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THE CULT OF DIRTY LAUNDRY


Dreamed 1993/10/2 by Chris Wayan

THAT DAY

An article in Ms Magazine says "most male politicians still haven't got a clue why so many female voters care what their 'private' sex lives are like." As I read, I feel troubled, then angry. The writer simply ASSUMES that any male politician who's promiscuous or has an affair or gets divorced is a sexist! Hey, the personal is political, right?

Was it for presidential candidate Gary Hart? He was separated from his wife, both of them seeing others... a political show-marriage. But their private agreement didn't matter once the press got hold of their lives. That bad man cheats on his wife, violates his sacred marriage vows! He thinks women are disposable! What a pig! And therefore anti-women, despite a distinctly feminist voting record. His wife, of course, is a victim, not an equal partner in an unconventional marriage. HER boyfriends won't make her unelectable. Well, maybe to right-wing Christians, but NOT to the national press.

Where's the proof that promiscuous men (and men only) are sexist? Being horny may or may be a sign of recklessness, energy, insecurity, sensuality, former abuse... any number of things. But sexism? What an assumption!

If sexual craziness disqualifies leaders, then won't we get passionless, controlling, cold politicians? If we make public life a goldfish bowl, the only people who'll want to run for office will have no more inner life than a goldfish.

Won't us voters become voyeurs? Oops. Sorry. Too late.

THAT NIGHT

I'm in a huge house with four suites. A couple decide to get married; this sends shockwaves though the house; they're getting a shared apartment across town, he's giving up his room here, and she's moving her stuff into a small room, a refuge from their new place if she needs it.

We all shuffle round--but I end up stuck in my room still. I feel cheated--I wanted their suite. I got the last choice when we moved in, i.e. no choice. Basement room on the north side, with no sun. Been waiting for a better room so long. When I try to enter my room, other people's laundry baskets fill the halls, and doors are wedged shut. I have to walk my bike thru the obstacle course; finally I must lift the bike over my shoulder to pass.

I'd like to pick up their dirty laundry for them. Not to wash it, to shove it out the window. But I can't. I'm forbidden to. By the Constitution. You see, leaving out their dirty laundry is my housemates' RELIGION.

Yes. It's the Dirty Laundry Cult.

I know a Japanese couple, both in politics. She's cute and I'd like to date her--their relationship may be open. But I fear to find myself in the papers next morning. They're already the focus of a political controversy. He's against something she supports. Feminist magazines and organizations pry into his personal life and scorch him in the media--for his political stand, or his private life?

She's silent about it--torn? Or scared they'll turn to HER secret sex life!

I go to meet her in Palo Alto for lunch with three Japanese friends. I give them a ride, and we start talking about the scandal. One says "Of course, you support him, because you're a man, right?" His friend says "No, he will support the feminists because he's American and Americans do this." I'm bewildered. These are the only choices they see: you have to side with men or women in their philosophy. They're able to extend this almost feudal loyalty to the idea of loyalty TO an idea, like feminism, but no further. I must side with someone!

I trying to explain my real position: neutral about the policy question, angry about the media. "The stories on their private life hurt them BOTH you know. Now neither of them has any privacy." They find it hard to accept I can sympathize with both of them.

She's sitting in a corner of the cafe, face down, hoping not to be recognized. Dry tear-streaks on her cheeks. She says "Look at this cartoon they ran in Ms! They drew me on my knees sucking off this... PERSON..." We can't tell if it's male or female; in Japan, accusations of lesbianism mean more than here in California. It's captioned 'All For The Best Political Reasons.'

I hear her hurt through a feminist filter--as if she'd said "If my boyfriend hadn't done this, these women wouldn't be humiliating me." Which she neither said nor implied! I fail to realize at the time she's echoing my own feelings that the lack of privacy's to blame, not men or women.

I wake up just starting to wonder if I created this sex-negative solidarity in my head. Women's opinions of sex and privacy are as varied as men's--despite the new dogma of the Cult of Dirty Laundry.

MORNING NOTES

Dirty laundry.



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