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Jewish World Review Oct. 6, 2000/ 7 Tishrei, 5761

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

Feminism: A cup
that's half full? --
IT'S TRICKY being a good feminist these days. Just what is a good feminist, anyway?

That's what Dina, a visitor to the "Ms. Boards" on Ms. Magazine's Web site, wonders. I mean, for example, can you want breast implants and still be a feminist, or does even wanting them (not that Dina would ever actually get them) make you a patriarchal pawn?

Just so you know, I was perusing the Ms. Boards for insights into the feminist vote when I stumbled across this riveting discussion, which at least provides clues to why women are increasingly reluctant to declare themselves feminists.

Dina, a self-described "newbie," is a 22-year-old college student, majoring in Women's Studies en route to law school, and she just happens to like breasts. Specifically, she likes her own breasts, though she wishes they were a tad larger. "Nothing huge " she writes. "Just a C cup would be good."

But like any budding fem, Dina worries that such thinking is anti-feminist. After all, isn't feminine vanity really submission to men's aesthetic ideals? Isn't wanting larger breasts really caving into patriarchal expectations, not to mention our profit-driven culture, which everyone knows oppresses women?

"I realized how breast implants go against all my values and how I would be going against everything I preach and would be extremely hypocritical," Dina says. (Not that she would ever actually get them.)

"I wonder why being so feminist should make me feel so guilty about even thinking about breast implants."

Response to Dina's query would fill a DDD cup and illuminates the confusing world of feminist thought today. At a time when most of feminism's goals have been met -- absent the inequalities that defined women's lives before Dina was born -- feminism has become nearly as artificial as the saline balloons Dina is considering for her torso.

In some ways, Dina's crowd has it tougher than young women a generation ago. In my day, all girls wanted bigger breasts -- for all the wrong reasons -- and we knew it. Blame Hugh Hefner. We understood that having big breasts was a huge advantage in life because she-of-the-heaving-bosom always got the quarterback.

It was that simple. Most of the have-nots contented themselves with biographies of Clara Barton -- and of course the complete works of Harold Robbins -- and managed to reach middle age with minimum therapy.

Young women such as Dina, on the other hand, have been raised in a power-girl culture that rejects male-pleasing while simultaneously urging women to suck, stuff and stretch their bodies into buff shapes that rivet male attention. They know in their little feminist hearts that they should never do anything only to please men, but how do you know if your deeds are for yourself or if your "self" is just a product of patriarchal manipulation?

Colombe, another visitor to the Ms. Boards, tried to help: "If you want them [implants] for yourself and not to meet some ideal of what the human body should look like, aren't you being more true to yourself by getting them?"

In other words, Dina, it's not what you do that matters, it's why you do it. Dina swears there's nothing Freudian or Freidanian going on. She just likes breasts, if that's OK with everybody in the whole wide world, and she's only thinking about implants! Not that she'd ever actually get them.

Fine, Dina, but my money's on the implants. And, guys, listen up: Nobody notice. Got it?

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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