Boston As Aug. 26 approaches, our one-woman jury gathers again to pick the winners of the 1999 Equal Rites Awards. This is an annual ceremony held in honor of our foremothers who won the right to vote on this day, 79 years ago.
In the last year of the millennium, we approach our task with special seriousness. We have, blessedly, had enough signs of progress to astonish our foremothers. In the past year, Eileen Collins became the first woman to command a space shuttle, Carly Fiorina broke the glass cyber-ceiling to become head of Hewlett-Packard, and a soccer team of women kicked their way onto the Wheaties Box.
Champions aside, there are (alas) still more than enough contestants for these rites. So, without further ado, the envelopes please.
First of all, in the spirit of the times, the Patriarch of the Millennium (formerly the Patriarch of the Year) Prize goes to Dr. Richard Seed. An old-fashioned chauvinist with new-fashioned technology, this Dick wants to be the first to Seed the world with his own clones. We award him a desert island where he can live alone with himself and himself and himself.
Speaking of deserters, the Unhelpmate of the Year is none other than Bob Dole. Remember all the times Liddy quit work to help Bob? What happens when she runs for president? The Viagra poster hubby tells the press, "I thought about ways to help (John) McCain." We send him a pamphlet for candidates' spouses. Step One: Check your ego at the door.
The Backlash Award goes to the off-key choir at Jerry Falwell's publication which issued an all-points bulletin warning parents against the demonic influences of, gasp, the women's concert, Lilith Fair. They denounced Lilith, the equality-seeking first wife of Adam, as a pagan dame. We engrave this backlash with the Dixie Chicks motto: "Chicks Rule."
Where oh where is Falwell when you need him? In a year when the mosh pits at concerts turned into sexual assault trenches, musical misogynists abound. We send our G-String for Gratuitous Sex to the group Limp Bizkit whose charming lyrics include these: "You wanna play that game bitch/ You take a dash for my cash/ it's your ass that I'm blasting." Congrats.
As if the concert grounds weren't hostile enough, we always have a Battle of the Sexes Prize to give to some military ms-fit. This year it belongs to 1st Lt. Ryan Berry, who refused to work with women in the underground missile silos because the close quarters created "an occasion of sin." We don't want to push his button, so we merely send him our old bumper sticker: Make Love not War.
Speaking of which, the Casting Couch Award has been taken out of storage and sent with all of its loose springs to the Hollywood moguls who dumped Riley Weston. The 32-year-old actress, gasp, lied about her age to get the part of a 19-year-old in "Felicity." Here's to Hollywood, where you can never be too thin or too young. Our gift is a platinum airbrush.
Now for the Male-Practice Citation. This goes as always to a doctor who transformed science in the service of sexism. We chose Fay Boozman, the Arkansas ophthalmologist and failed Senate candidate. He insisted that "pregnancies from rape were rare because of 'God's protective little shield."' We send the women of Arkansas a little protective shield against the myopic eye doctor who is now health director for the entire state.
Speaking of eye trouble, it's time for the Blind Justice Award, a gavel that has been won by so many deserving American judges. This year it goes to Italy where the highest appeals court overruled a rape conviction because the victim wore jeans. These couldn't be removed, ruled the judges "without the cooperation of the person wearing them." We sentence these judges to one week in a fashion rehab center: They asked for it.
So did Howard Stern who gets our Superstar in Sexism Award so often we have to retire the cup. Not only did Stern shave a woman's private parts on TV, he also spanked another woman's bare buttocks with a dead flounder. We send a fully charged cattle prod to truly shock this jock.
What about the other cattle call, the beauty pageants? The Don't Tell, Don't Tease Award goes this year as so often before to bathing beauties who deliver double messages. Contestant Mary-Louise Kurey, Miss Wisconsin, strutted her stuff while running on an abstinence platform. For this stunning delivery of a mixed message, we send her a virtual sex object.
Which brings us to the whole virtual world. The makers of the Palm Pilot deserve a hand -- a backhand -- for advertising their product over the naked body of a dancer. They win the Ms-Adventures in Advertising Prize this year: a very hot sync.
We go a-broad again to deliver our Raging Hormonal Imbalance Award to researchers in Scotland and Japan who concluded that women are more attracted to macho-featured men when they are ovulating. We don't know how they determined a "virile" face, but they surely deserve our prize: a Leo DiCaprio calendar.
Let us not forget the Dubious Equality Award. It belongs to the woman who has done the most to behave (alas) just like the guys. This year's winner is Joyce Maynard, the erstwhile roommate of obsessively private J.D. Salinger who auctioned off his love letters, thus proving that women can also kiss and sell.
Finally, the Boys Will Be Boys Award goes -- how could it not? -- to the commander in chief who risked his presidency, his marriage and his legacy for the gal in the beret. This long year, he forced feminists to retreat to their Susan B. Anthony reader wherein the Mother of us all said that if a man has "kept his pledges before the world, I do not inquire what his private life may have been." We send him a copy of our letter being channeled to Susan. Dear Susan: Are you sure?
Now on to the next millennium.
-- Ellen Goodman is a columnist for The Boston Globe.