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Annual salute to chauvinism

BOSTON -We gather here once more to celebrate Aug. 26, the anniversary of the passage of women's suffrage, with a time-honored tradition. Our one-woman jury dispenses the annual Equal Rites Awards to those very special folks who worked hard over the past 12 months to set back the cause of equality.

The awards are always the subject of intense competition. But never more so than this year when the world seemed to divide between international fundamentalists who want to keep women veiled and Internet spammers who want to unveil them on your computer screen.

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But enough of that. It's time for the envelopes, please. We must begin with the Boys Will Be Playboys Award, which goes to the patriarch of soft porn, Hugh Hefner, on the 50th anniversary of his magazine. In celebrating a half-century of centerfolds without ever getting out of his bathrobe, Hef said, "I was trying to give sex a good name." Like, say, sexism? As a reward, we ship a new pair of pants and a jacket to the mansion so Hef can dress up and grow up.

While we are talking about an appetite for nudeness, let us dispense the Our Bodies, Our Buffets Award. This goes to Manhattan's Raw Catering, a company that uses naked women as serving platters for sushi and other uncooked delicacies. For this eating disorder we give them three stars for bad taste.

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The real Battle of the Sexes Prize is flying to the Air Force Academy. While women were fighting in Iraq against the enemy, cadets were fighting the hostile environment in which sexual assault was a form of hazing and women who reported rape were penalized for having sex. We send the academy an old and tattered peace symbol and best wishes for reform.

Anyone want a Battle of the Species Prize? The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals win for an ad campaign that compared the serial killing of 15 women to the "serial killings going on every day in slaughter houses and on pig farms." We would send PETA the missing link, except it may be the missing link.

While we are on the links, let's award the Superstar of Sexism Award to two in the most gentlemanly - and we used that word literally - of sports: golf. Hootie Johnson fought to keep Augusta National Golf Club free from the polluting influence of women members while Vijay Singh hoped Annika Sorenstam would miss the cut for a PGA event "because she doesn't belong out here." We award them both a bad case of the yips.

The Knight in Shining Armor Prize goes to George W. Bush for many reasons, but especially for that moment when he referred to Laura as "the lump in the bed." Be still my heart. We send him a suggestion ... to send her roses.

The Raging Hormonal Imbalance Award goes overseas for the first time to Seiichi Ota, a Japanese lawmaker. Speaking at a conference on his country's declining population, he defended a gang rape because "the people who do it are still virile and that is OK. I think that might make them close to normal." We send foreign aid to help our Japanese sisters reduce the population of politicians by one.

Let's give the Post-Feminist Booby Prize to radio shock jock Tom Leykis, best known for his advice on how to get "more tail for less money." Mr. Leykis justified broadcasting the name of Kobe Bryant's accuser as a feminist strike against a "paternalistic policy." We offer him our petit-point pillow inscribed: "With Friends Like These ... "

Let's not forget the Male-Practice Award. At a hearing, Dr. Harry J. Metropol dismissed as frivolous the complaints of a woman whose breasts were removed by mistake. Why, said Dr. Metropol, with breast surgery she'd be better than new: "It won't be National Geographic, hanging to her knees. It'll be nice, firm breasts." Some nice fresh replacements for the doc's private parts will be wending their way. Happy landing.

The International Ayatollah Award goes to the Islamic court in Nigeria that sentenced Amina Lawal to death by stoning for adultery. As this young mother appeals her fate - due Wednesday - the alleged man goes free because Quranic law requires four witnesses to prove a man guilty. We send a DNA testing kit and cast the first stone at the court.

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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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