Equal Rites Awards

August 26, 1994|By ELLEN GOODMAN

Boston -- Every August 26th, in homage to my foremothers, I celebrate the anniversary of the passage of woman's suffrage by dispensing those honors known far and wide as the Equal Rites Awards. This is a highly competitive event won by those who have done their best over the past 12 months to set back the progress of women.

The past year was particularly challenging for our one-woman jury. So many contestants, so few prizes. Besides, what do you say about a year during which the big advances for women were postmenopausal pregnancies and Wonderbras? How do you assess a year when a second woman got on the Supreme Court but the first lady remained a target for every sleaze thrower?

But enough of this wallowing in the past. On to the main event. The envelopes please.

The Patriarch of the Year Award goes to Bob Young, the Houston Oilers' (very) offensive line coach. Mr. Young trashed player David Williams for missing a game merely to see his son born. ''It's like World War II,'' quoth Mr. Young, ''when guys were going to war and something would come up but they had to go.'' Mr. Young, who was clearly AWOL of his senses, gets an adult-sized pacifier to keep in his mouth until the next NFL D-Day.

The Sleeping with the Enemy Prize belongs to none other than Marta Fitzgerald, the aerobics instructor who just became the third wife of Rush Limbaugh, in a service conducted by Clarence Thomas. Before the honeymoon is over, we rush her a pillow slip made of a hair shirt, and our profound hope that all Rush needs is the love of a good feminazi -- uhm -- woman.

The Blind Justice Award, always suspenseful, goes to Judge Doug Meyer of Tennessee, who released a rape suspect who once heard voices telling him to rape. The suspect doesn't need a guardian, said the judge, ''He needs a girlfriend.'' We send Judge Meyer a question: Would you have said Jeffrey Dahmer needed a good meal?

And while we are talking about blind justice, the Battle of the Sexes Award must be given in joint custody to -- who else? -- Lorena and John Bobbitt, who are both, alas, back on the streets. A special citation goes to the myriad joke writers who escalated hostility-thru-humor. We send them sharp instruments for their dull wit: CUT!

Now the X-Rated Electronics Badge is awarded this year to the video game called Crystal Quest. When the player guides the spaceship through the gate, the computer makes the sound of a woman having an orgasm. We send the manufacturers, who are clearly living in another world, into orbit.

And while we are on the subject of sex and sexism, our annual Raging Hormonal Imbalance Award belongs to Donald C. Winston, a former teacher from Maine who was fired for sexual harassment. Mr. Winston claimed that he was being discriminated against as a disabled person. His disability? He's a sex addict. We send him admission to a 12-step program and a XTC home testing kit for testosterone poisoning.

In previous years, the Dubious Equality Award has gone to the woman who labored hardest for the most questionable equal status. But this year, by popular demand, it goes to a man -- Rome sculptor Angelo Camerino, who is doing boffo biz selling male chastity belts.

As for the Double-Standard Bearer, this year our award winners came on foot. The prize goes to the makers of Talkables, the talking sneakers. Hit a button and the boy's sneaker says, ''VROOOM.'' Hit a button and the girl's sneaker says, ''I love you.'' We send them a first edition copy of ''You Just Don't Understand.''

The Stand by Your Man Kit, a doormat and a complete set of Tammy Wynette T-shirts, goes this year to Amy Christiansen of Vernon, Conn. After her boyfriend kidnapped her two little girls -- and dangled one out of the car window during a police chase, Amy said, ''It's like if your father did something to you. You would still love him. . . . ''

Of course, no Equal Rites Awards ceremony would be complete without presenting The Gilded Backlash, personally, stroke by stroke. In the international category the award winners are the Islamic fundamentalists in Bangladesh who put a reward on the head of feminist writer Taslima Nasrin, who is now in Sweden.

But in the national category, this Backlash belongs to a burgeoning men's movement called Promise Keepers that is fighting the ''feminizing'' of the American man. As the writer of the ''Seven Promises'' tells men, ''I'm not suggesting that you ask for your role back, I'm urging that you take it back.'' Back to where? Bangladesh?

Now for a new prize: The Deadbeat Dad Hall of Fame. James E. Brindamour wins this honor. Our prize papa fled the state of Rhode Island to avoid child support charges. But did he return? You bet. He came back to claim his 15-year-old daughter's estate after her sudden death. Come to think of it, he deserves all the prizes.

Ellen Goodman is a Boston Globe columnist.

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