What Pamela Anderson Taught Me About Feminism And Being Myself

This story is an exclusive excerpt from Rachel Khona’s book, Are You There Krishna? It’s Me, Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever.
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Instagram / Pamela Anderson

“OMIGOD! You are not going to believe who my friend Zach is dating!” My friend Natasha was on the phone practically screaming into my ear.

“Err, should I care?”

“PAMELA ANDERSON!” she screamed.

“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” I screamed back. My palms suddenly started shaking and sweating like I just won the lottery or found out that my real parents were Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. (Prior to the divorce of course.) Zach was an actor, so it wasn’t that out of the ordinary that he would be dating her.

Since Zach was only in town for a few days, he invited Natasha out for a drink. In turn, Natasha invited me. I couldn’t wait to see to see for myself if Pam was actually was a secret genius when the cameras stopped rolling and no one was looking. It would like that episode of Family Guy when the dog Brian realizes that Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore are both actually Fred Savage in disguise. Would Pamela really be Steve Jobs?

I’ve always found Pamela Anderson to be a creature of strange fascination. No, it’s not because I am a lesbian or because I have a large plastic boob fetish, as much as my childhood Barbie collection might dictate otherwise. It’s not even because she was married to Tommy Lee, whom I still have an undying crush on despite his STD-wielding ways and copious use of the word “dude.” Rather I have always found her intriguing for her everlasting appeal to the masses. In a world where there are a bazillion gorgeous bottle-blonde big boob babes, what makes her so different? How is it that in the past twenty years, since that fateful day she appeared in that red swimsuit, she has become more famous, made more money, and lasted longer in the public eye than her peers? There’s plenty of other similar buxom blondes like Donna D’Erico or Gena Lee Nolin. All with cups that runneth over and hair blonder than an army of Swedes. So why Pamela? Was she in on some secret the other women hadn’t been privy to? Surely if I could harness this secret, it would be the answer to world domination. Or at least career success. If I could figure out what made her different, perhaps I could use that to set myself apart from the legions of other similar writers. I would get to the bottom of this.

Then one day I watched an episode of “VIP.” And I realized, she’s in on it. She’s in on the joke.

Her character on the show is seemingly a caricature of herself; an airhead blonde with a predilection for acrylic stripper heels, excessively tight spandex clothing, that somehow stumbled into the PI business. The show was pure genius. She had effectively harnessed people’s perceptions of her into a marketable persona that could now effectively be used to promote herself and of course make more money. It was marketing at its finest. She was subverting the male marketing machine and using it to her own advantage. I was positive the secret to any future career success lay in studying Pamela’s business acumen.

I never understood why some feminists (mostly the ones of the older generation), wrung their hands when it came to women’s nudity and men’s appreciation of it. Much has been written about the “male gaze” and feminism. The reality is men enjoy looking at naked bodies. If men’s desire to look at naked women was simply a sexist issue, then it wouldn’t affect gay men the way I see it. Gay men like checking out naked men because men are biologically wired differently. That is never going to change. A naked male body (Well it can, but it really depends on the context and the guy.) doesn’t turn me on so much as watching a guy do home repairs or open a beer bottle I am struggling with. To me, feminism is about being treated as an equal, making your own choices, and being judged as a whole. It has nothing to do with the male gaze. Just because I enjoy the attention doesn’t make me less of a feminist. Just because a man enjoys looking at a woman doesn’t make him a pervert. Men enjoy attention from women as much as women do from men. Because we’re sexual creatures by nature. If we spent less time trying to suppress our urges and more time recycling, sending thank you notes, or holding doors open this world would be a better place.

Sadly, not everyone thinks this way. I found this out the hard way when I was asked to pen an article for San Diego Magazine by its owner. By his own admission, he loved the piece. Until he saw a picture of me.

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“Hmm…I liked this a lot more before seeing the pics. The copy is so insightful and kind of empowering to women, but the pics convey a wholly different vibe.”

I had sent several photos over.

Including this one.
Including this one.

He could have chosen any number of photos. But he zeroed in on one that he thought was “too provocative” in his eyes. (My friend is a photographer and took a photo of me on the 4th of July wearing a red, white, and blue top. I thought it was cute. That was about all that went in to it.) The fact that he thought this photo of me was somehow disempowering to women made me realize he missed the whole point. Women can be insightful and feminists and still be sexy, pretty, or feminine. Or all of the above.

Yet another time, for a YouTube travel show my friend and I were filming we requested access to Snug Harbor a museum on Staten Island which was hosting a musicians’ of Staten Island exhibit. I was snidely told that my “image” wasn’t appropriate for a family museum. The fact that they were hosting an exhibit that showcased the likes of the Wu-Tang Clan and The New York Dolls didn’t seem to be remotely hypocritical or ironic to them.

Our society tells women we can’t be sexy and smart. If we dress sexy, our motivations are called into question. Madonna is told she is too “old” to dress the way she does, while Mick Jagger gets a free pass to pretty much do whatever he wants on stage and off.

