Well, let's hope this isn't too mean...
Recently, a non-profit group calling itself The Wonder Girls Society began publicizing itself on the internet and through some upcoming events here in NYC. After a cursory look at their website, we happened upon an "images" directory and learned a little bit more about them than we intended to. But more on that later in the post. For now, let's see how the WSG describes itself.
From its My Space profile:
The Wonder Girls Society is an exclusive, members-only network for goal-driven, ambitious young women who want to accomplish all their goals in life. We are a non-profit organization that believe all life goals are equally important, whether it is involves your personal or professional life, career or leisure, work or play, as long as it is positive, memorable and brings a sense of contentment. The Wonder Girls Society provide services, programs, tools other available resources, to assist, stimulate, challenge and inspire our members in accomplishing all of their goals.
Sounds pretty good so far, right? Maybe you're not wild about the "exclusive" part, but other than that it kind of sounds like a Bust magazine readers circle. Let's see what their official website says:
We are a group of young, beautiful, confident and multi-talented girls with many ambitions in life!
Not your ordinary 'girl-next-door' type, we strive to become more than that!
But don't blame us for being so driven, we refuse to live a "normal" life. We want to be the girls
that can say "been there, done that" to every lawful -- and some unlawful (without having to
break our morals and values) -- experiences you can possibly think of because we believe that
challenging ourselves physically, mentally, psychologically and socially is not only good for the
health, it's also good for the soul! [source]
Ok, the "beautiful" thing is a little off-putting and ambiguous, and the "morals and values" part seems a little faux-prissy. But let's see what else they say...
OUR PROGRAMS & SERVICES. [...] Women empowerment - Women in general have come a long way, however, gender discrimination and sexism still exist. We are about advocating woman’s rights and creating or supporting policies for women. We promote empowerment by providing inspirational tools and classes that strengthen and educate women to stand up for their rights. [source]
Terrific! But what's the connection between empowerment and the "beauty" you mentioned before?
By definition, a Wonder Girl is a young woman abundant in beauty, style, poise, confidence,
ambition, and intelligence; she is an almost-perfect, almost-flawless female that carries all
positive qualities; she is the girl with almost-superpower qualities. She is a Wonder Girl.
Hmm. I'm not sure if I measure up. How do I know if I'm right for the Wonder Girls? [Female readers may want to fasten their seatbelts of rage for this next part. -Ed.]
YOU ARE A WONDER GIRL IF…
…you are a girly-girl, maintaining your natural beauty and femininity through various “girly”
activities such as manicures and pedicures, waxing, haircuts and the works! You love to go
shopping and trying on new clothes--you luxuriate in designer shoes as they are your weakness!
Your favorite color is within the spectrum of red and purple, have at least a pair of pink pajamas,
and will only drink alcoholic beverages that look pretty and served in a martini glass. [source]
So let me get this straight. I have to be abundant in beauty and be "almost-flawless" just to get in? And I have to get waxed? How exactly is this empowering me again? You don't need to be Gloria Steinem to know that pretty much everytime the word "empowerment" is used in the same context as "beauty," you're not going to get empowered. You're going to get exploited.
And, of course, that's when we happened across this images directory on their website that somebody forgot to properly lock down. In it -- surprise! -- we discovered that these wonder girls who are all about "empowering" and "inspiring" women and smashing gender inequalities and sexism and so on are apparently making money by modeling with most of their clothes off for men's magazines.
So here you go: Introducing the members of the Wonder Girls Society who, don't forget, are here to empower all you ladies, without breaking their morals or values in the process...[Update (3/20): We received an anonymous email from someone identifying herself as a WGS member vaguely threatening legal action over these pictures. After a bit of back and forth, we received a courteous email from the WGS claiming copyright and asking us to remove the images hosted on our server. Since the main point of this post can be made even without the pictures, this seems fair enough, so we've complied with their request.]
There are a lot more pictures in the images directory on their site. Many of them are named like "michellejohnson.jpg" or whatever. Due to the amateur quality of those photos, we are assuming that those pictures were submitted by "applicants" and were being reviewed by the other members (or perhaps the only member) of the society. There was something kind of sad about seeing all those pictures and thinking about women sending them in, hoping to get "accepted" into this "exclusive" group of women. These same women could have just as easily gone down to the local community center or settlement house and volunteered. Why go through the rigamarole of getting "accepted"? We'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions on that one.
Wonder Girls, we appreciate some of what you're trying to do, but empowering women isn't the same thing as using your appearance to get what you want. All the emphasis on beauty on your website makes it sound like you believe otherwise. Also, why have an "exclusive" acceptance process at all? Why do you have to be a "girly-girl" to help other women? Why do you have to be a girly-girl to find fulfillment in life?