Maggie Gallagher
Madonna has a new role model. No, it is not Donna Reed, in spite of the double ceremony (baptism, wedding) that took place in Scotland a few weeks ago. Madonna just loves preteen pop idol Britney Spears. "I love Britney," she gushed to Elle magazine like any starry-eyed fan. "I want to do nothing but support her and praise her. ... I became obsessed with wearing Britney T-shirts. I slept in them, as well. It was like I felt it would bring me luck."

The only other female I know who is likely to sleep with Britney close to her heart is my 8-year-old niece, Annelise. I gotta admit, though, that the older Madonna gets, the more she grows on me. What other aging blond sex goddess would gush about her successor? But Madonna brushes off the chance to envy all those younger and blonder than herself: "Oh, they'll get old and wrinkled and die, too," she laughs.

If I had to judge, I'd certainly agree Britney is an improvement on the old Madonna model of sex goddesshood. A sex goddess should not simulate masturbation on stage, appear stark naked on highways, or troll the streets of New York looking for one-night stands. She shouldn't have to. Madonna was a parody of sex goddesshood, all cynical irony and adolescent rebellion. Britney, who combines public avowals of virginity with spangly erotic costuming, appears to understand that for a sex goddess, inspiring desire is quite enough. With that much promise, who needs to deliver?

That, I think, is the secret of her wild appeal to the young teen girl set, simultaneously oversexualized and underprotected, who see in her an icon of a glam female who doesn't have to put out to command attention. She did not, however, make the Jane magazine list for the Gutsiest Women of the Year. Who did, you ask?

Why, Paula Jones, of course. For standing up to the president and pursuing a sexual harassment claim? No, silly, for baring her breasts to the world in Penthouse. "Is it admirable that she flashed the nation? Depends who you ask. But is it gutsy? Absolutely," Jane says.

Jane magazine, you may be interested to know, is considered by Third Wave younger feminists to be the closest thing to a mainstream feminist magazine for young women now published. (I'm not making this up). Designer Betsey Johnson wins kudos for replacing reed-thin models with more voluptuous women.

Anna Nicole Smith made the Jane list, too. Her claim to guts and glory? Battling for a share of her deceased husband's estate and winning a $499 million settlement. That proves, in Jane's book, that "she's not just some easy chick." Yeah, she's some really rich easy chick. Listen up, girls: No sense gold-digging unless you strike gold.

Do I sense a pattern here?

But for some reason, actress Carnie Wilson, who stapled her stomach live on the Internet, gets no credit for guts. She earns a place on the Wimpiest Women of the Year list for wanting to have "a boob lift with possible implants." One real woman of accomplishment, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, gets dissed for telling young women at her alma mater not to get trapped into the victim mentality. Singer Lil' Kim is similarly dissed for "trying to look like the next Pamela Anderson."

Carnie, Katherine, Kim, let me give you a little advice, courtesy of Jane. Next year, ditch the Pamela Anderson schtick, try to look more like Anna Nicole Smith. Marry a 90-year-old billionaire. Pose nude for money. And be a role model for the next generation of feminists.


Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.