(The following is a late-breaking phony news item.)
PASADENA, CA—Armed radical feminists have seized the Cal Tech bio-research facilities here, ostensibly in response to the claim by a team of biologists employed at the laboratory that humans exhibit differential gender behavior analogous to that of other primates. At least 15 people are believed held hostage.
"One of the hardest parts so far," says SWAT team Capt. Arnold Collins, "was getting them to issue their demands. At first they just sent out a note saying, 'If you really cared, you'd know why we're not happy.'" Capt. Collins says his team then made a tactical error common in hostage situations of this type. "Thinking they were just man-haters, we offered to send over a specially trained lesbian hostage negotiator, but the terrorists were insulted, saying what they really wanted was 'a sensitive male.'"
Capt. Collins decided to compromise. "We sent over Sgt. Palowski, who's gay. The terrorists said he'd be 'less threatening,' and quite frankly everybody involved felt a bit insulted one way or another by that comment." Sgt. Palowski eventually emerged with the following list of demands from the terrorists:
1. That the existence of gender-based personality differences be denied.
2. That the existence of such differences be acknowledged and attributed solely to patriarchal culture.
3. That the fact that men are different from women be acknowledged but not the fact that women are different from men.
4. That it be acknowledged that men and women have their differences, from which men could learn a great deal.
5. That it be acknowledged that observed gender-differences are real but in the proper context, e.g.: Women are "more in tune with the earth-mother spirit in all of us" rather than "less mechanically inclined."
6. That women be respected as individuals instead of just as members of a sex.
7. That individualism be recognized as an inherently patriarchal concept that suppresses the natural collectivism of womankind.
8. That the government recognize its duty to stay out of women's private lives and keep its hands off women's bodies.
9. That the government recognize its duty to improve women's private lives by making corporations pay through the nose for parental leave and by making them hire as if the number of skilled applicants from each gender were the same for every job (in order to keep up appearances and/or prepare people for the way things will be anyway upon the eradication of the patriarchy).
10. That men talk about their feelings and be willing to face the consequences.
Capt. Collins is pessimistic about a peaceful resolution to the conflict. "It may be hard to meet all these demands at the same time," he says. "I think we could pull off 2 and 9 at the same time, for instance, but not 1 and 4. It's touchy."
Dr. Marsha Nguyen, a scientist here lucky enough not to have been taken captive, says she is working on a model of the terrorists' demands that would make them seem noncontradictory. "It involves Boolean logic-cubes," explains Dr. Nguyen. "The demands look internally consistent from, say, a fifth-dimensional perspective."
Capt. Collins notes that one further difficulty in dealing with the terrorists is the fact that they reserve to themselves arbitrary and almost unlimited power to decide what they shall deem an injustice. "We convinced them to let in two of my men, Officers Smith and Agar, with food for the prisoners. The two of them were wired for sound, and when Agar made the mistake of saying he looked forward to getting off duty and attending a wet T-shirt contest, we were all certain he was a goner, but the terrorists let it pass.
"Just as the two officers were exiting the lab and we were all heaving sighs of relief out here, unfortunately, Officer Smith said he was looking forward to the new fall fashions, and they blew his kneecaps off, saying the wounds were merciful considering the thousands of years of oppression that inspired them. Unpredictable bunch."
One hopeful note in this tense situation is that the terrorists appear to be splitting into factions, adhering to different planks of the list of demands and fighting with each other over who is most loyal to the cause. Collins says this dissension in the ranks might make the terrorists more favorably inclined toward dialogue with outsiders. "Even if things don't work out well, though," says Collins, "I feel that this has been a valuable learning experience for all of us."
Todd Seavey is a writer in New York City.