Stop Calling Paradise Island a Feminist Utopia

Wonder Woman's home of Paradise Island

Paradise Island first appeared with Wonder Woman in All Star Comics #8 in December of 1941. Since then, it has often been referred to as a “feminist utopia.”

Please stop doing this. Paradise Island is not a feminist utopia.

“Feminism” is a complex term that encompasses a collection of ideologies, but for our purposes, lets just start with the Merriam-Webster definition:

“the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”

Death to any man attempting to set foot on Paradise IslandThe key word here is equality.

There is no equality between the sexes on Paradise Island. Men are so disfranchised that they’re not even allowed to step foot on the island’s shores.

Wonder Woman’s creator, Dr. William Moulton Marston, used the character to express some very problematic views on gender. To Marston, women weren’t men’s equals, but their betters. He didn’t create Paradise Island to show that women can govern; he purposely created it to demonstrate his belief that they could inherently govern better.

Wonder Woman and Paradise Island from "DC: The New Frontier"

It may sound nice to some, but this is not a true feminist utopia. A true feminist utopia is built on equality rather than exclusion.

Queen Hippolyte on her throne with Wonder Woman

The Queen of the Amazons on her throne.

If a matriarchy is no more equal than a patriarchy, then a matriarchy with a monarch is especially problematic.

We began with a dictionary definition of feminism, but lets expand to a more intersectional definition. This approach advocates not only equality between the sexes, but between all disfranchised groups (i.e. an end to sexism, racism, classism, ableism, etc.).

Hopefully you can see how a hereditary monarchy has some inherent class issues.

Calling Paradise Island a feminist utopia doesn’t just annoy me; it does a disservice to the feminist movement, distorts the term, and misrepresents its goals.

So can we please all agree to stop calling Paradise Island a feminist utopia?

10 Responses to “Stop Calling Paradise Island a Feminist Utopia”


  1. 1 freeonus April 30, 2013 at 10:38 am

    I believe that Paradise Island idea was simply copied from “Herland”, a 1915 story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The story is of not just of a feminist utopia but also a communist utopia. We’ve seen the real life results of the latter and the former holds even less promise. But, thoughts of such utopias came to life again in 1941 as ideals of socialism and isolationism pushed against the US growing involvement in WWII as the arsenal for democracy.

  2. 3 The Salty Runback April 30, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I was a Sociology major in college and took a class that focused on utopias and dystopias (Brave New World, Utopia, both the original Star Trek and TNG). What you have to concede is utopia in and of itself can’t exist. Technically Paradise Island is a utopia but only for those within the utopia. It’s a paradox you can’t get around.

    I totally agree that the matriarchal society is just the opposite end of the gender spectrum and really doesn’t touch on anything all that deep or interesting.

    • 4 Daniel Amrhein May 9, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      Sounds like an interesting class. I think a fictional matriarchal society could be deep and interesting if it was handled well, but often their depictions are just kind of shallow.

  3. 5 Feliza C. May 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Fascinating concept. I’ve always thought of “feminist utopias” (as usually described by men) as being “female utopias” instead, places in which girls and women could feel safe from sexual assault and other dangers associated with coexistence with men in a male-dominated society (see http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/04/louis-ck-told-a-feminist-rape-joke.html).

    The thing is that describing a female utopia that way further divides us as a culture between men and women and encourages women to avoid men altogether instead of encouraging the very concept of feminism, which you pointed out is equality.

    • 6 Daniel Amrhein May 9, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      Thanks for sharing the link about Louis C.K. I like his stand-up but I wasn’t aware about his recent remarks about rape culture. I’m glad to hear he’s educating himself and taking it to heart.

  4. 7 slamadams May 3, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Calling Paradise Island a “female utopia” is more than just misrepresenting feminist goals but seems to be one outcome of many in the mis-marketing of feminism in the first place, from feminists, misogynists, and everyone in between. I’m sure there are a number of people who would have a hard time coming up with your definition (the correct one) as the definition of “feminism.”

