Boston Each year, as Aug. 26, the anniversary of the passage of women's suffrage, approaches, I pay my own special homage to our foremothers. I gather together a one-woman jury to dispense Equal Rites Awards to those who have labored the hardest over the past 12 months to set back the cause of women's equality.
This millennial year, we approach our task in a special spirit. It's exactly 80 years since women won the right to vote. Women voters are being wooed more than ever but the political glass ceiling still appears to be shatterproof.
Nevertheless, as Susan B. Anthony said in her final public words, "Failure is impossible." So, without further ado, the envelopes please.
Let us begin with the Patriarch of the Year Award. This award, reserved for an old-fashioned chauvinist dabbling in newfangled biotechnology, goes to Ron Harris. This year, the fashion photographer launched a Web site purporting to auction off the eggs of beautiful women to the highest bidder. This E-babe site was more of a peepshow than an egg sale, but he deserves our gavel: Going, going, gone.
Newfangled sexism has nothing on the old. So, the Backlash Award is being delivered to Marvin Olasky, the guru of compassionate conservatism. Olasky told the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood that while God doesn't actually ban women from leadership roles, "when that occurs it's usually because of the abdication of men ... there's a certain shame attached to it." We will deliver 20 backlashes with, of course, compassion.
We have less compassion however for rapper Eminem. Despite heavy competition, he wins the Misogyny in Music Award for the murder in "Kim": "Now Bleed! Bitch Bleed!/ Bleed! Bitch Bleed! Bleed!" We feed him this rap nonstop until he changes his tune.
Now on to all-gal hostility. Our Ms-Adventure in Cyberspace Award goes to the creators of sissyfight.com. This game encourages women to win by humiliating and abusing each other. The one who undermines the other's self-esteem wins! Whee! We send the intra-gender warriors our old Superwoman T-shirt: Sisterhood is Powerful/ Cliques are Kryptonite.
Ah, but what about the International Ayatollah Award? This usually goes to some distant potentate who opposes women's rights. But this year, it belongs to Chris Smith, who worked so hard to keep America from signing the International Treaty on Women's Rights because, he said, it might eliminate "Mother's Day"! Our petit point wings its way with the motto: Mother Knows Best.
We do have an international winner for the Boys will be (Play)Boys Prize. The editor of the Romanian Playboy magazine ran an April 1 cover story on "how to beat your wife ... without leaving marks on her body." Our April Fool's Day joke? Printing the magazine in invisible ink.
But the real Media Ms-Adventures Award, goes to the five TV stations in New York which ran recognizable videos of women, stripped and screaming, making them victims of both the Central Park assaults and the media. The award: a black-out.
Having shielded our eyes from so much this year, we must present our annual Blind Justice Award to none other than Maryland Judge Durke G. Thompson. After delivering a light sentence to a 23-year-old who sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl he met on the Net, the judge declared, "It takes two to tango." We send our judge glasses and dancing lessons so he can get in step with reality.
Of course, our committee knows that sometimes it does take two to tango or whatever. So the Catch of the Year Prize goes to egoist Rick Rockwell, the alleged millionaire with two broken toilets in his backyard and a restraining order in his past, who offered himself up as gold digger fodder for the Fox network.
But in the spirit of fairness, we give his lovely bride Darva Conger the Casting Couch Award. After learning How to Marry a Multi-Millionaire, Ms. Conger took off her wedding ring and stripped off the white lace for Playboy.
The prizes? Each other.
What can we say about the year when Erin Brockovich dressed for success? Our Fashion Ms-Statement belongs to Elizabeth Vaughn M.D., who goes into the examining room in Virginia in short skirts, skintight blouse and high heel pumps. We send you immediately a lab coat.
While we are on the subject, the ever-popular Raging Hormonal Imbalance Award, an antidote to testosterone poisoning, is being shipped overnight to the folks who created "Panty Raider." The object of this CD-ROM is to strip and photograph supermodels, and deliver the pictures to three sex-starved aliens before they blow up the earth in "hormone driven anger."
We would offer panty raiders a free trip to that big Frat Room in the sky. Except that Wall Street is so much more fraternal. Our Male Bondage Award belongs therefore to Morgan Stanley, the latest firm found to pay women less and exclude them from such strange perks as visits to topless clubs. Talk about a bull market. Put them in the stocks.
Or send them down under. The Double Standard Bearer of the year is the unfortunate prime minister of Australia who imposed a luxury tax on tampons but not on bandages or incontinence pads or condoms. We send him a primer on PMS.
Finally, the Dubious Equality Award. Much as we applaud women going into male fields, even taking over dad's business, we do draw the line. This year a trio of daughters Laila, Jacqui, and Freeda, the offspring of Ali, Frazier and Foreman, respectively, have thrown their fate into the boxing ring.
Somehow I don't think our foremothers fought for the right to punch each other's brains out.
Ellen Goodman is a columnist for The Boston Globe.