Wonder Woman is a traditionally feminist icon, teaching young women that they’re capable, courageous, and strong — but to lifelong Wonder Woman fan Jacki Zehner, the new “Wonder Woman” movie’s message is just as valuable to young men.
“(The movie is), in some ways, a more important film for boys and men than it is for women and girls,” Zehner said.
Zehner is a co-founder of Women Moving Millions, a philanthropic organization that donates to women’s programs, and a founder of Utah Wonder Women, a professional networking organization that brings "together successful women from all walks of life to connect with each other and inspire the next generation of leaders,” according to its website. She also said she’s been collecting any and all Wonder Woman paraphernalia for the last 20 years — everything from T-shirts, toothbrushes and scissors to the first issue of Ms. Magazine. And if all of that wasn't enough, in 2012, Zehner wrote a 70-page report on why Wonder Woman deserved her own movie. Seeing the U.S. premiere of the new feature film in Los Angeles with friend and entrepreneur Amy Rees Anderson last month was a long time coming.
However, amidst discussion of Wonder Woman — currently portrayed on the big screen by Gal Gadot — as a role model for girls, Zehner referenced the movie’s male lead, Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine), and said he teaches young men that being vulnerable is being strong.
“You want to be Steve Trevor as much as you want to be Wonder Woman,” Zehner said. “... (He’s this) strong, gorgeous, amazing male who shows vulnerability, who is in the presence of literally Wonder Woman, and holds his own space in the most respectable way, so it’s challenging gender norms on both sides.”
In addition, “... Most films that show sensitive guys, they’re portrayed as being weak or as being wimps This is not true for Steve Trevor’s character,” Zehner said. “He is a strong man with a strong woman, and shows vulnerability in a powerful way.”
“(Steve Trevor) was not at all intimidated or threatened by (Wonder Woman) being strong,” Anderson said. “... The reason he loved her was because she was strong and courageous and all of those things and I think that’s good for the young men because a lot of time the young men out there are taught ‘Oh, you’re supposed to be more capable than women.’ It’s not about who’s more capable.”
Anderson is also a lifelong Wonder Woman fan and avid memorabilia collector who connected with Zehner through their mutual love for Wonder Woman. Her collection began with her career nearly 20 years ago, when she began keeping a Wonder Woman doll on her desk to remind herself that she was capable of being an entrepreneur.
“I would step aside and in my mind kind of close my eyes and say ‘OK, you are Wonder Woman going into this meeting, and do this, just be her while you’re in there, and come out (and) be yourself again,’” Anderson said. “... I’d always have some Wonder Woman paraphernalia around because there’s always those moments that you’re like ‘Oh, am I capable of doing this?’ If I wasn’t, she was, so that’s what I would do.”
That message — of believing in one’s own capability — is not exclusive to either sex, Anderson said.
“(Wonder Woman) is just a strong woman, and it’s not her against anybody else,” Anderson said. “... We have different talents as men and women, but they’re equally important and we’re both equally capable.”
Ultimately, Zehner said, “Wonder Woman” is about standing for something and making a difference.
“She (stands) for truth, she (stands) for justice, she (stands) for doing the right thing always and she (stands) for love,” Zehner said. “I want to live in a world where every person knows (they) can be smart and strong and powerful and kind and all the things that Wonder Woman is.”