Who is an intern?
By Farzin Foroughi
August 27, 2002
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
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.