By Ellen Goodman
Once more we prepare to honor our foremothers by celebrating the anniversary of the passage of women’s suffrage. Each year, in advance of Aug. 26, our one-woman committee gathers to hand out the Equal Rites Awards to those stalwarts who have done the most in the past year to set back the cause of women.
What to say of the last 12 months? This is the year girls finally caught up with boys in math achievement. And the year women finally achieved equality with men in job losses. This year we had the first serious female contender for the White House. And all she’ll end up with at the convention is a roll-call vote.
But enough of all that. The envelopes, please.
We begin with the highly competitive Blind Justice Award. This usually goes to some worthy American, but a Russian judge swept ahead of the pack when he ruled against a woman’s charge of sexual harassment. “If we had no sexual harassment,” he said, “we would have no children.” We send this judge the blindfold to use as a gag.
Can he lend it to a French colleague? In Lille, a judge actually granted an annulment to a Muslim bridegroom because his bride was not a virgin, “single and chaste.” For this, he wins the Taliban Wannabe Prix, with a side order of freedom fries and our hope that he won’t permit stoning on the Champs-Elysees.
Back on this side of the Atlantic, the Fashion Victim Award goes to Wrangler Jeans for ads that display women as half-dressed corpses. Ah, yes, homicide is so chic! Dead is the new black! Our prize is a sword thrust through their profit margin.
Sex and violence sell in the virtual world as well. The makers of “Grand Theft Auto IV” win the Raging Hormonal Imbalance Trophy for training men how to have interactive intimacy with prostitutes and then murder them. They call this a game.
Meanwhile, in the online girlworld, the Post-Feminist Booby Prize goes to those wondrous creators of “Miss Bimbo.” This game encourages bimbos-in-training to buy their avatars everything from sexy lingerie to face-lifts and breast implants, thereby producing “the hottest, coolest, most famous bimbo in the whole world.” You go, Bimbo!
Do I hear the sound of a backlash? The Backlash Award goes to St. Louis’ Washington University, which actually gave an honorary degree to Phyllis Schlafly for leading the charge against women’s rights. What’s next, honoraries for segregationists?
As for a kinder, gentler backlash, let us dance into the arms of the Patriarchs of the Year, the leaders of the deeply creepy father-daughter Purity Balls who ask: “Are you ready to war for your daughters’ purity?”
Their prize is a meet-up with Abdel-Qader Ali, the unrepentant Iraqi father who did indeed fight for his daughter’s purity. The winner of the Ayatollah of the Year Prize beat his daughter to death for being infatuated with a British soldier. And was released two hours later by the Basra police because, said Daddy Dearist, “they are men and know what honor is.”
Alas, we hoped to retire the Tammy Wynette Stand by Your Man Award. But there was Silda standing by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York while his taste in prostitutes was revealed. And what to say about the admired Elizabeth Edwards? She didn’t do the perp’s wife’s walk, but didn’t she enable John to think he could still be president? We send these wives our disappointment.
This leads us to the Dubious Equality Award for the person who wins the most suspect equal right. Our winner is Thomas Beatie, nee Tracy, who gave birth after a sex-change operation, thereby dubbing himself the first man to have a baby. This is not what we mean by shared parenting.
What’s next on the baby front? Tarted-up tots? The Our Bodies, Our Daughters Citation goes to those fetishists selling stilettos for baby girls. Hey guys, they’re babies, not babes. Get thee to the foot binder.
Or the football field. Our Superstars of Sexism Prize goes to those Jets fans—you know who you are—who spend halftime lined up, whistling and demanding that women display their breasts. For this brain malfunction you get a chauvinist pigskin.
And another throwback. Our Desperate (To Get) Housewives Award goes to those two sensitive guys in New Hampshire who released their inner jerk by yelling at Hillary Clinton to “Iron my shirt!” We permanently attach this YouTube moment to their Match.com profiles.
Which reminds us of the Media Ms.-Adventure Award. With Hillary-misogyny all around, we picked our winners from opposite ends of the radio dial. The right-wing Rush Limbaugh insisted that Americans wouldn’t want to watch a woman aging in the White House. The left-wing Randi Rhodes called the senator a “big f—-ing w—-e.” Their prize is spending the rest of the election locked together in one studio.
Finally, dishonorable mention to all those with bumper stickers reading “Life’s a Bitch, Don’t Elect One.” We cover them with the final words of Susan B. Anthony: “Failure Is Impossible.”
Ellen Goodman’s e-mail address is ellengoodman(at)globe.com.
© 2008, Washington Post Writers Group