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March 8, 2006


The Wonder Girls Society exposed. Literally. +

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 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?

categories: Gender, NYC
posted by adm at 11:05 PM | #

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These are girls that have been mindfucked way too long and hard by girly-girl magazines. I'm an ex model (actually still working in the "old model" capacity in embarrassing jobs that pay for my art supplies, and more friggin waxings) and all that primping and waxing and shopping is a lot of WORK. (ie NOT something that makes me feel empowered.) It makes me feel BELEAGUERED and SUBMISSIVE, and what's m ore, makes me feel like I'd rather be doing something else with that time. Grooming myself like a volcano's bride every day just isn't my idea of empowering myself!

Unless I'm selling my body. Which, in a way, I am (to Calvin Klein, and other designers for patternmaker's use). But I doubt that's what these girls are doing. Sounds like they're trying to prove what great "catches" they'd be to some rich husband.

Again, not my idea of a Wondergirl. Sounds like the good ole fashioned domestic and legitimized whore (aka "trophy wife") to me.

The only reason I even addressed these silly women is because I've noticed there are way too many of then proliferating in this world. How is it that so many women believe what they read in magazines and see on TV? We'll end up with another generation of Maureen Dowds, writing about how they feel "duped" by the media on what it would be like to be a woman. Bo-ring!

Posted by: newyorkette at March 9, 2006 3:09 PM

The pictures just look like they are some kind of prostitutes/escorts or something. It's very strange that this form of empowerment is also supposed to be linked to stuff like community service. I would like to know how much they charge for membership, it could be a total racket.

Posted by: cushie at March 9, 2006 3:23 PM

If you read the feature article about Suicide Girls in a recent issue of Bust magazine, you'll see some things in common with the Wonder Girls. This looks like yet another example of an organization that pays lip-service to empowering women and giving them a voice to express themselves and use their personal power, while in reality using images of them in various states of undress to exploit them and, if all goes as planned, turn a profit. In fake feminist arenas like this, there's nothing that turns my stomach more than the illusion of power.

Posted by: Amy at March 9, 2006 3:40 PM

I wonder if you aren't jumping the gun a little of your analysis of the Wonder Girls based on your Analysis of the photos on the server.

It may very well be that the Wonder Girl who updates the website for WG's has a lot of her own photos stored on the FTP site not knowing how to create a new directory.

Are you sure there are no differences between the sleazier shots than the Wonder Girl Shots?

Are you sure that there are none that are not mainly personal?

I am reluctant to check because I have seen this sort of thing before with small groups where someone "exposes something on their server" that reveals something about the group, only to find that several different kind of things were mixed together in the same directory for the convenience of the webmaster who may or may not be a member of the group.

I did notice one thing. While the opening statements did seem quite snobby, I think that they were instead meant to be empowering and by the end they included tomboys and anyone willing to do social work. So perhaps all is not so rotten in the State of New York, et all as it seems.

On the other hand, I have been wrong before.

Happy St. Pat's!


Posted by: The Peter Files Blog of Comedy at March 17, 2006 6:12 AM

As an official Wonder Girl Member, I would like to take this opportunity to speak on behalf of the organization.

Firstly, let me dispense a few myths:

1. The members of the organization do not consist entirely of models. Less than 5% of the members are actual professional models. The members of the organization represent all women. We are mothers, daughters, students, executives, entrepreneurs, athletes, etc, who will not let society define who we are, or what we should be. We are about breaking the mold, which you see on the covers of magazines or popular society portraying. We represent young women, who are seeking a balanced lifestyle. If you fully go through the entire site, and not just read certain parts, you would understand the full force of what the organization is and is not.
2. As far as the pictures are concerned, those pictures were never posted on the website! EVER! Our board would never, ever, condone such a thing. We would not have received partnerships from AIDS Walk or Mentoring USA if we were a bunch of sluts, and whatever else you have called us. Why would they want to be affiliated with such a group?
3. Our organization is a backed by one of Americas prestigious organizations, including other professional women’s organizations. Our members are a group of diverse women. Peter was right on target with his comments, except for the snobby part. I suggest, that you take a good look, a thorough look through our website, what we are about, who we are, and what we represent. If not, met you at the top, because we won’t we stop!

Posted by: wondergirl at March 18, 2006 11:41 PM

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