Monday, January 09, 2006

Do We Look Awkward in the Light?

Yesterday, while flipping through the magic box, I caught two female political analysts on CNN discussing the possibility of a Condoleeza Rice/Hillary Clinton showdown in the 2008 election (their names aren't important because in my book political analysts, sportscasters and weatherpeople all rate very low when it comes to reliability.) This wasn't the first time I'd heard this bandied about and I was struck by the progress American women have made in the last century or so.
It's encouraging to know that people are letting go of outdated prejudices and moldy misconceptions about femininity. Many ultra-feminists would argue that there's still so much to be done, but frankly the mere discussion of a Hilary/Condi showdown is monumental and exhilirating. Take into account that one has maintained her dignity throughout repeated attacks from the right and then had to step out from the giant shadow cast by her devilishly charming albeit philandering husband, and that the other grew up in the racial powderkeg of Birmingham, Ala. during the 1960's and counted Denise McNair, one of the victims of the infamous Sixteenth-Street Baptist Church bombings, as a close friend. Add to that both women's remarkable accomplishments and intense drive and you have the makings of two candidates with spectacular qualifications and one very intriguing race. (Rice received her Master's Degree from Notre Dame at 20 and Clinton's ambition is so legendary that she actually takes heat for it from critics.)
That this view is shared by more than women and gay men is a testament to the leap forward this country's taken in the last 150 years. If you'd told Andrew Jackson that a woman was running against him in 1828 he'd have laughed in your face, pulled out his pistol and shot you where you stood. True, in the modern era countries elect women all the time, most notably India and Britain. But the two most obvious examples are also the most misleading. Indira Gandhi's election runs concurrent with India's maddening insistency on holding onto the past and a nationwide penchant for electoral nepotism. Indira Gandhi is, of course, Jawarhalal Nehru's daughter (India's first P.M. for those not in the know) and deceased former P.M. Rajiv Gandhi is Nehru's grandson, while Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv's widow, now a power player in Indian politics...was born to Stefano and Paola Maino in Orbassano, Italy. This all happens in the 58 short years of their independence. In some ways the days of the Raj never ended in India.
Margaret Thatcher's election as Prime Minister in Britain is captivating because of her visible lack of charm and warmth; Iron Lady is not a nickname you ever want to have as a woman...ever... no matter how badass you are. This election makes perfect sense though for a country whose history of female leadership is so rich that historians named their two most storied periods after the Queens who dominated them.
A female leader of the United States though? A nation with such a brief history? Ninety years ago women couldn't vote in this country. Sixty years ago the only woman at the office sat at the receptionists desk. And thirty years ago the only woman on network news was in front of a weather map. To say American women, in particular, have taken giant strides toward social equality in this country is no exaggeration.
As with every moment of social change though, some bad inevitably stoops out of the shadows to stand alongside the good. Religion, for all its noble intent, is used in the name of war incessantly. Saturday Night Live gave us Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy, but also Joe Piscopo and Rob Schneider. The sexual revolution encouraged people to be open about their sexuality and removed it from the realm of taboo; but this same revolution, I'm sure, is directly responsible for Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the ongoing decline of the American Male. I try not to shave for days on end, and I stopped putting things in my hair a few years ago; but when confronted with the Raspberry/Peach face exfoliant in a girl/friend's shower the other weekend, I knew I had to shave before I used it or else my sensitive, oily pores wouldn't receive maximum exfoliation. (The scent was divine; how sorbet tastes in your mouth, but with a lingering sweetness.)
Anyways, good/bad, Happy Days/Joanie Loves Chachi, and finally yesterday female presidency/Guys Gone Wild.
That's right, Guys Gone Wild, an all dude version of the wildly popular, highly demeaning drunken reality nude-fest Girls Gone Wild. For those who've never been up watching Comedy Central past 11:00, this is where somebody's absolutely wasted daughter is convinced by some sleazeball to take her clothes off and get in the shower, possibly with someone else's absolutely wasted daughter. Now imagine that, except in this case with somebody's son.
There's a strange congruence to these two subjects. A female president, for the most part stamps out any general talk of gender inequality. A woman becoming President, for al intents and purposes, shatters the glass ceiling. Officially women now do everything men do; the qualifier "can" finally thrown to the floor, like high heels for the patent leather dominatrix boots Ms. Rice sports when in Terminator mode. Female executives, doctors, race car drivers, the WNBA, Sofia Coppola, Condi in '08 (?)...and low budget soft-core pornography.
