Wanted: Kinder, Gentler Women

Article excerpt

What do women want? Lipstick, Jockey underwear - the high-cut version - and a whole bunch of Wonderbras, according to Nancy Chistolini, one of the panelists at a recent Women of Washington luncheon who hazarded an answer to the rather provocative question.

Chistolini, vice president for fashion and public relations for Hecht's, reports that women purchased 600,000 tubes of lipstick and 167,000 pairs of Jockey underwear in 1995. And, in a five-month period alone in the same year, women spent $1 million for Wonderbras at Hecht stores. The symbolism of the purchases seems to suggest a certain schizophrenia. Women still want to be beautiful and sexy, at any cost. But make no mistake, we want to wield the same kind of power as men - which may explain our affinity for Jockey.

For the past two decades, women have become increasingly obsessed with being equal to men, or at the very least gaining the same rights and privileges as males. And so we have pushed our way onto road crews, into corporate board rooms, into male locker rooms, and onto baseball teams. And now comes word that we have gain unprecedented entry into bars, shooting galleys and overall substance-abuse addiction. Who would not call this progress - and in only 20 years.

A study released earlier this month by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found women and adolescent girls drink and use drugs as much as men. The study found that between the 1960s and 1970s the percentage of women who were drug addicts doubled; also 3.7 percent of women abuse prescription drugs while 3.9 percent of men do. If the center extended its work into the 1980s, it might find the information far more alarming. One of the center's statistics stared at me last week as I sat in the 701 Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, just across the street from the National Archives, having lunch with a journalist friend. As we eased into our shrimp and corn chowder, we noticed a young black girl standing outside the window looking into the faces of a white couple also having lunch at the restaurant. Except for her hair, the girl didn't appear terribly unkempt. Her hands and face pressed against the glass, as she begged for money. But what caught our attention was the little girl's mother, who sat on the concrete flower box just a few feet away. The woman was into a drug nod like nothing I had seen in a long time.

Restaurant personnel, after a few minutes, successfully shooed the little girl away as if she were a worrisome fly. Then, the maitre'd went outside with a bottle of windex and a squeegee to clean the glass where she had rested her face and hands. …