Time to award hinderers of equality

August 16, 2004|By Ellen Goodman

BOSTON -- Once more we approach Aug. 26, the anniversary of women's suffrage, with mixed feelings.

It's been 84 years since women won the right to vote and still the only women in the race for White House housing are ladies, as in first lady. This year, Iraqi women, under their new constitution, will hold 25 percent of the government seats, but American women, under their venerable old Constitution, will hold only 13.8 percent of the congressional seats.

"Failure is impossible," said Susan B. Anthony. But she forgot to mention how slow success could be.

With this in mind, we assembled our one-woman committee to pick winners for the much-coveted Equal Rites Awards. The ERAs are given annually to those who have done their most over the last 12 months to set back the cause of equality. So, without further ado, the envelopes please.

We begin with the International Ayatollah Award. This has long gone to evil emperors from Iran to the Taliban. But the winner this year is Dr. Qassim Al-Qasabi, the deputy minister of health for our alleged ally, Saudi Arabia.

The good doctor directed Saudi hospitals to admit women in labor only if they are accompanied by a man. For this "no hubby, no hospital" policy, we send a double standard and a very hard labor.

Alas, not all double standards are foreign. The Super Bowl of Sexism trophy goes to those folks at the NFL and the FCC who were shocked (!) when their regular halftime programming -- erectile dysfunction ads, crotch-biting dogs, half-clad cheerleaders -- was interrupted by Janet Jackson's overexposure. Umm, anybody notice that Justin Timberlake had a hand in the "wardrobe malfunctioning"?

Ah well, Boys will be Boys and Arnold will be Schwarzenegger. The former Terminator and much-alleged serial groper gets the boy toy prize for his reasoned critique of the Democratic leadership in Sacramento: "I call them girlie men." We send the legislators -- male and female -- some sand to kick in his face.

The Mixed Messenger Prize goes to the restaurant owner in West Branch, Iowa, who on one hand sponsored wet T-shirt contests. On the other, he refused to let a woman breast-feed her baby at her table. We send him what he needs, a pacifier.

Now for the Fashion Victim Award. So many body parts, so little time. From the surgical roster, we chose those women who have gone under the knife to have their toes shortened and feet reshaped to fit the foot fetish fantasies of designers such as Jimmy Choo. We send them each a pair of killer heels.

As for the Patriarch of the Year Award, we can't overlook the British geniuses at Brighter Pictures who are pitching a reality program tentatively named "Make Me a Mum." If it gets aired, we will be watching 1,000 men compete for fatherhood in a series culminating in an on-air "sperm race." We give these men a tip straight from Dr. Ruth: Speed isn't everything.

The Musical Misogyny Baton, a downbeat award, goes to the rappers who have made the pimp into a hip status symbol. One baton for rapper Nelly, who owns and markets Pimp Juice. One for the animators who created "Lil Pimp." One for rapper 50 Cent, who made $18 million on his song "P.I.M.P." And one for the video in which a rapper is seen "walking" two women on leashes.

This brings us to the Dubious Equality Award. Given annually to the woman who strove the most for the least worthy parity, it belongs now to Lynndie R. England, the soldier seen around the world holding an Iraqi prisoner on a leash. Need we say more?

Before we get out of court, let's not forget the Blind Justice Award. The winner this year is Judge Gene Stephenson. In a Florida rape trial, he offered this opinion: "Why would he want to rape her? She doesn't look like a day at the beach." We give the judge many, many days on the beach and off the bench.

While we are in a retro mood, the Backlash Award goes to Family Circle magazine, which has lowered political consciousness by sponsoring yet another cookie bakeoff, between Laura Bush and Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Now to the Battle of the Sexes. The 2004 ribbon goes to the Vatican, which wants to make peace through passivity. In a long document, the hierarchy recommends women cultivate "feminine values" such as "listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting." Waiting? Listening? This year, those rabid Catholic feminists in several dioceses were even banned from foot-washing ceremonies. We send the Vatican hearing aids.

The Missing Woman Award goes to the Bush administration. Log on to government Web sites and you will discover that the old fact sheets about, say, the earning differences between men and women have been removed. In their place are new upbeat offerings such as "Hot Jobs for the 21st century." Who would have dreamed that the Bush minions would work so hard to make women's issues disappear?

Ellen Goodman is a columnist for The Boston Globe. Her column appears Mondays and Thursdays in The Sun.

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