BOSTON -- Each year, I celebrate the anniversary of the passage of women's suffrage by paying homage to my foremothers.
During the week of August 26, I dispense what have come to be known as the Equal Rites Awards. This is a highly competitive set of honors that are given to those who have struggled the most over the past 12 months to set back the progress of women.
For a time I wondered if there would be enough contestants. After all, this was the year when every mass-media production from the Olympics to the Republican National Convention was wooing women.
Nevertheless, when our one-woman jury sat down to the task, there were an overwhelming number of truly qualified entrants. So, without further ado, the envelopes please.
A take-charge guy
Our longest-running prize is the Raging Hormonal Imbalance Award. This year it goes Pete Smith of Bowling Green, Indiana, who went berserk during labor: his wife's labor.
In the delivery room, Papa Pete not only tried to veto her request for pain-killers, but threatened her doctor and told police that it was his right as a father to nix her Rx.
We send Pete a "special delivery" embroidered copy of Everygrandmother's favorite curse: One Man Should Have One Baby.
While we are on the subject of fatherhood, the Deadbeat Dad Cup had so many contenders that we held a runoff. It was almost won by baseball's Darryl Strawberry, who owed $300,000 to his two kids. But how could we resist San Diego's Jim Harnsberger. Jim's winning edge? The man, who was married five times and owed $18,000 to the child of his third marriage, is none other than the director of the Center for Family Values.
Family values? The Battle of the Sexes T-Shirt goes to Charlie Sheen, erstwhile client of Heidi Fleiss, who explained the end of his six-month marriage this way: "You buy a car, it breaks down. What are you going to do?"
Well, at least the ex-Mrs. Sheen wasn't a Mitsubishi. In that company's Illinois plant, the women who complained about sexual harassment -- plastic penises in their work buckets, hurled epithets, air guns shot between their legs -- were accused of insufficient "wa," the Japanese term for living in harmony.
For this lesson in male bonding and female bondage, we send Mitsubishi the first Transnational Backlash Award.
Speaking of bondage and more discipline, the Battered Woman's Shelter Citation goes to those California folks who held an anti-violence fund-raiser in O.J. Simpson's house. Swell pick. We offer them a certain 911 soundtrack as background music for their next event.
The Blind Justice Award
Now for the Blind Justice Award. This pin, suitable for so many black robes, goes to Michigan Judge Joel Gehrke. After a man pleaded guilty to the spousal abuse of an adulterous wife, Judge Gehrke administered this punishment: a slap on the wrist.
The criminal-justice system of California wins our prize for the Double-Standard-Bearer. Raphael Diaz Rodriguez of Van Nuys was charged with two crimes this past year. For beating his girlfriend the maximum fine was $1,000. For strangling her pet rabbit, the maximum was $20,000.
The Superstars of Sexism Prize usually goes to the professional athlete with the worst locker-room behavior. But this year, the amateur golfers at the upscale and retro Lakewood Country Club in Maryland won for their impressive skill at drinking vodka spouting from between the legs of an X-rated female ice sculpture. We would send these duffers a handicap, but they don't need one.
The Dubious Equality Award for progress toward the worst goal in gender equity goes for the second time in the history of this contest to Virginia Slims. The tobacco company's ads have come a long way, baby. Now they boast: "It's a woman thing." The "woman thing" is advancement to parity in lung cancer. Whoopeee!
Reason No. 38
Next we have a new prize -- for Cybermisogyny. The first -- and we hope last -- award for Internet-piggery goes to the Cornell freshmen who sent out a mass e-mail listing "Top 75 Reasons Why Women Should Not Have Freedom of Speech." Reason 38: "If she can't speak, she can't cry rape." The prize will be sent to these boys by a hacker with a bad attitude and a worse virus.
If, however, you need a reason why men should not have freedom of speech, turn to the annual Sexism in Song Award. We had trouble choosing between one song that featured a knife in a woman's crotch and another that boasted about an "automatic wife-beater."
In the end, the only one we could (barely) quote, is Cocktales' ode to "Tina, Tina, the sperm cleaner."
While we are talking "entertainment," the G-String for Gratuitous Sex is being sent to Demi Moore for selling sex with a "social message." In "Striptease," she was just another single mom taking it all off for the sake of the kid. Come to think of it, maybe this is the new workfare.
Finally, the winner of the Fashion Ms-Statement Award. During the year of "junkie chic," a California manufacturer came up with a line of makeup targeted to adolescent girls called "Urban Decay." The nail polish colors are called Uzi, Roach and my personal favorite: Bruise. We send these manufacturers an eye-shadow color called Black Eye. May they wear it to next year's award ceremony.
Ellen Goodman is a syndicated columnist.
Pub Date: 8/26/96