A young woman named Karina Vetrano was raped and murdered while out jogging in Queens, NY. The comments were unsurprisingly sexist. People suggested she dressed too slutty on Instagram and that she “put herself out there.” In other words, posting a cute selfie or a low-cut top led to her assault (as though the rapist spied on her Instagram before he saw her). There’s an underlying message of “she kind of deserved it.” (HOW MANY TIMES to people have to be told rape is about power and not sex? Nuns get raped for God’s sake. It has nothing to do with your outfit. At most you could say Karina took a chance by running in an unsafe area (still doesn’t mean she deserved rape and murder), but her outfit? Come on.) Meanwhile, Donald Trump talks about grabbing pussies and rates women’s appearances and he’s awarded with the presidency.

I was firmly branded with a scarlet letter (well, kind of) not once, but twice. Which is why I loved the Pams (and Beyoncés, Nicki Minajs, Chelsea Handlers, and Amy Schumers) of the world. Because they embraced their sexuality and they didn’t give a fuck if you didn’t get it.

We agreed to meet up with them for a drink (or twelve) at their midtown hotel. The only other time I had been this excited was when I discovered fried Twinkies. They were staying uptown at the kind of hotel mostly frequented by the geriatric moneyed crowd. It was fancy and old-school, hardly the sort of place you would expect a woman who was famous for taking her clothes off would hang out. But then again maybe that was exactly the point. When we arrived at the hotel, we made a beeline for the bar where Pamela’s unmistakable voluminous extension-laced blonde hair shone like a beacon in the dimly lit bar. Natasha and I practically tripped over ourselves, pushing people out of the way just to get to Pam and Zach.

“Hey!” Natasha said waving at Zach.

“Hey, Nat!” Zach responded.

After Nat introduced me to Zach and Pam, Pamela got up and hugged me, her massive fake boobs squashing into me like two giant water balloons. “It’s so nice to meet you. Do you want something to drink?” she asked. Pamela Anderson was offering to get me a drink! She thought it was nice to meet me! I tried to control my bladder from erupting with excitement.

“Sure, I’d love a glass of champagne,” I said calmly. I’m not sure why I said that. I should have ordered a glass of wine like I normally do. I prayed I didn’t burp vociferously out of my nose as I often do when drinking champagne and embarrass myself in front of one of the most famous sexual icons of all time. She promptly hopped up and fetched me a glass of bubbly. When she came back, she set the glass of champagne down and immediately swiveled towards Zach. She began fluffing her hair and rubbing his leg.

“So I was like, we have to help these people. They don’t have any books. So I had this idea to bring them these books…” Zach was interrupted by Pamela licking his ear.

As he gathered himself and continued his epic tale, I gave Natasha a sideways glance and kicked her under the table. What on earth is Pamela doing? I mean, don’t get me wrong, Boy Toy was cute, but licking his ear in the middle of a conversation hardly seemed like the sort of activity people conduct in polite company.

“And that’s where I met Pamela,” Boy Toy continued. “She was there helping out at the library.”

She nodded. “Reading is so important.” She bit her fingernail and gave me “sexy” eyes.

“It’s so amazing that you guys are doing this,” I responded. “I actually volunteer a lot with Amnesty International and its…”

Pamela turned and started talking to her friend.

I guess she didn’t want to hear my story. It wasn’t as though I expected her to suddenly delve into the intricacies of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but I definitely expected her to drop the dumb blonde act. Pamela spent the entire night touching herself, fondling Boy Toy, fluffing her hair, pouting, swiveling, biting her lip, and posing. Even as one of her sets of false eyelashes began to dangle off the corner of her left eye. Now that’s dedication. Still, I was confused. Who exactly was she putting on this show for? Surely it couldn’t be me and my friend Natasha. We were a) straight and b) friends with her boyfriend. What need would she have to put on a show for us? It was as though she was a cat in heat and simply couldn’t control herself.

We were too embarrassed to ask for a photo, so all I got was the back of her head.
We were too embarrassed to ask for a photo, so all I got was the back of her head.

I knew it was time to leave once we made it up to the hotel room and the show still wouldn’t stop. As Boy Toy extolled Pamela’s virtues, she began pawing herself so raucously that I actually caught a glimpse of her nipple.

And then it dawned on me like enlightenment dawned on Buddha. It wasn’t an act. Pamela was just being herself. That was her secret. Pamela is a sexy, horny, blonde, with zero filters. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t change the fact that Pamela is a passionate animal rights activist and a successful business woman. Her sexuality doesn’t negate her other virtues. While there have been many other big boobed Playmates before her, none of them have had quite the personality of Pamela. And the world has rewarded her handsomely for it. The secret to success? Be yourself. And to think I spent countless sums of money on therapy and self-help books only to learn that Pamela had the secret the whole time. Now if I could get all the money back. TC mark

Read the rest in Rachel Khona’s book, Are You There Krishna? It’s Me, Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever.
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