Ellen Goodman

The Equal Rites Awards

To those who have done the most to slow down women’s progress


So, dear friends, we gather again to celebrate Aug. 26, the anniversary of the passage of women’s suffrage. We honor our foremothers in our special way by handing out the Equal Rites Awards for those who have done the most to slow down progress.

This year, the holiday falls all too appropriately between the end of the Olympics and the beginning of the political conventions. Need we remind you that women have achieved greater success in the sports meritocracy than in the political democracy? Forty years after Title IX, women outnumbered men on the US Olympic team and in the gold medals. Ninety-two years after the 19th Amendment, women occupy only 17 percent of the seats in Congress and have never made it to the White House.

But now for our own gold medals, may we have: The envelopes please!


We begin by awarding the Double Standard Bearer Prize to — ta da! — Rush Limbaugh. Our lifetime achievement awardee attacked Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute” because she testified before Congress in favor of having contraception covered by health insurance. For saying that Fluke should repay the taxpayers with personal sex videos we give Rush a special Groupon to be used — stat — at the Testosterone Poison Control Center.

Get Truth and Consequences in your inbox:
Michael A. Cohen takes on the absurdities and hypocrisies of the current political moment.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

On the same toxic vein, the Male-Practice Award does not go to a doctor this year but to Republican bankroller Foster Friess. This super PAC-man had his own reason to avoid covering birth control. “Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives; the gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.” We send Friess a case of aspirin, a Hypocritic (sic) Oath, and a one-way ticket back to “his day.”

Now for his pal Rick Santorum. Our boy Rick lost the presidential battle but won the Battle of the Sexes Badge for a pink panic attack. At a bowling campaign event in Wisconsin Rick stopped a boy from picking up a pink ball, saying “You’re not going to use that pink ball . . . Not on camera . . . Friends don’t let friends use pink balls.” In the pink and blue world of boys and grrrls, he is already behind our 8-ball.

Ah yes, but what about virtual games-man-ship? The annual Booby Prize for On-Line Sports goes to video game coach Aris Bakhtanians, who trash-talked player Miranda Pakozdi in the Cross Assault video game tournament, quizzing her on camera about her bra size and telling her to take off her shirt. For video harassment, we promise to crash his private hard drive.

Now on to the BackWards Trail Blazer Award. We censure the Census Bureau for its retro view of kiddie care. When mom does it, according to Census data, it’s parenting. When dad does it, it’s child care. For sticking to the old script, we give the number crunchers an apron emblazoned: Dad is not a babysitter!


Let us wing overseas for our (Half) Blind Justice Award. It is won this year, as so often before, by Afghanistan. There, the good news is that the government finally pardoned a woman named Gulnaz imprisoned for adultery after being raped. The bad news is that Afghan Justice Minister Habibullah Ghaleb claimed that shelters for victims of domestic violence were encouraging immorality and prostitution. A one-eyed burka for these boys.

The Dubious Equality Award goes annually to the most unwelcome evidence of a sexual parity. This year it is being delivered to Saudi Arabia. Women in the kingdom still cannot drive, can only run in the Olympics covered from head to toe. But . . . men like Muree bin Ali bin Issa al-Asiri can also be executed for witchcraft and adultery!

Home again, home again, where the war on women thrives. Here, the Taliban Poster Boy Award goes to Jay Townsend, a now-former campaign adviser to Republican Representative Nan Hayworth of New York, who used his Facebook page to suggest how to deal with women lawmakers who promoted the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay bill — “Let’s hurl some acid at those female Democratic senators . . .” He has already received our award for him: a pink slip.

Alas this war also has its intra-gender battalions. The Mommy Wars Re-Ignition Prize goes with regret to Hilary Rosen for the sound-bite that came back to bite her. She said mom-of-five Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life.” A hair-shirt emblazoned with “Every mom is a working mom” has already been Fedexed her way.

As for the Romneys, our gal Ann not only worked as a mom but, we now know, as an anthropologist studying the life of a remote tribe for her hubby. Employer Mitt gets the Patriarch of the Year Award for whining that he does so understand women because Ann “reports to me” on what they think. To Mitt a pill for tone-deafness.


Can we top that? Yesss!! The Media Ms.-take Citation goes to Time magazine’s cover photo featuring a 3-year-old son being breast fed by his buff mom under the line: “Are You Mom Enough?” For promoting competitive mom-ery via mammary, we write the editors a prescription to Mom Up.

Just don’t try to fill this Rx in Texas. The Over The Counter Sexism Award for retailing stereotypes goes to the CVS pharmacists in Mesquite, Texas, who illegally refused to sell emergency contraception, aka Plan B, to a man. After all, they hinted to this husband, he might be a rapist. We offer these pharmacists Plan D for discrimination.

From pharmacy to cosmetology, we are pleased to give the Ms.-Adventures in Advertising Award to yet another make-up artist. This year, giants Cover Girl and L’Oreal took a photo-shop-opportunity to alter the eyelashes of Taylor Swift and the skin of Julia Roberts. For their attempt to sell make-up through self-hate, we send them a pre-made public service announcement: Even Taylor Swift doesn’t have eyelashes like Taylor Swift.

Let us not forgot the Raging Hormonal Imbalance Prize. This was won, hands down, by Missouri Republican Senate Candidate Todd Akin. While serving an overdose of Tea Party politics, he justified his opposition to abortion for rape victims by explaining, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” To offset his Boy-ology 101 lesson, Todd gets a two-week vacation from campaigning to volunteer in a local rape crisis center.

Finally, we are in debt (literally) to China for the Masters of the Universe Citation. This goes to the Mandarins who are updating the concubine for the modern era. It turns out that the Chinese Masters’ latest perk is a mistress. “Keeping a mistress is just like playing golf,” said one such Master. “Both are expensive hobbies.” As we close this awards season, at least we can get teed off. Our motto for next year: Fore!

Ellen Goodman is a former Globe columnist.