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Fulfilling expectations
Who is an intern?

By Farzin Foroughi
August 27, 2002
The Iranian

I received news that a friend had recently earned a rather dubious honor. One of her intelligent, well educated -- and incidentally very beautiful -- daughters had started work as an intern in the Vice President's office, and yes I do mean the same VP who works in that certain white house on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C.

As hyphenated Americans, and as people holding variously different political views, we could argue about whether or not this achievement is an honor, and how much so, but that question will remain the subject of another article.

For now let us go on about a close and personal examination of the word "intern". I caught myself smirking as soon as I heard about this young woman's new achievement and I realized how, as of late, the honorable part of being any kind of an intern has earned a funny question mark on its tail.

I imagined her roaming somewhere in Washington DC, an Iranian-American girl, armed with a sharp mind, a magna-cum-laud brand new college degree -- and being a Los Angeles transplant -- dressed to kill and armed with a large dose of healthy ambition.

Now let us think about this! What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word, "intern"? Monica, or maybe Chandra? Before you accuse me of mock raking -- as I hope some of you know what that means -- let me tell you how I struggled not to laugh at this tragic story.

Indeed while Chandra Levy's story is extremely tragic on a personal and public level, the "intern" connection of the story is froth of political comedy and scandal, and after all, how far is tragedy from comedy anyway? As far as a smile from a frown on any face!

Here is what I think this story is really about: Before Monica, many innocents thought an intern was a medical school graduate -- doing his or her field training -- right before becoming a full-fledged physician.

Maybe an intern was someone working in a news office as an apprentice, trying hard to learn the trade and all its intrinsic lessons as only possible through actual daily involvement with work. It was rather obscure to most that there were a number of young people -- admittedly young men as well as women -- working in political circles who were also referred to as interns.

But, Monica brought internship center stage and gave these jobs, and especially the "positions", a whole new meaning. Thanks to Monica and her old gal pal Linda Flip [name changed in fear of being sued], the word "intern" has gone under a complete transmutation. While the dictionary's definition of intern has not changed, the images now associated with the job are new and quite provocative.

These signature images include a famous blue dress, a nefarious spot, somewhat pretty, intelligent and educated girls -- or pretty and plump as the case may be--running around the capital city. Also coming to mind are before and after pictures of numerous plastic surgeries performed on all manners of newly notorious people -- like the Lindas and the Paulas--involved with the story.

No man or woman on this continent will ever look at, or smoke a cigar -- Cuban or not -- in quite the same way! A whole new profession can be erected around this new "internship". All because some [not all!] interns in DC take care of certain personal needs of the honorables, excellencies and maybe even a highness or two. But, here we must make a serious turn and not miss the forest for the trees.

This story, at its core, is about women's role at the work place in the male dominated centers of power and politics in this and many other societies. We can easily allow this serious subject be lost in the uproar of laughter, scandalous chatter of paid talking heads, or useless and sad lamentations of the general public.

Worthy of notice here is young ambition, running wild and going astray, fueled by intoxicating taste of rotten politics of powerful men, who swear -- falsely -- that they are not just a bunch of sexist horny SOBs.

The ladies of course render these services of their own free will, and most likely enjoy the proximity to power, no matter how sleazy it may be to work in such an arrangement. But, these girls, these women, only fulfill expectations of a society tacitly approving these arrangements with an agreeable wink and a nod.

We see Congressman Kondit crucified in the media for having loved a little too much and lied about it profusely and we watch the tragedy of a young woman's disappearance turn into a national sideshow on CNN and FOX News.

Historically ambition, power, politics and sex have been close and incestuous cousins. In search of first hand experience and training, and with hopes of penetrating the political arenas, these interns are getting it -- the experience that is -- in more than the strictly professional manner. They do this because no matter how educated and smart they may be, all their lives they have been taught that value lies in proximity to power and men they perceive as powerful.

What this is not about is sex and what it is about is power and its politics This is the latest item on a long list of what it truly meant for Western women especially, and women in general, to become free and liberated in the 20th century. It did not just mean that they would work as hard as their mothers at home and still be expected to bring home a paycheck.

It did not just mean that -- in their quest for equality -- their wages for doing the same work would somehow be "unequal" and less than any man doing the same work. It did not just mean that some would incessantly try and make a woman's life hell, if she dared to mistakenly think she owns and controls her own mind and body and could decide to keep or terminate a pregnancy on her own.

It also meant that women are supposed to continue to seek power by being close to someone powerful, usually a man. They would be free to be fondled and played with by dirty old politicians who prefer their subservient little women educated, smart, ambitious and very young. So if it is not the beloved Bill, it is randy Rudy, and if not him then a chubby disgusting wind bag named after a lizard called Newt.

Of course Larry -- while working hard to keep his seventh bride happy -- would interview every single one of these characters who will express deep regrets about their bad behavior and go on to behave even more badly. We have and will see more of this same bad movie and that is an unfortunate certainty.

Chandra Levy could be the girl next door, or even an intelligent Iranian-American daughter. But, I am sure she will be fine. Won't she? I hope she will know and remember how powerful she is.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment to Farzin Forooghi

By Farzin Foroughi

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