This Is What a Lady Looks Like

Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister arrives at her 80th birthday party, London, England, 10-13-05
This column was written by Charmaine Yoest.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has some gift suggestions for "holiday" shopping. The raspberry pink t-shirt particularly caught my eye: "This is What a Feminist Looks Like."

It comes in teen sizes, too, just right for a mom like me to give to her daughter. (There's even a nifty "unisex" black version of the t-shirt for boys. But wait, isn't that color-coding a little, well, sexist? Never mind.)

The t-shirt could be a companion gift to the"Girls' Book of Success" from the "feminist books for young readers" section. With one-click, I could get my shopping done for my children.

If, of course, I wanted them to look like . . .a feminist.

What does a feminist look like? A picture of a party dress is making the rounds this Christmas season: a classy frock made entirely of colored condoms. It's a wardrobe choice that helps a feminist express her "sex positivity" when she wants something a tad more dressy than her raspberry tee-shirt.

What does a feminist look like? The Oscar-winning actress, Geena Davis, provides a widely hailed vision of success for girls in her portrayal of the first female president in the ABC television series, Commander in Chief. The show is a thinly cloaked precursor to the Hillary '08 campaign.

In an early episode, the president hears a rumor that her teenaged daughter has slept with her boyfriend. The mother confronts the daughter, but quickly reassures her: "It's okay, honey, I wasn't a virgin when I got married. . . "

Message: Strong, successful girls/women reject traditional mores and conventions on the way to storming the gates of power and success.

It's a sad irony that a movement that was supposed to elevate the position of women in society so frequently devolves into vulgarity and an obsession with indiscriminate sexual access and experimentation. Being a feminist in this century has required signing on to the project of defining-down feminine virtue.

But there is an alternative vision: Women used to pride themselves in being ladies. The concept involved a whole lot more than just avoiding white shoes after Labor Day and sitting with your knees together.