Equal Rites Awards


Boston. -- Each year at the this time, I prepare for August 26, the anniversary of the passage of women's suffrage, by recognizing those who have done the most in the past 12 months to set back the progress of women. The Equal Rites Awards are always a subject of intense competition. So many contestants, so little time.

The so-called Year of the Woman presented special problems for our one-woman jury. It was a time of so many mixed messages. Anita Hill became a heroine but Clarence Thomas became a justice. Running for the Senate became a favorite female sport, but the only woman running for president was in a Donna Karan ad. And she had her shirt unbuttoned to the waist.

Nevertheless, these awards were always meant as markers to show how far we have left to go. So, without further ado, the envelopes, please.

The Patriarch of the Year Award goes to the real thing, Cecil Jacobson, a fertility doctor who meant it when he told one patient, "God doesn't give you babies -- I do." He artificially inseminated at least 15 women patients with his own sperm. To Dr. Jacobson, convicted of fraud, we send the traditional cigar. The exploding kind.

The Battle of the Sexes Award, which we had hoped to retire in the post-Cold War era, goes to those Navy pilots who turned the Tailhook convention into a sexual harassment maneuver. To these officers and gentlemen we send a courier who will collect all their tapes of "Top Gun." We will replace them with "Thelma and Louise."

Lest we think all our military woes are at sea, The Raging Hormonal Imbalance Award goes to Gen. Merrill McPeak, the Air Force chief of staff who admitted at a congressional hearing that his opposition to women in combat might not be rational but said, "I take some solace in thinking that not all human problems yield to strict logic." As a prize, the general will become a research subject for a treatise on male menopause and the military.

The Ms-Information Award for promulgating the anatomically incorrect news to the next generation is won this year by the makers of a Mommy-to-Be Doll. This doll, Judy, gives birth when a child opens the door on the curved tummy, lifts out the baby and replaces it with a flat stomach. We send these manufacturers one complete set of varicose veins and an assortment of stretch marks.

Speaking of mis-information, The Double Standard in Sex goes to Roy Black, Willie Smith's lawyer who joked to a New York State Bar Association meeting that Mr. Smith's testimony about his prowess in having sex with Patricia Bowman twice in 30 minutes "has certainly helped him with dates since then." We send Mr. Black a new joke writer and an all-expense paid semester in sex education.

The Misogyny in Medicine Award, always a cliffhanger of a prize, will not go to Dow Chemical, which has troubles enough with breast implants exploding all over their reputation, but to Dow's accomplices at The American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons. The association described small breasts as "deformities" and "really a disease," requiring a surgical cure. Have we got an implant for them.

The Dubious Equality Award has always gone to the woman who struggled the most to match the least attractive male quality. This year it goes to Bush's deputy campaign manager, Mary Matalin, whose attack memos rival her late mentor, Lee Atwater. We offer her, as required reading, one copy of "A Different Voice."

dTC The citation for Short-Circuiting Self-Esteem. This wings its way to the manufacturers of Tums, who placed an ad for their tablets in a medical journal to promote it as a calcium supplement. Over a portrait of an attractive, stylish woman of a certain age, they cutely bleat: "She's a Loser." What this age group is losing in bone mass, it is gaining in consciousness. We send Tums a balance sheet bad enough for a Rolaid.

Needless to say, the first annual "They Just Don't Get It" Bumper Sticker went months ago to the Senate Judiciary Committee. But a special Knight in (Tarnished) Armor shield goes to the unregenerate committee member, Sen. Alan Simpson, who quipped on the occasion of his wife's birthday party, "I never thought I'd be sleeping with a 60-year-old woman." We send Mrs. Simpson a copy of "Lysistrata."

The Sexism in Song Prize, competed for in rap and rock, has to be awarded to Ice-T. If you think the Iceman's song about cop killing was bad news, you haven't read the lyrics about matricide in "Momma's Gotta Die Tonight" or impregnating the daughters of the KKK in "KKK Bitch." The proper prize is silence.

The Ms-Guided Media Award, a plaque suitable for framing, goes this year to all the newspapers who ran the Mike Tyson rape trial in the sports section. Yes, we know he's a boxer. But if Julia Child killed someone would we run it in the food section?

While we are in a feisty mood, The Entrepreneur with An Attitude Award goes again -- is this becoming a habit? -- to Donald Trump. This time The Donald offered a megabucks deal to keep Mike Tyson from jail. "If Mike Tyson sits in jail and his earning power is curtailed, it is punitive for him but beneficial to no one." To Don, we send by personal carrier, a knockout.

Finally, the Fifties Feminine Nostalgia Crown goes jointly to Family Circle and those political operatives who had Babs and Hillary participate in the magazine's great chocolate chip cookie bake-off. To the winner, presumably goes the first ladyship. What's next, a bed-making contest for the White House? We send to these nostalgia buffs, a true artifact of the fifties to contain their enthusiasm: a Playtex living girdle.

Ellen Goodman is a syndicated columnist.

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