December 22, 2005,
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.
What does a lady look like?
One example comes from a woman a lady who did achieve extraordinary success and political power: Lady Margaret Thatcher, the only female prime minister of Great Britain. But in her ascent to power, Mrs. Thatcher did not abandon the principles of femininity that have served women well for centuries.
Contrary to feminist derision, the ideal of the Lady is not a milquetoast pushover. Quite the contrary.
At one juncture in her leadership, Lady Thatcher faced intense political pressure to change course, both from opponents but also from within her own party. Showing no fear or fumbling, in a famous speech she resolutely replied: "You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning."
She was guided by an unshifting inner core of conviction and principle. That made her indomitable.
The feminists have made it an explicit objective to see a (liberal) woman become president, to make the Geena Davis vision a reality.
But we don't need a mere woman president; what we need is a Lady President.
To that end, "Happy Holidays" headlines are instructive. We need to remember that in addition to its religious significance, the Christmas story is also cultural history.
The arrival of the baby Jesus "wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" is the culmination of the Christmas story. That moment of incarnation is, as we say, the reason for the season. But that celebratory moment of Emmanuel's arrival is preceded by a drama in which Jesus is not the central figure.
Remember that the Christmas narrative revolves around one central earthly actor: the figure of a young girl, Mary.
The story of Christmas is a tale of a girl who was willing to follow God, to say "Thy Will Be Done," wherever that might lead, whether it meant shame and the loss of honor, love, and a future, whether it meant embarking on a perilous journey, riding a donkey through the night in the throes of labor pains, and eventually delivering that baby in the midst of the dank and dark of a stable.
When I was a girl, my imagination was fired by that image, by that model of courage, dignity, strength, and virtue. The amazing faith that enabled Mary to bow her head and heart, and say "Let it be done unto me as you have said" that led to the unimaginable honor of becoming pivotal in God's plan to become God-With-Us, the Prince of Peace.
That's what a lady looks like.