Last month Maureen Dowd wrote this article in the NYT Magazine. Her basic argument is that the women's movement of the 1970s produced a lot of conformity among women--women thought, dressed, and acted alike--and that today women have returned to that conformity, only now trying to conform in different ways. For example, early feminists embraced sexual liberation but vehemently opposed the notion that women should be sex objects. Today, Maxim covers are what women conform to, the message is be a sex object.
Conformity is stifling (apart from conforming our hearts and minds to be more like Christ). When my female students care more about shopping, pop culture, and boys than they do the history of women's rights and how much our mothers and fathers struggled to create a more egalitarian society, it frustrates me to no end. But on the other hand, what I want to be sure I am teaching them is to honestly analyze themselves and how contemporary politics and social mores affect them. I don't want to teach them to conform to all feminist ideals any more than I want them to conform to magazine covers and MTV reality stars.
Hopefully the trends will change and women will tire of Paris Hilton's example (don't even try to argue that she's a feminist!). History does tend to repeat itself so we shall see. I'm waiting for the day when a Christ-loving, feminine, Gloria Steinam can grace the cover of our most popular publications.