Just Like Daisy Duke
By Cruelest Month
The summer I was seven I carried my red, yellow and blue one-piece swimsuit in my purse everywhere I went. Why? Well, as I explained to my friend Krista, “Daisy Duke does it. This way I am always prepared.”
My favorite television shows were Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman, and the Dukes of Hazzard. Just like Clark Kent wearing his Superman unitard and cape under his mild mannered reporter garb, my favorite television heroines also had power suits. Wonder Woman would spin around and be clothed in her power panties, bustier, red boots, and tiara. One of Charlie’s Angels would throw on a bikini and men would give up crucial crime solving clues. Bo and Luke Duke in a bind? No worries, here comes Cousin Daisy in her red bikini to distract Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane. To my seven-year-old mind, it was pretty awesome that I had access to a superpower. I just had to put on my swimsuit and men would do my bidding. Knowing that I was prepared to unleash “Swimsuit Super Power” was thrilling. I felt invincible that summer.
At 18-years-old I flirted frequently to feeble-girl my way out of breaking down the ice in the salad bar at my restaurant job (my work uniform was a can-can dress and fishnet stockings that in retrospect may have added to my influence). This experiment in enticing others through sexual allure left me feeling objectified. Especially when I found that my ice breaking male colleagues expected receptiveness to their romantic overtures in exchange for their assistance. I did not go on to habitually use flirtation or sexual attractiveness as a source of power. I gained experiences of wielding power and exerting influence through my involvement in civic and academic communities. My experimentation with being a flirty feeble-girl helped me determine that I preferred the feeling of influencing others through reason and collaboration.
Recently, I have been observing some young people close to me as they revel in the power of their external beauty. The young man is obsessed with his biceps and styling his hair. He slows down to look each time he passes a reflective surface. The young woman has an ample bosom and a rainbow collection of low cut strappy tank tops that she wears on cold and hot days alike. Sometimes she accidentally answers the door in her teeny tiny sleep shorts when a boy comes to visit. Both of my young friends delight in their power to attract and influence others through their looks. They like being sexual objects and become angry when I threaten their favorite source of power with talks of modesty and chastity.
I could scare them both with horror stories of sexual object victimization, but would prefer to offer them positive enticement to seek more uplifting and lasting sources of empowerment. I have collaborated with local priesthood leaders to engage the male youth in using his priesthood power to serve in our religious community, hoping he’ll find empowerment in increased responsibility at church. Local Young Women leadership is also aware of the challenges facing the female youth but have not been able to identify opportunities to engage her in greater responsibility.
I believe that the truest source of empowerment is knowing that my thoughts, actions, and deeds are in harmony with Heavenly Parents. As an adult, I am a member of many different groups and communities and experience varying degrees of influence and responsibilities within each of these communities. It saddens me to realize I have the least influence and responsibility in the community of the LDS church. In my work and civic life, I frequently feel that Heavenly Parents are giving me the thumbs up as I do important work using my unique skills and abilities. I am Wonder Woman, an Angel, or even helpful Daisy Duke solving problems and making the world better. No swimsuit required.
Rarely, I have had that same “super hero at work” feeling in the LDS community. As a 20-year-old Young Women’s leader in an Oakland Cambodian Branch, I have felt empowered as I helped inner city youth to volunteer in the community, gain an appreciation for the outdoors, and improve academic achievement. Later as an Ordinance Worker in the Los Angeles Temple, I also felt deep satisfaction and divine approval as I served other sisters by performing ordinances. In both of these callings, I felt the heft of the responsibility laid on me, and that heft added to my feeling of achievement and empowerment.
A dose of empowering responsibility is just what my young female friend needs. Is there an avenue to empowerment in the LDS community that might entice my young female friend to one day trade in strappy tank tops and booty shorts for temple covenants, garments, and hopefully more enduring power? She is happiest when the eyes of others are on her, but is too old to be the Reverence Child in primary in sacrament meeting, and too female to bless or pass the Sacrament. I’m in search of opportunities for her to feel super, without being a sexual object.
What makes a young person feel super? When did you first realize there was “Swimsuit Super Power?” If you used this power and then stopped, what enticed you to stop?