For years I ascribed to the theory that women are inherently "better" than men. Not by a lot now, I've met enough exceptions to the rule in my life to know it's not by a lot. But still, women are directly associated with too many exalted virtues to deny their current evolutionary superiority to men. Kind, nurturing, gentle. Plus they can actually have babies. If they ever find a way to produce sperm without an actual man present then I believe that our sex will have completely run out of uses. (They don't even need us to pretend like we're fixing things anymore. They just get on the internet and find a way to fix it themselves on Google.)
Men, on the other hand, are aggressive, insensitive, bad listeners. Men are responsible for war. Men go into the forest with guns and shoot at things for fun. Men drink beer, grab themselves and spit (sometimes against each other, in the ongoing evolution of the pissing contest, seeing whose saliva can cross the greatest distance.) And yes, it's mostly men who enjoy pornography and make into the billion dollar industry it is. Any man who tells you otherwise is a liar or a priest.
But Guys Gone Wild indicated that maybe women wanted in on the action as well. So I decided to do a little investigating myself. I called all 216 girls in my cell phone...I called all 19 girls in cell phone. They range in occupation: waitress, teacher, consultant, medical resident, student etc. and are all in the process of entering the legendary sexual peak of their late 20's early 30's. Seventeen of them said they found pornography demaning and/or disgusting. Two of my more, shall we say, sexually curious friends admitted to using it "for ideas" and nothing more. Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy would be proud to know that their art does more than inspire erections.
But to a T all of them found men with other men completely out of the question.
"That's disgusting." a girl/friend of mine said sharply over the phone.
"Because it's wrong?"
"Wrong how?"
"Like in Christian sense?" I asked.
"No!" She snapped, "Of course not! It's just that men are awkward."
"You mean like clumsy... or something?" I asked well...clumsily.
"No. You're awkwardly shaped. You're thingies look funny, cause they're just kind of out there."
I laughed, "Our thingies?"
"Shut up Krishna. Your.." she hesitated for a moment because in essence she was about to demean my entire gender for what was fast becoming its only real worth on this planet, "...penises. Your penises are weird to look at in the light. It's odd enough seeing Jason's when he comes out of the shower. The last thing I want to see is a bunch of them on TV."
Our conversation ended and I decided to take a shower. Not so much because I was dirty, but I felt dirty after hearing what she said. Looking at myself in the mirror, I realized she was right. I never really considered myself in an aesthetic sense, but men are awkward in the light and our thingies are just kind of there.
So why does it exist then, why take it as far as Guys Gone Wild? Not for women. And I would assume not for gay men because the drunk, obnoxious, fratboy meatheads so gloriously represented in these films usually aren't their type, penis or not. (I'm reminded of a friend who believed all gay men lusted after each other because, as he said, "there just aren't enough of them to be picky." Ironically, he moved to Miami three months later.)
No, Guys Gone Wild exists purely because it must. Social evolution dictates it. We came out of the swamps, climbed down from the trees, went into the cave, came out, built cities, fought wars, built empires, fought wars, found new worlds, all the while keeping women at bay; "It's for your protection," "It's not a women's place," all the excuses to keep women down had a hard time fitting in the door. Once humanity settled in though and civilization found a semblance of peace, evolution followed its course and now our protection, our government, counts a woman as its third highest ranking member. Everything else is bound to follow suit. Monday Night Football and Espn to Oprah and Lifetime. Clinton in '96! to Clinton in '08! And to the dismay of apparently everyone I know, Girls Gone Wild to Guys Gone Wild.

Because in the end, for every step forward we take, we're bound to get our feet stuck deeper in the mud. Freedom and empowerment don't apply only to the righteous, revolutionaries, and dreamers. In the wrong hands, freedom and empowerment lead to insult and exploitation. Whether it be the heavy-handed browbeating of FOX News that clubs you into submission and Pavlovian acceptance of radical right-wing anti-intellectualism; or the knuckle- dragging avarice of Joe Francis, founder of Mantra Entertainment and creator of the Girls/Guys Gone Wild franchise, men still find ways to plumb moral depths thought previously unfathomable. (*Moment of Bitter Irony* Francis was kidnapped recently by an associate, tied up, held at gunpoint and forced to lie facedown on a mattress and say "I'm from Boys Gone Wild, and I like it up the ass."...while being videotaped.)

I guess all of this could be a chicken/egg too, or egg/chicken...whatever. Humanity has a way of righting itself so a female president might be just the antidote to all this extremism. But just in case we're all wrong, I'll go ahead and vote for Nader.

Yeah right...