Weekly Wire
NewCityNet Men On Women

By Shelly Ridenour

FEBRUARY 28, 2000: 

Chick for a Day edited by Fiona Giles, (Simon & Schuster), $18, 256 pages

For all the talk of breasts and vaginas (and, make no mistake, there is a proliferation of talk about the latter), the thing that rings most universal and true in the anthology "Chick For a Day: What Would You Do if You Were One?" concerns yet another part of the body.

"On the street... [men] say, 'Just give me a smile.' When I don't smile -- because a false, silly smile is called a simper and I don't want to give a simper -- I am immediately called an asshole," Brian Bouldrey imagines in "Monster." "Women friends say this is what they get from men who say, 'Hey, baby doll, give us a smile,' as if this were a harmless, unsexual request; they are infuriated when such a tiny gift is denied. 'I have gone from "Little Darling" to "Bitch" in ten seconds flat,' my friend Stephanie tells me."

Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. In that tiny little scenario, just one paragraph among 250 pages, Bouldrey has captured what it is like to be a chick for a day. Meanwhile, writers like Bernard Cohen, Bill Bozzone, Jeremy Reed and John Vanderslice pen pages so predictable as to be boring -- no doubt to either sex. Awkward homoerotica? The revelation that you would touch yourself? Big fat wow.

Editor Fiona Giles' conceit is cute, and potentially clever: As a follow-up to her successful collection "Dick for a Day," the feminist scholar asked male writers to "offer their imaginative, gender-bending spins on what it might be like to be a woman -- if only for twenty-four hours." And there are fun moments, like Kevin Down's "The Duke and the Duchess," a satirical stab at John Wayne's all-American masculinity (as in, what if the Duke gave it all up for a gingham home on the range -- and, playing on the idea of thinking with one's penis, a vagina on his head?). Novelist Rick Moody contributes a stream-of-consciousness between a man and a woman that transcends body-as-gender-definition. New York Press columnist/novelist Jonathan Ames, as always, pulls a squirming rabbit out of his hat with "Mangina," a twisted, hilarious tale of performance art and prosthetics. And when Justin Chin imagines being possessed by "Marianne Faithfull's Cunt," it is a truly funny exploration of pronouns.

Still, the book is too weighed down with, excuse the word, pap to be much more than an amusing exercise, when Giles no doubt intended it to be a thoughtful addition to feminist shelves.

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