AND NOW let us pause to celebrate Aug. 26, tomorrow's anniversary of women's suffrage. It's been 85 years since Harry Burn, a young Tennessee legislator, followed the advice of his mom and cast the deciding vote ratifying the 19th Amendment.
We honor Harry, his mom, and generations of suffragists. We also remember the hostile foes who chased Harry onto the third floor ledge of the state capitol after his vote. Since 1920, we've not only had progress, we've had generations of adversaries trying to force women's rights out the window.
In this spirit, our one-woman committee met again this year to dispense prizes to those who labored mightily throughout the past year to set back the cause of women. Without further ado, we present the Equal Rites Awards:
We begin, as we must, by going overseas where so many compete so hard for the International Ayatollah Prize. This year it goes to the Islamic clerics in northwest India who ruled that a woman raped by her father-in-law not only had to leave her husband but had to marry his rapist father. To those profamily clerics we issue a fatwa: Don't just blame the victim, marry her.
While we are abroad, the Double Standard Bearer Prize goes to our allies, the Saudis, who still refuse to give women the keys to the kingdom. The latest petition opposing women drivers explained, ''Women are less decisive than men and less capable of dealing with difficult situations." To the oil-rich and common sense-deprived Saudis, we send Indy Racing League sensation Danica Patrick to chauffeur them to the 21st century.
Speaking of Danica, it was Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone who sneered at her, saying: ''Women should be dressed in white like all other domestic appliances." To Bernie we award our Superstar in Sexism Prize and a two-week vacation in our favorite appliance: a deep freezer.
Could Tom Cruise chill out too? He wins the Raging Hormonal Imbalance Award for trashing Brooke Shields because she took medication for postpartum depression. We send him our home-brewed antidote for testosterone poisoning.
What, then, should we give Rick Santorum, who worked so hard this year to grasp the much-coveted Backlash Award? First he blamed the problems of families on ''radical feminists," and then he opposed ''artificial birth control" as harmful to women and encouraging sex out of marriage. We send Rick to remedial sex ed class to learn that you don't have to be single or female to use birth control.
As for sexism education, how 'bout them bureaucrats? We give the Male-practice Award to those folks who approved Medicaid payments for Viagra, etc., to 800 sex offenders. Our gift to them: all the side effects on the Viagra label.
Warnings, anyone? Give
Ah, but what do we say to rappers offending our ears? The lyrics of the illustrious 50 Cent are mostly unprintable in this space. Among the mildest? ''I tell the hoes all the time, bitch get in my car." We give his love songs our Misogyny in Music Award, a baton suitable for hitting him upside the head.
Could we also use it on Oscar B. Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas? Oscar wins the Boys will be (Play)boys Prize for his gig as an amateur photographer for Playboy.com. Dear Oscar, what happens in Las Vegas does not always stay in Las Vegas.
Nor is every centerfold a playgirl. Our Media Mis-Adventuress Award goes to nude news babe Sharon Reed, a Cleveland reporter who stripped while reporting on a nude photo exhibit. Dear Sharon, this is not what your journalism school professors meant by an undercover story.
OK, Harvard prez Larry Summers was all set to win the Battle of the Sexes Prize for the brouhaha created by his offhand and off-the-wall remarks that women might have less ''intrinsic aptitude" for science. But what do we give to the Harvard Corporation that gave him a raise instead of a rap? A grant to study the intrinsic aptitude for male bonding?
Can you advance backward? The Dubious Equality Award for the most unwanted parity goes to the Runaway Bride, Jennifer Wilbanks. She proved that women too can be commitment-phobic -- only they get famous for it.
Justice, wherefore are thou? The Blind Justice Award goes this year to Judge Paul Bastine of Spokane, Wash. The good judge refused to give Shawnna Hughes a divorce because she was pregnant and he didn't want her baby born illegitimate. Never mind that husband Carlos was in jail for domestic violence. We simply bench the judge.
But guess who is next at bat? We award John Roberts, nominee for the Supreme Court, the Let's Hope He Grew Out of It Prize. As a teenager, Roberts editorialized against admitting women to his parochial school because he didn't want to study Shakespeare's racy passages with ''a blonde giggling and blushing behind me." Ruth Ginsburg, beware!
Finally, our Knight in Shining Armor Prize goes to George Bush for so many reasons, but especially this one. He didn't follow his wife's advice to nominate a woman to the Supreme Court, but he did let her appoint the first woman chef to rule the White House kitchen. Who said there wasn't progress?
Ellen Goodman's e-mail address is email@example.com.