Suffering the fools on equality

August 25, 1998|By Ellen Goodman

BOSTON -- As Aug. 26 approaches, our awards committee faces its task in a rather ambivalent spirit. The annual Equal Rites Awards ceremony, held in honor of our foremothers who won the right to vote on this day, has always been an occasion for taking stock.

What can we say about the past year? The good news is that women finally achieved something close to equal standing on Page 1. The bad news is that the name that's closed the gender gap is Monica Lewinsky. The good news is that we held a national conversation about relationships between men and women. The bad news is that virtually all the talk was about sex.

However, our one-woman committee prefers to take the long view. So without further ado, we once again offer our prizes to those who have labored so hard in the past 12 months to set back the cause of equality.

The Envelopes Please.

The Blind Justice Award, always a hotly contested prize, goes this year by unanimous vote to Judge Clyde Gober Jr. The Georgia jurist came up with a unique solution to domestic violence: marriage. After Darrell Meadows threatened to kill Angela Whaley and their 2-year-old daughter Nicole, Gober ordered Darrell to marry Angela as a condition of probation.

Our Superstars of Sexism Prize usually goes to some individual sports figure. But this year, we award it to an entire lineup of pros practicing unprotected sex and unwed fatherhood. You know the stats: Patriots' Ben Coates, five daughters by four women; Cavaliers' Shawn Kemp, seven children by six women; Knicks' Larry Johnson, three by three, etc. To the NBA and NFL and any others we add a DNA expert to the lineup.

While we are on the subject of dads, our Deadbeat Dad of the Year is none other than Santa Claus. No, not that one. It's Neil Ramirez of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was working as a mall Santa when his son innocently plopped onto his lap. An astonished mom then slapped Santa with papers. It turned out that this Claus had not been paying his child support. Speaking of gifts, the Backlash Award goes to the Southern Baptists who delivered the edict this year that "a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband." This backlash, a fine tool, will be engraved and personally delivered by a direct descendant of Lilith.

Now in the same spirit, our Male Bondage Award goes to Charles Schaefer. The administrative law judge in Wisconsin denied unemployment compensation to June Lauer when she quit her waitress job because of the manager's obscenity. The judge said that the "use of vulgar and obscene language and terms can serve to promote group solidarity." To Schaefer, who apologized under pressure, we send our venerable "Sisterhood is Powerful" T-shirt.

On to the Misogyny in Music Award, a very downbeat, blues song that will be winging its way to, alas, Eric Clapton. His song "Sick and Tired" offered up the lyrics, "I may have to blow your brains out, baby/ Then you won't bother me no more."

That pleasant thought reminds us that we have yet to give out the Raging Hormonal Imbalance Award. This year it goes to the Commissioner from Mars, Michael Tranghese of Big East basketball, who explained the chromosomes of athletes this way, "Men compete, get along and move on with few emotions. But women break down, get emotional." We suggest that he dribble that thought over to Rebecca Lobo.

Ah, but wait a minute. What about the reporter from Venus? The second Raging Hormonal Imbalance Award goes to Nina Burleigh, the Ally McBeal of former White House reporters who confessed that after playing hearts with the president she was ready to go back to the hotel room with him. "Distracting a powerful man from his business is one of the highest forms of flattery available to women." Sweetheart, get me rewrite.

If power is an aphrodisiac, how do we explain Viagra? The Gender Gap Gavel pounds on the desk of those wonderful researchers who gave us a pill to cure male impotence before a pill for male birth control. Finally, the Mama's Boy Award to Michael Copp of Sheffield Lake, Ohio, who ran up his handicapped mother's credit card debt buying his girlfriend breast implants. We bake him a cake made with mother's milk and decorated with the words: Mother Knows Best.

Ellen Goodman is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 8/25/98

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