    • 8 Daniel Amrhein May 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      I agree. I think many people wrongly believe that feminism and female empowerment are the same thing. There is absolutely an element of female empowerment in feminism (rightly so), but that’s not really a good representation of the movement. I think that this misunderstanding is why people think “strong female characters” are “empowering” (see http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=311) and that feminism is “the battle of the sexes.”

  5. 9 Michael Rudikoff August 7, 2013 at 3:20 am

    You’re Out Of Line.

    Yes Mr. Amrhein, I feel the need to put my foot down on where you smear. b/c I find your views over-analyzing and shockingly unfair. I’m not sure why you’re attacking William Moulton Marston or his departed family’s works like this if you are attacking them. Maybe you’re having a bad day or something, but I am dreary of hearing pundits mocking and ridiculing his work like this.The man’s life was taken away by cancer at a young age, was posthumously subjected to a black list by Congressional inquiry caused by an overzealous German child psychologist whose unethical witch-hunts lead to the CCA,, Nowadays hollywood, and modern fans who know no right, know no sense are smearing his legacy in vain, now I read this shocking article that has the nerve to tells us that WW’s Paradise Isle isn’t Feminist Utopia which is unnecessarily uncalled for.

    Mr. Amrhein, this doesn’t sound like the man whose previous articles are worth the proposition, and are reasonable. This article sounds like it was written by one of those cynical delinquents who has this tendency to jump on the Anti-Feminst bandwagon of the new millenium as a means to prep up one’s overbelated ego, or one of those shady misfits who are so obssessed with the dark, gritty, ultraviolent trend that are saturated in overrated Dystopian stories, that they’re too lazy to understand Utopian themes, so they get bashed.

    This isn’t like you Mr. Armhein, not from where I’m sitting. WW is suffering through frustrating times thanks to cynical/hypocritical fans & heartless corporations like DC/ WB who are killing her image. Mr. Marston’s memory is being ridiculed in vain as being ‘the bad guy’ just because his proto-feminist theories have been overexaggerated. Don’t you think it’s time to leave him & his 2 wives at peace?

    I don’t like doing this sort of thing Mr. Armhein, but I feel the need to put my foot down b/c I Will Not Stop Calling Paradise Island a Feminist Utopia, because It Is Feminist Utopia. It’s going too far.

    It’s time for someone to take a stand-up at these negative conventions and say ‘Stop Callling Wonder Woman a Warrior–She’s a Superheroine’, because no one is calling her as superheroine on a daily basis and I find that unsettling. If you want to call me out as an angry fanboy/girl who misses the boat, you’re welcome to do so. but I’ll never stop calling Paradise Isle a Feminist Utopia. WW is suffering & I’m gonna bring that icon back to the people with or without you or your side’s help.

    -Peace

    • 10 Daniel Amrhein August 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      Thanks for commenting. I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy this one as much as my previous posts.

      Sadly, I have no idea what parts of this article you disagree with since you failed to refute a single one of its points nor did you offer a single shred of evidence as to why you believe that Paradise Island is a feminist utopia. Instead, you offered sweeping assumptions about me and implied that I have an “overbelated ego” and an inability to comprehend utopian themes. Instead of attacking me (as you’ve claimed I’ve done to Marston), I would love it if you would reread my original post and tell me where exactly you think I got it wrong. Respectful dissenting opinions are always welcomed here.

      This article isn’t attacking Marston, feminism, or Wonder Woman. I really like Marston’s Wonder Woman comics but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Marston’s Wonder Woman comics contain fat shamming (“Wonder Woman #1), numerous racist caricatures (“Sensation Comics #8,” “Sensation Comics #10,” and “Wonder Woman #1” to name a few), and even unaddressed domestic abuse against a woman (“Sensation Comics #9”). But offering criticism isn’t the same as being cynical or dismissing a work as lacking value. As Anita Sarkeesian put it, “it’s both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy a piece of media while also being critical of its more pernicious aspects.”

      I’d also like to point out that I never said Paradise Island is inherently immoral or that it diminishes Wonder Woman’s role as a feminist icon. To borrow from what another reader stated above, Paradise Island is a “female utopia” but that doesn’t necessarily make it a femINIST utopia.


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