A pantheon of dubious distinction

August 15, 2002|By Ellen Goodman

BOSTON -- Every year we celebrate Aug. 26, the anniversary of women's suffrage, in our time-honored tradition. Our one-woman jury assembles to dispense the Equal Rites Awards, those coveted prizes given to people who labored mightily over the last 12 months to set back the cause of women.

What a year it's been since last we met. In Afghanistan, women have begun shedding burqas and showing their faces. In America, women are injecting Botox and freezing their faces. In corporate life, the women of Enron, etc., make it seem as if whistle-blowing is in the female DNA. In the CEO's office, Martha Stewart is making a mess of her Living.

But enough nostalgia. It's time to open the envelopes, please. We begin this year, alas, on a militant note. Our Make War, Not Love prize goes to 200 soldiers who used their government travel charge cards at strip clubs near Army bases to pay for lap dances and "other forms of entertainment." Your tax dollars at work. We send each of these fine fellows a nice sharp pair of scissors to cut off their ... lines of credit.

We also give credit where it's due. We can only admire our Patriarch of the Year, or maybe we should call him the Godfather of the Year. New York mobster Antonino Parlavecchio was caught bribing guards to smuggle his sperm out of jail. For his paternal commitment to perpetuating another generation of perps, we send Tony a cake. Beware of what's inside.

Never mind fathers, is the war on terrorism is profiling mothers? The Knight in Shining Armor shield goes to the security guard who saved America by making a woman drink from three bottles of her breast milk before boarding a plane at JFK Airport. We send an instructor to help wean him from the fantasy of the lactating terrorist.

Next we fly overseas for the International Ayatollah Award. Last year it went to the Taliban. This year, it goes to the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Saudi Arabia. These religious police wouldn't let 15 girls out of a burning school because their hair wasn't covered and they weren't wearing abayas. In memory of their victims, we offer these men the fate of their Taliban brothers.

While we're thinking global, let us not forget the Mixed Messenger Award. This goes to our own president. The world leader who bragged about liberating women of the world now hedges, hems and haws about supporting the U.N. treaty for women's equality. We give George W. Bush a mouth with one side.

Need I remind you of the intense competition for the Superstars of Sexism Cup? Many, many jocks were arrested this year while competing in the domestic violence Super Bowl, but our personal favorite was Derrick Rodgers. The linebacker for the Miami Dolphins allegedly kicked his wife in a restaurant after asking her companion, "Do you know who I am?" Derrick, now that we know your name, can we award you a number?

Now a double-header. The Blind Justice Award goes without doubt to the Pakistani tribal council that "sentenced" a young woman to gang rape for her 11-year-old brother's "crime" of walking with an unchaperoned girl from a different tribe.

But we have our own blind justices. Remember when Maryland Judge Durke G. Thompson told the family of an 11-year-old victim of molestation that "it takes two to tango"? He's BAAACCK! This year, he overturned a jury's rape conviction. Why? He said that the battered victim was just seeking revenge on the man who wouldn't marry her. We'd give him a blindfold but he already has one.

Finally, the Backlash Award. This perennial favorite usually goes to a member of the male persuasion. This year it goes to Kansas state Sen. Kay O'Connor, a woman who does not share our enthusiasm for celebrating Aug. 26. Just 12 months ago, this, ahem, elected official rued the day women won the vote: "The 19th Amendment is around because men weren't doing their jobs. I think that's sad."

Susan B. Anthony once said, "Failure is impossible." We send Ms. O'Connor a petit-point motto for her next election campaign: "Failure is Probable."

Ellen Goodman is a columnist for the Boston Globe. Her column appears Mondays and Thursdays in The Sun. She can be reached via e-mail at ellengoodman@globe.com.

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