NEW YORK -- In a week that has seen its cruder manifestations of Bush-hatred (see: any of the fire-setting antics of the local anarchist contingent) Wednesday's mass panty flash at Manhattan's Battery Park was, beyond dispute, the best dressing down of the president.
Sporting bright pink panties emblazoned with anti-Bush slogans, some 100 young women, most in their twenties and thirties, gathered for what was billed as an exercise in "exposing Bush." The underwear was key. Designed and marketed by Axis of Eve, a trio of self-described feminists and anti-war activists who believe so ardently in their cause that they are willing to strip to prove it, the panties are marked with messages that run from the racy ("Expose Bush" and "Drill Bush Not Oil") to the downright disconcerting ("My Cherry's for Kerry").
Exactly how does stripping to their skivvies prove their point? And, of no less import, what exactly is their point? The idea, as best I could glean from talking to some of the would-be flashers, the honorary "Eves," is to reveal the "cover-ups" of the Bush administration. The ladies didn't specify which cover-ups they had in mind, but they were quick to note that there would be no nudity.
This hardly seemed right. After all, how could the Eves' expect their disdain for the president to take off if they didn't, well, take off? Nonetheless, my view that a truly effective anti-Bush demonstration ought to be performed in a genuine Eve-suit failed to win any devotees. Indeed, one member of the Axis, a lithe dynamo with flower-child hair calling herself Angel Eve, suggested that perhaps I was missing the bigger picture: The Eves don't care for President Bush. "We want to get the 'man' out of the 'house,'" Ms. Angel explained with commendable patience. "That's why we're working our butts of."
Admittedly, Ms. Angel was less than convincing. Her insistence that the panty flash was in fact a "political action" struck me as standard-issue pseudo-feminist kookery. Being of the male persuasion, to borrow the feminist parlance, I nonetheless decided to stick around. So did many others. As the legion of Eves prepared for their big moment, shedding their shyness and their skirts, a young man, seeing me scribbling in my notepad, leaned over to convey his keen appreciation for the efforts underway. "This is frigging great," he confided. "I think we might get to see an a** shot."
And so we did. Within minutes the young ladies, now in military-issue combat boots and Axis-issue panties, were gyrating in place to a drumbeat. On their rears, some had slapped stickers that said "Bush." These, you see, were intended as commentaries on…well, one is not quite sure, but given the nature of the medium, one is not positively certain it matters.
Upon talking to the Eves, however, I discovered that some participants felt it should -- that the hoped-for seriousness of the expose-Bush cause would be covered up by the sexy spectacle. Denise Howard, a lovely New Yorker and a devout Bush hater, was one participant who saw it this way. "I know what you're saying," she said, as her boyfriend appreciatively scribbled a crossed-out Bush sign on her panty-clad derriere. "We actually had a group meeting about it. But we still decided that it was a good way to attract the media."
There was no denying that. The park was swarming with media types, though it was hard not to notice that they, like most of the onlookers, were overwhelmingly male. Photographers ran around snapping furiously, taking pictures at a rate surprising even for professional shutterbugs. Meanwhile, the Eves persisted with their partisan gyrations, chanting, "Which side are you on? Our panty lines our drawn."
Now I can't speak for everyone, but most spectators seemed to be on the side that provided the best view of the action. That included two members of the NYPD. Asked if he thought this a choice assignment, one officer did not hesitate. "Absolutely," he said, "I wouldn't miss it for the world."
Which left me wondering if perhaps the flash, while not without its aesthetic virtues, was not counterproductive. Like so many of the left-wing exhibitions staged in New York this week, it was thoroughly entertaining and utterly incoherent. Despite the Axis' claims that they are not merely "Girls Gone Wild," they seemed exactly that. Wild for Kerry, perhaps, but no more persuasive for all that.
Still, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that I spotted one young man who took something away from the experience. Displaying a noticeably tight tank top with the words "Weapons of Mass Seduction" across the chest, he was radiant: "For my girlfriend," he explained. "I got it extra small."