Operation Queen Esther

Paula Kamen

On the surface, at the dawn of the Bush administration’s Old World Order, things look pretty gloomy for feminists. Right-wing fundamentalist men in their fifties and sixties, some cast directly from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, have taken over all three branches of the federal government. A disquieting percentage have affiliations to an obscure fringe Southern university with the name Bob” in the title.

At the same time, generally unprepared to defend their sexual freedoms, young women lack a sense of women’s history, even for events as recent as the 60s and 70s. They think Roe v. Wade is the newest midseason replacement character on Walker, Texas Ranger, and that The Feminine Mystique is the latest fragrance from Estee Lauder. Through the 90s, many have come to define political rebellion strictly in personal terms, by watching Charlie’s Angels, reading Cosmo, defiantly wearing hotpants and stiletto heels, and writing memoirs about their affairs with their fathers – all acts with limited potential indeed to get rid of John Ashcroft. 

But thanks to my secret plan, there’s hope. 

Here is what we do: Send another voluptuous, crafty Jewish Generation Xer to seduce the president. Call it Operation Queen Esther, after the brave Jewess who saved her people in ancient times by getting cozy with the gentile king, a noble lesson I learned so many years ago as an impression- able tot in Hebrew school. It’s just fighting fire with fire, Bush with bush. 

Yes, what we feminists need is a juicy White House scandal – certainly one involving SEX. Not an anemic DUI or drug-taking scandal or the bombing of a helpless Third World nation, which, as we’ve seen, no one really cares about. A scandal involving sex is the only one guaranteed way to really make headlines and capture the fancy of the people with the real power: the twenty- and thirty-something male late-night comedy writers who fill the evening air waves and determine the country’s political agenda. After all, to them, nothing can guarantee more yuks and laffs than a Hoover – Jay Leno still makes hay out of the Lewinsky scandal to this day. 

This will be especially effective to bring down, and not just shame and embarrass, the current administration. After all, with the Republicans, it’s the rock to their scissors. The one major claim of superiority that Dubya holds over Clinton is moral righteousness” (read: no sex scandal). While Clinton never pretended to be a choirboy and admitted all along to have caused pain in my marriage,” the Republicans have gloated endlessly in the past several months about restoring dignity to the White House.” In other words, I’m hoping for a Speaker-Elect Bob Livingston redux. (But of course, we do risk facing the time-honored Republican defense strategy of saying it was a youthful indiscretion.” So far they haven’t used that for anyone past the age of 50, but they’ve come pretty close.) 

And, no matter what the gamble, think of the expense this will save already beleaguered feminist groups – who won’t have to do all those dreary mailings, collate all those photocopies, conduct all that tedious lobbying and hire all those extra temps. Our only challenge is finding the proper Jewish Gen Xer with a strategically face-slimming haircut. My first impulse is to make a Nader supporter do it, as an appropriate and long-overdue act of penance for getting us into this quagmire to begin with. 

But after much rumination and soul searching, I have decided to personally step forward. And what a sacrifice it is! The gals in the French Resistance had it easy with their amateurish missions of smuggling supplies across Nazi lines. But, for the good of womankind, I am willing to face even more harrowing dangers and stand up to the most scathing public ridicule. (And, not incidentally, watch my book’s sales ranking on Amazon blow through the roof!) 

But I can’t approach Dubya as myself. I need a guise to be properly welcomed into the White House. So, here’s the plan: I will pose as a fundamentalist Christian pro-abstinence activist, Tammy Faye Cherry. Bush will eagerly admit me to a private meeting because of my catchy new pilot campaign for chastity for unmarried women over 30

Our affair, not to be rushed, will start slowly and tenderly, with the exchange of whimsical gifts. I’ll get Dubya the director’s cut of the original Stepford Wives movie. He’ll share with me the secret three-part Skull and Bones handshake. Then, oh so gradually, my true fiery Semitic passion will eventually rise to the surface and win him over. I will lure him in for the kill by offering to do ALL of the things that Laura would find the most risquÈ and humiliating, such as talking dirty about the Dewey Decimal system. And of course, as a last resort, I’ll reveal my secret erotic trick, the Kennebunkport.

But I have to be very careful. I can’t bear to do this more than once. (I’m a hero, not a saint.) I have to make sure that, as I compromise his integrity, not to also compromise the integrity of his key DNA sample. So, I’ll take no chances, arriving at our long-anticipated meeting wearing a lab coat, hair net, eye goggles and rubber gloves, and carrying a full set of test tubes and Petri dishes. I’ll just cross my fingers and hope that he harbors a secret fantasy of doing it with a randy lab technician. 

And then, armed with only my own courage, sense of justice – and at least 3 full milligrams of Xanax – I will carry out my mission. 

After we get the lab results back, I’ll leak the news to the press and brave the political firestorm to follow – and, of course, the pressures of celebrity and dealing with the media. In the inevitable interview with Barbara Walters, I can see myself now lying prostrate before millions of TV viewers, confessing my deep remorse, sense of shame, long-lived insecurities and lingering self-hatred. And: Yes,” I’ll add, the lipstick shade is glace.’ That’s g-l-a-c-e. Glace.” 

So, young male comedy writers, get ready. Your jobs are about to get a whole lot easier. And the laughs will get stronger and stronger, until they peak at the targeted day of impeachment. And then, to be sure, my personal sacrifice – both so honorous and onerous – will pay off in saving generations of women to come, or at least those in the next four years.

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Paula Kamen is a Chicago-based freelance journalist and playwright and the author of Her Way: Young Women Remake the Sexual Revolution.
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