The Empowering Fatherlessness Of Wonder Woman

"I had no father. My mother sculpted me from clay and I was brought to life by Zeus."
Gal Gadot in "Wonder Woman."
Gal Gadot in "Wonder Woman."

For many women, Father’s Day is awkward at best and simply excruciating at worst. These are the same women who, as girls, shared friends’ dads at father-daughter dances in school, or who called in sick with a stomach ache instead of attending.

There are myriad reasons for a father’s absence in his daughter’s life: some actively choose not to participate in her upbringing while others are removed by active duty or incarceration; some pass away. 

But however a young woman has ended up without the presence of her father, enough has been shown in popular culture to make us feel ashamed of it, that somehow “daddy issues” are our fault. 

Barney Stinson on “How I Met Your Mother” turned the conquest of fucking us into something “legendary,” and a notoriously misogynistic website called Return of Kings even has a list of ways to recognize us (and then instructions on how to fuck us!). In fact, “Classic signs of daddy issues” wields more than 6 million results on Google search. On top the already-existing pain in being rendered “fatherless,” in some capacity, we’ve been rendered by society as dick-hungry, damaged, easy, and crazy. Even worse, this stereotype is so deep-seated that many of us actually internalize it, and fear our daddy issues have somehow made us unworthy of healthy relationships. 

And then came Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman.”

A lot has been said about the female-led blockbuster that, two weeks after its release, is still sitting comfortably at the top of the box office. It’s been called stunning and empowering and has also earned criticism, being dragged as white feminism in action

But for me and other girls who’ve had to fill the void left by absent fathers, Wonder Woman was a story of a girl without a dad who didn’t ever think she’d even need one ― and watching her save the world was awesome. 

First, there was the island of Themyscira, an all-woman warrior paradise, in which women are the protectors of all that is good in the world. The Amazons were strong yet loving, loyal yet tough. The Amazon trained to beat her fellow warrior’s ass in one second took a bullet for her in the next. What many critics and viewers have continually lauded is the presence of those powerful women and their strong bodies flaunted on screen, not for the “male gaze,” but for their sheer strength.

What I saw, though, was so much more. It wasn’t just the presence of the women that struck me, or their strength, but the absence of men entirely – the absence of fathers.

When Wonder Woman leaves her mother, Queen Hippolyta, and fellow Amazons behind to save the world with American soldier Steve Trevor, he asks her about her father. Her response was so stunning I might get it tattooed on my forehead.

“I had no father,” she tells him. “My mother sculpted me from clay and I was brought to life by Zeus.”

Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, a young girl raised in a world of women without a father. 

Robin Wright as Amazon warrior Antiope, Wonder Woman's aunt. 
Robin Wright as Amazon warrior Antiope, Wonder Woman's aunt. 

I know this feeling. I know the dance parties I had with my mother and grandmother, the adventures in grocery shopping, dressing room bickering, dessert-baking, hiking and playing that we all had. It’s sad that I needed a reminder that my upbringing was more than good enough, but I did.

And “Wonder Woman” gave it to me.

When I walked out of the “Wonder Woman” screening, I sent a text to my mother.

“I had no father,” I told her. “You sculpted me from clay, and Zeus brought me to life.”

She hadn’t seen the movie yet, but she responded immediately.

“Yes,” she said. “That’s exactly what happened.” 



Marvel's Diverse Superheroes and Heroines