The Sexy Feminist Lingerie List

I’ve written before about how the right underthings can make a woman feel confident, sexy and invincible. But it’s also important for us to purchase our lingerie from the right places. A hot pink bra with black lace panties have a way of losing their feminist power if they’re acquired from a company that puts commercialism above all else—including, apparently, the common sense to not be blatantly racist in its campaigns.

feministlingerie-300x222Victoria’s Secret’s latest collection called Sexy Little Geisha was quickly pulled from its inventory after immediate, widespread backlash. And for good reason. The “cat woman” image of Asian women basically reduces them to sexual fetish objects (and, sadly, this stereotype is still quite prevalent in popular culture). Dear VS: Women don’t want to be angles, sexy school girls or wear bras with diamonds on them or thongs with chain metal g-strings. They just want underwear that works.

In our forthcoming book, Sexy Feminism, the editors of this website discuss in length the empowering nature of women’s clothing and lingerie. The next time you’re due for a new bra or want to spice up your sex life with a hot new underthing, shop consciously. Here are some brands that get our stamp of approval:

Betsey Johnson. She’s about the coolest lady in fashion,  period. Unapologetic for her sexy-ragamuffin style, BJ has become a fetish brand and a female businesswoman to admire. Her bras, quite simply, get the job done. With underwire that encases the whole breast (none of that tissue-stabbing demi-shaped nonsense), fabrics that conceal and protect, and adorable details, it’s clear these items are crafted as impeccably as Betsey Johnson couture.

Stella McCartney. She’s the daughter of music royalty but has become an empire of her own. Stella founded her brand on principles that protect the earth, and all of its inhabitants—from animals to garment workers. These ideals extend to her swoon-worthy lingerie collection.

Prada. Yup, that Prada. Founder Miuccia Prada is perhaps the biggest name in fashion, and a 60s-era feminist who talks about the issues. She said recently, “I always say sexy dressing is fantastic if it’s a choice … If you want to go out naked, I like it. But if you do it because you want to get a rich husband, no, I hate it.” Her lingerie collections mirror the brand’s understated elegance and perfect tailoring. Shopping this brand is, of course, for those with some change to spare, but if you’re a fierce fashionista who’s going to spend it anyway, do it here.

Bella Materna. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers need sexy underwear too, and this U.S.-manufactured brand delivers on style and comfort. With details such as layers of sculpted lace, seamless cups and support without underwire, non-mommies will want these bras too.

Gillian O’Malley. Totally cute. Totally wearable. Totally cheap. If you like to hoard lingerie—or at least coordinate it with every outfit—this Target brand’s $5 underwear and $14 bras foster gluttonous consumption. Any time you shop at Target, proceeds from sales help fund public schools, a feminist cause that needs us all.

What are some of your favorite feminist lingerie brands?

Feminism and Halloween: Think Beyond Sexy Nurse

sexyhalloween-148x300Tis the season for an endless array of girls and women dressing up as “slutty” or “sexy” versions of animals, cartoon characters, historical characters, monsters or domestic staff. Yes, it’s Halloween. As if the spike in reported crimes weren’t enough to spook us, the way in which the holiday has become about exploiting women has us wishing for the good, old days of pillowcases cut up as makeshift ghosts. Various blogs are reporting the top costumes this year as Sexy Neytiri (blue gal from “Avatar”), Sexy Batgirl and Sexy Gangster. What’s remarkable about this is that the regular, non-sluttified versions of these characters are pretty empowering. Neytiri led a revolution to save her species; Batgirl broke through the super hero glass ceiling, and female gangsters… well, ok, maybe not that one, but a nice period-specific 1920s character from “Boardwalk Empire” would be both on-trend and appropriately covered-up.

Little girls have it worse: They want nothing more than to dress up as Lady Gaga, a princess or a fairy–and by the looks of selections at and my local costume shop, the skirts of fairies and princesses have been getting shorter and shorter. Plus, how long are we going to encourage our girls to aspire to be nothing more than uber-glam damsels in distress while boys get to be firefighters, astronauts and super heroes?

