As part of my continuing effort to exploit
stereotypes in unusual ways, I would like to share with you the
story of how Ralph Nader helped me get in touch with my masculine
side. I’m not talking about rock music and comfortable shoes
— neither of which you’re likely to catch me without,
and both of which I make look hot, thank you — or any of the
other common-sense necessities too often associated exclusively
with the male of the species. No, I am referring to that
time-honored testosterone tickler, the fight, the scuffle, the
brawl.

Laura Wong

I used to think fighting was just for the quiet psychotics and
the loud lunkheads in life, the walking time-bombs and the
uberjocks. Over the past several years, my male friends and
acquaintances have been chipping steadily away at this illusion. If
the sweet, intelligent young gentlemen I have known are at all
typical, the desire to rumble has far more widespread appeal than I
thought. It is, as they say, simply a guy thing.

Here is what they’ve told me: Deep down, most guys have
“Fight Club” complexes. They dream of limping, eyes
blackened and noses broken, into smoky rooms filled with other
tough guys, shrugging and sniffling and saying “You shoulda
seen the other guy.” Or, at the very least, they want to be
certain they could kick someone’s ass if need be. I’m
sorry if this seems like too gross a generalization, but as I said,
I’m not setting out to shatter any stereotypes here. Not this
week.

Anyway, I like to think of myself as an empathetic person. I
feel your pain, and so on. But I just could not wrap my brain
around this one, couldn’t conceive of a situation in which I
would enjoy beating someone senseless. Maybe it’s because I
don’t like the sound of bones cracking. Maybe it’s
because I’m a girl. I did know plenty about the socially
normative female equivalent of brawling (calculated, malicious
psychological abuse), but physical violence just seemed
unnecessary. Repulsive, even. I wanted nothing to do with it.

Until last week, that is.

When Ralph Nader announced last Sunday that he was officially
running for president again, my imagination beamed me directly into
a dingy bar on a Saturday night after one drink too many.

Think about it: This year’s election has all the makings
of a great barroom brawl. There’s the guy with the legitimate
bone to pick (me, the voter), backed by the buff bodyguards John
(a.k.a. presidential candidates Kerry and Edwards, who will, if
there is a God, team up and run on a single ticket). There’s
the smirking braggart (Dastardly Dubya, whose ass they are all
preparing to kick), flanked by his faithful cronies — the
dishonest duo, Ashcroft and Cheney — who sneer
enthusiastically at the good guys and laugh too loudly at all of
the braggart’s jokes. Notice Ralph Nader is not part of this
fantasy. Yet. I’ll get to him in a minute.

So, here’s what was happening: Dubya was standing at the
bar, making crude and unreasonable demands of Lady Liberty (the
bartender), who was far too classy to punch him in the face or
torch his ten-gallon hat, either of which would have been perfectly
acceptable under the circumstances. Just as I was glancing over at
Kerry and Edwards and wondering if they were thinking what I was
thinking, poor, misguided Ralph came swinging down from the rafters
in a Superman costume. He had the right idea at heart, but he
looked ridiculous. And, frankly, scrawny.

He told us to stand aside, that he was here to save the day. He
told us to “relax,” that we could still kick the shit
out of Dubya in the name of Liberty if we were strong enough, and
who were we to deny Ralph a left hook or two?

The point is not that Ralph doesn’t deserve a fair shot at
Dubya. The point is, some people who might have jumped to our aid
in the event of an all-out brawl are going to be mesmerized by any
guy who would make an entrance like that (in tights, no less).
They’ll back him and not us, and with Lady Liberty’s
honor at stake, you’d think he’d see that.

Still bursting with my newfound bravado and sense of chivalry, I
just wanted to shake him and say, Ralph, you know we’ll
always be tight — I voted for you last time, you know that
— but for God’s sake, stay out of this. This
doesn’t involve you, man — it’s not your fight to
fight. We’ll take care of it. Just walk away.

Henretty can be reached at
“mailto:ahenrett@umich.edu”>ahenrett@umich.edu.

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