WASHINGTON, DC—Under fire for a litany of alleged "inappropriately feminine" personal-hygiene practices, St. Louis Rams running back Craig "Ironhead" Heyward testified under federal subpoena Monday before the Senate Investigatory Subcommittee on Bath And Shower Gender-Role Standards And Norms.
According to Washington insiders, the chief focus of the formal inquest concerned the popular athlete's rumored use of Zest-brand body-wash liquid soap, a product perceived by many lawmakers on Capitol Hill as "just for the ladies."
"There is a feeling among many in Washington that this girlish and fanciful liquid soap may be an unacceptably feminine cleansing agent for a man of Mr. Heyward's supposed tough-guy stature," said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), in a statement to the press shortly before the start of hearings. "Given Ironhead's obviously intimidating physical presence, and the possibility that he may resent his masculinity being called into question publicly, I'm sure we all can appreciate how potentially volatile these hearings may be."
Fellow committee member Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) agreed. "Certainly, there are dangers involved in such hearings," he said. "Nonetheless, we will pull no punches. If Ironhead is, in fact, a liquid-soap user and proponent, it is our duty to determine whether or not his manliness has been irrevocably compromised."
Despite the gravity of the charges levied against him, Heyward maintained his composure throughout the hearing. "I'm used to a challenge," he told the assembled legislators, boldly challenging them to reevaluate their biased perceptions of Zest body-wash liquid-soap products.
"I challenge you!" Heyward said.
Though Heyward's testimony was frequently interrupted by audible laughter from the back of the senate chambers, he was steadfast in his pro-liquid-soap stance. "I hear you snickering!" the visibly agitated Heyward said. "Listen, chump: Zest body wash doesn't contain heavy moisturizers!"
The hearing reached its most heated moment when investigatory subcommittee chairperson Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) held up what some in Washington are describing as "the smoking gun": an undeniably frilly shower-sponge device used for liquid-soap application.
Adopting a humorously exaggerated "girly-man" persona and affecting a mocking, high-pitched tone of voice, Hagel dangled the lacy, doily-like sponge from its string and said, "Hey, Ironhead? What's with this thingy?"
Angered, Heyward responded that the proper term for the object the senator had referred to as a "thingy" is, in fact, a "lather-builder," and went on to state that the device is the best possible utensil for any serious athlete's heavy-duty post-workout bathing needs.
"Mr. Senator, I will have you know, in no uncertain terms, that the lather-builder you are holding generates up to 70 percent more suds than regular bar soap!" Heyward said. "That means you get cleaner... period!"
Heyward's pro-thingy stance is being applauded by gender-identity reform advocates across the nation.
"In Ironhead, we have the rare example of a real man—a burly, muscular, testosterone-fueled behemoth who has proven his mettle time and time again on the playing field—who is comfortable enough with his own sexuality to openly admit his preference for liquid soap," said Glenn Barrie-Reid of the San Francisco-based New-Age Male-Awareness Task Force. "Even in the face of pressure from the nation's top elected officials, he has refused to back down. Ironhead has done immeasurable good for society, teaching us all a valuable lesson about what being a real man is all about."
While the national debate over gender-appropriate bathroom-product usage is far from over, many observers feel that Heyward's appearance before Congress represents a major victory for the forces of reform.
"Because of Ironhead, the tricky issue of bathroom-product sexual-role-identification is finally being discussed openly and honestly," said University of California-Berkeley sociology professor Nelson Laine. "Thanks to his commitment to bringing this issue out into the fore, we can all bathe a little easier."
"We as a nation have received a powerful message, one we will not soon forget," Laine said. "Ironhead has taught us that, male or female, what's important is not how we wash or with what we wash, but whether or not, at the end of the day, we are Zestfully clean."