corps’ susceptibility to the color yellow look like it was made by Hemmingway or Kerouac. We are of course referring to Marston’s concept named “Aphrodite’s Law”, which is explained by having Wonder Woman submit to her captor when her braces are bound or chained by a man. Nope, there’s no other way around this particularly sexist trope: female villains can’t employ this weakness against our heroine. Even worse, it’s not limited to her braces being linked by the opposite sex; more often than not, the golden age saw Wonder Woman going on adventures wherein villains, most of them male, submit her to various levels of bondage. To put it differently, it used to be that Diana had a weakness whenever some guy – you know what, let’s just straight up call them pervs – manages to tie her down in what most of the time looks like BDSM fetish knots.
We can’t chalk it up to the time, either, as Marston had made it common knowledge that Wonder Woman’s whole point of existence is to be a figure for women to rally behind in search of empowerment. To be completely fair, though, one of the writers (William) did state that the reason that that particular aspect of the heroine was put in place was to evoke the point that she overcomes it by herself in the end. Nonetheless, it is a ham-fisted metaphor. Remember that old nugget, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
But for all the mishaps, blunders, and flaws that Wonder Woman was embroiled in, we cannot doubt that she indeed has since become a legitimate symbol of women’s rights these days. And because of that, we can’t undermine the importance the Marstons and Peter in the history of comics. Even with the skimpy outfit (which doesn’t even fit the standards of lewdness these days), she’s one of those female characters that have become more than eye candy.