Just another anniversary

BOSTON—Each year, in tribute to our historic foremothers, I celebrate August 26th, the anniversary of the passage of women’s suffrage, by announcing the Equal Rites Awards. This is a much coveted and highly competitive set of prizes that go to those people who did their utmost over the past 12 months to set back the progress of women.

Once again our overworked one-woman jury had to wade through all sorts of mixed messages about the status of women. After all, within the past 12 months the number of women in the Senate more than tripled. And arrived at a grand total of 7 percent. The question of child care finally became front page news. But only because it slammed the Nannygate shut on some candidates for high-level jobs. And a woman achieved enough real power to set Hollywood quaking. But the woman was Heidi Fleiss, the so-called Hollywood Madam.

These awards, however, have always been markers on a rocky road to equality. So without further ado, the envelopes please.

The Backlash Award this year goes to Hooters, the restaurant chain that specialized in casual dining and sexual harassment suits—at least six so far. The management denies they demean women by promoting “Hooters Girls” in skimpy orange shorts and T-shirts who wait on customers under the motto: “More Than a Mouthful.” We ship the manager of Hooters two tickets on the boat carrying Playboy bunnies: toward extinction.

The Blind Justice Award, always a cliffhanger, this year is sent to Judge Thomas J. Bollinger of Maryland who showered sympathy on a 44-year-old man convicted of raping an 18-year-old employee who had passed out from alcohol. Calling this situation, “the dream of a lot of males” he gave the rapist only 18 months of probation. To Judge Bollinger, our “dreamboat,” we send a wake-up call.

Speaking of fantasies, The Raging Hormonal Imbalance Prize goes to Pat Robertson whose campaign last fall against the Iowa State ERA warned voters that “feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft and destroy capitalism.” Dear Pat, those hot flashes are hellish, aren’t they? Here’s a full year’s supply of estrogen patches.

The Double Standard-Bearer Award is designated this year for those who most ardently uphold the unequal treatment of women who sell sex and men who buy it. It was originally going to the cast of “Indecent Proposal.” Then we heard about the Florida vice squad trio who filmed and starred in a 23-minute tape of a sting operation in which one officer was shown getting oral sex from an alleged teenage prostitute. We offer to pin, really pin, badges on these men for going beyond the line of duty.

A Battered Women’s Shelter Citation, suitable for framing or tattooing, is awarded to the young man in the pickup truck last seen in Plymouth, Mass., with a bumper sticker that read: “If I Don’t Get Laid Pretty Soon, Someone’s Gonna Get Hurt.”

Now on to the annual MIM—Misogyny in Music Prize. In fairness this would be shared by all those rappers who routinely glorify date rape and abuse. This year, however, it goes to Richard Shaw, the Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys who defended his, uh, genre before a meeting of black journalists, saying, “I call women bitches and hos because all women I’ve met since I’ve been out here are bitches and hos.” We would send Shaw a gag, but lordy, we wouldn’t want to infringe on his free speech.

The Stand By Your Man Kit, a doormat and Tammy Wynette doll, is being shipped to Jennifer Meling, whose husband laced her Sudafed with cyanide. After Jennifer got out of a coma, she eventually moved back in with her man and testified in his favor at the trial. “Loving a person,” she said, “gets in the way of being totally objective.” We hope that Jennifer, separated from her husband by bars, will learn to stand on the doormat.

This year, for the first time, a man has won the Dubious Equality Award. The ever-entrepreneurial Ivan Boesky, the ‘80s hi-flyer who’s credited with coining the term “Greed is good,” makes us wonder whether equal rights have gone too far. An ex-con now, he won $180,000 a year in alimony from his ex-wife, including $300 a month for his hair and $430 a month for dry cleaning. We send him nothing because he’s already proven you can take a wife to the cleaners.

The Superstars of Sexism in Sports Awards, East Coast Division, has been won by teams of young New York boys who created a new water sport called “whirlpooling.” In this event, a swarm of boys surround a girl in the public swimming pool, snatch her bathing suit top and assault her.

Not to be outdone, the Superstars Award, West Coast Division, goes to those athletes from Lakewood High School in California who formed the Spur Posse. They competed for points by racking up sexual conquests, including some underage girls. We rank these teammates by our own scoring system: losers.

Finally, the Like Fathers, Like Sons Award goes to Don Belman, a salesman and father of three sons, one a founder of the Spur Possse and another among the boys arrested. His paternal, or should we say patriarchal response, was “Aren’t they virile specimens!” To Don Belman we ship, Federal Express, a home testing kit for testosterone poisoning.