Our Halloween Feminist Action Plan:

Parents: Don’t let your little girls go outside half-naked. It’s exploitative–and it’s cold! Of course there’s nothing wrong with a little girl wanting to be a girlie princess for Halloween, but put some leggings on her under that sheer tulle skirt. And skip the Jon Benet makeup. Wouldn’t it be better to teach her that princesses are naturally beautiful just as they are?

Adult Women: You. Are. Not. A. Teenager. Anymore. So stop dressing like you’re rebelling against your totally-lame parents. Show the world you read more than US Weekly and dress up as a creative creature, newsmaker or feminist icon. Get some inspiration from Take Back Halloween, an awesome site that offers feminist alternatives to Slutty Cow or Sexy Shark Attack Victim. And you’re getting a history refresher to boot!

Happy trick-or-treating!


Jailhouse Makeover

Some people find the joy of Jesus in jail, others, the beneficence of Allah. For me it was the miracle of eyebrow-waxing. And just as religion changes lives, so too does a nicely shaped arch—opens up the whole face!

When I entered jail for the first time I did so as a free woman. As a social worker in a large, urban jail, I could come and go as I pleased. I could look however I wanted. So why was I a walking mug shot of eyebrow?

I think of it as my “before” picture.

Picture this: a woman to whom a razor had not extended its teasing touch in years. A woman who had never plucked, refusing on principle. The whole idea of paying so much attention to every detail of one’s appearance smacked of The Man’s agenda to keep women down. Force us to spend all of our time on dieting and nail polish and how our butts look in jeans and we will pay less attention to everything else. A brilliant scheme.


When He’s the One with the ‘Headache’

On my third date with Alexander, after he stripped me down to my underwear, I reached for the metal button on his jeans. Hard and out of breath, he blurted, “I don’t want to have sex.” My hand froze at his waist. “I mean, I don’t want to have sex yet,” he clarified.

I felt relieved. I, too, didn’t want to move too fast. After a series of meaningless sexual experiences, I wanted more. Four, five, maybe six dates, I reasoned, then sex.

So when Alexander said we should wait, I thought perfect. A 26-year-old man who wanted more than just sex? I had hit the dating jackpot. Alexander and I continued to see each other and continued to not have sex. We bathed together and spent the night in each other’s beds. Still, no sex.

As the weeks wore on, however, what had at first seemed sweet began to feel tired. One night, after Alexander came and I didn’t, he asked if I was “feeling satisfied.” I said no.

“It’d be nice if we could have sex,” I said. Not wanting to sound like a pressuring teenage boy from a health-class video, I added, “But I guess I understand why we’re waiting.” I didn’t, though. Not really. Alexander had explained to me that after his last relationship—“a waste of a year”—he wanted to be “serious” about someone before he slept with her. What wasn’t clear was why sex meant serious.

In spite of what popular culture would have us believe, could there exist a large population of men that wants meaning with a side of sex, as opposed to the other way around? Is a no-sex policy a growing trend among younger men? Just as we women become increasingly comfortable with meaningless sex, just as we’re unleashing our sexual desires and exhibiting power both inside and outside of the bedroom, men, it seems, are saying no. But why? And more importantly, how are we—women raised to believe any straight man worth his masculinity should want sex anytime, always—supposed to deal with that?


Why Interracial Love Is Still Hard

The miscegenation of our society may seem to be growing at a steady rate based on how often we’ve been talking about race lately. But let’s not kid ourselves. Interracial relationships represent approximately seven percent of couples in the country, which is incredible progress considering they represented just .07 percent in 1960. But for our ever-diversifying nation, these are alarmingly low figures. For the most part, everyone is stillsticking to their “own kind.” Is this intentional segregation or just cultural tradition? Could be both. But one thing remains certain: Every interracial couple entering into a serious relationship knows what struggles lie ahead. Maybe that’s why 93 percent would just rather avoid them.

I can’t say I blame them. I’m white, and I lead a very happy life with my black husband. Our familieslove us and our friends are accepting. Of course it helps that we live in Los Angeles, a big city that’s had a longer time to get used to multiculturalism and interracial couples than most. Still, we experience little daily reminders of just how far we have yet to go to reach complete acceptance in this country—a raised eyebrow here, a snarky comment there, just enough to remind us that we’restill discriminated against. And we’ve got it easy compared to most: Had we been born at different times and in different states, we’d never have had a chance.