SO, ONCE MORE, we prepare to celebrate Aug. 26, the anniversary of the passage of women's suffrage, in our own special way. Our one-woman jury gathers in the shadow of our foremothers to dispense the much-coveted Equal Rites Awards to those who have done their best over the past year to set back the cause of women.
What are we to say about the last 12 months of progress and regress? In the alternative universe of television, we got our first female commander in chief and then lost her in the popular election conducted by Nielsen. We had the first female anchor in chief, Katie Couric, chosen against a chorus complaining that she lacked gravitas (which is Latin for baritone). ``Sesame Street" prepared to welcome its first female lead puppet, and who is she? Abby Cadabby, a very, very pink fairy in training complete with a tiara.
But back to reality programming. Our pool of contestants for these awards runneth over. The envelopes please:
We begin with The Taliban Wannabe Prize, once named for the copycats working to keep women under (literal) wraps. This year the award is bound to, alas . . . Afghanistan. Remember the virtue police who beat Afghan women for merely exposing their ankles? They're coming baaaaack. The Department for the Protection of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice has been reapproved by our man in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai, and will soon come before the Afghan Parliament. With friends like these, who needs the Taliban?
Speaking of our freedom-loving allies, The International Ayatollah Award goes to Saudi Arabia, where women have long been kept out of the drivers' seats. Now King Abdullah wants them out of the newspapers as well, because publishing pictures of women could lead men astray. We send him a revised motto for the kingdom: Out of sight? Out of your mind?
Alas, America is not immune to international guy gaffes. The Man-Handling Prize for groping across borders goes to The Decider, who came up behind Angela Merkel's back and gave the horrified German chancellor a hefty massage. This ``Love Attack," as it was described in Germany, proves that no woman is too powerful to get George as her main squeeze.
Ah, but let us not be too politically correct. The Patriarch of the Year is Utah's Judge Walter Steed, a polygamist and jurist who dispensed the law for 25 years while breaking it. We send him and his three wives a full set of ``Big Love" DVDs to enjoy now that he is, uh, retired.
On to the judges who still sit on the supreme court in Italy. The Blind Justice Award is bound to those men who once ruled that a woman wearing skin-tight jeans couldn't claim rape. This year, the court ruled that sexual abuse of a teen was less serious because she wasn't a virgin. We send them, at long last, some woman to join the bench.
Do you hear the theme song? Our Misogyny in Music Award goes -- as did the Oscar -- to that sweet song ``It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." Much as we sympathize with the tribulations of the small businessman, we hope this tune hip-hops right down the road to moral bankruptcy.
While we are humming this tune, surely Heidi Fleiss wins our Dubious Equality Award for a woman who works the hardest for the most unwanted parity. Is it easy out there for a madam? She's trying to set up a stud farm in Nevada for women patrons of the newest male profession. Hey Heidi, what's bad for the goose is bad for the gander.
And take a gander at Ann Coulter. Groan. After so many years of giving men The Backlash Award, Ms. Coulter is our hands-down, loose-lipped winner. Who else but the tongue-lashing, female-bashing Coulter would call the widows of 9/11 ``witches and harpies" who are ``reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzies" while enjoying their husbands' death. We send her a remaindered copy of her book ``Slander."
Or better yet, let's send her to Match.com where she would hook up with the winner of our Ms-Communicator Award: Neil French. The (now former) creative head of the worldwide WPP advertising group said that women don't get to the top of the ad biz because they ``wimp out and go suckle something." Ann?
You will note that we couldn't give Neil The Post-Feminist Booby Prize. That must go to the Victoria's Secret keepers who told a nursing mom in Wisconsin to go suckle in the bathroom instead of the dressing room. Who would have believed that the folks who made their fortune on the female form -- ``Very Sexy Infinity Edge Push-Up Bra" -- would disdain its function? We send them a lift for their image.
Let's not forget The Raging Hormonal Imbalance Award. It is headed along with a testosterone testing kit to Joe Francis, the sleaze master who made his fortune sexploiting sexhibitionists on ``Girls Gone Wild." Then he went wild, slamming Los Angeles Times reporter Claire Hoffman against the hood of a car. The only new video we want to see is Francis doing a perp walk.
Speaking of which, The Superstar in Sexism prize goes to Brett Myers, the Phillies pitcher who wasn't using a designated hitter when he was seen striking his wife -- 12 inches shorter, 120 pounds lighter -- on the streets of Boston. To him, simply, we wish a losing streak on the mound and in the courtroom.
Finally, we give The Male In-Security Award to the airport guard who searched Margaret Jackson and came across highly detailed designs of an airplane in her briefcase. He found it easier to believe she was a terrorist than a corporate head. As she wrote him later, ``Dear Bill, this is from the chairman of Qantas, who is a woman." Here's to what they call the New Normal.