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As Aug. 26 approaches, our awards committee faces its task in a rather ambivalent spirit. The annual Equal Rites Awards ceremony, held in honor of our foremothers who won the right to vote on this day in 1920, has always been an occasion for taking stock.

What can we say about the past year? The good news is that women finally achieved something close to equal standing on Page 1. The bad news is that the name that has closed the gender gap is Monica Lewinsky. The good news is that we held a national conversation about relationships between men and women. The bad news is that virtually all the talk was about sex.

However, our one-woman committee prefers to take the long view. So without further ado, we once again offer our prizes to those who have labored so hard in the past 12 months to set back the cause of equality.

The Blind Justice Award, always a hotly contested prize, goes this year, by unanimous vote, to Judge Clyde Gober Jr. The Georgia jurist came up with a unique solution to domestic violence: marriage. After Darrell Meadows threatened to kill Angela Whaley and their 2-year-old daughter Nicole, Gober ordered Darrell to marry Angela as a condition of probation. For this happy ending -- here comes the bride, all dressed in black and blue -- we send some new and very unrosy glasses.

Our Superstars of Sexism Prize usually goes to some individual sports figure. But this year, we award it to an entire lineup of pros practicing unprotected sex and unwed fatherhood. You know the stats: Patriots' Ben Coates, five daughters by four women; Cavaliers' Shawn Kemp, seven children by six women; Knicks' Larry Johnson, three by three, etc. To the NBA and NFL and any others, we add a DNA expert to the lineup.

While we are on the subject of dads, our Deadbeat Dad of the Year is none other than Santa Claus. No, not that one. It's Neil Ramirez of Brooklyn, who was working as a mall Santa when his son innocently plopped onto his lap. An astonished mom then slapped Santa with papers. It turned out that this Claus had not been paying his child support. As they say, you better watch out, you better not shout.

Speaking of gifts, the Backlash Award goes to the Southern Baptists, who delivered the edict this year that "a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband." This backlash, a fine tool, will be engraved and personally delivered by a direct descendant of Lilith.

Ah, boys will be boys and our Old Boys Will Be Old Boys Certificate, in Gothic lettering, is being sent by courier to the male state legislators in Kentucky who dubbed their six liberal female colleagues "the bitch caucus." This courier is a pit bull. Female, of course.

Let us not forget the Ms-Ad-ventures Award. It belongs to the marketeers of "fetish 16." This perfume is being sold to teens with the tag line: "Apply generously to your neck so he can smell the scent as you shake your head 'no.' " Our award is a petit point, suitable for framing, that reads: No Means No.

On to the Misogyny in Music Award, a very downbeat, blues song that will be winging its way to, alas, Eric Clapton. His song "Sick and Tired" offered up the lyrics, "I may have to blow your brains out, baby/Then you won't bother me no more."

That pleasant thought reminds us that we have yet to give out the Raging Hormonal Imbalance Award. This year it goes to the Commissioner from Mars, Michael Tranghese of Big East basketball, who explained the chromosomes of athletes this way: "Men compete, get along and move on with few emotions. But women break down, get emotional." We suggest that he dribble that thought over to Rebecca Lobo.

Ah, but wait a minute. What about the reporter from Venus? The second Raging Hormonal Imbalance Award goes to Nina Burleigh, the Ally McBeal of former White House reporters who confessed that after playing hearts with the president, she was ready to go back to the hotel room with him. "Distracting a powerful man from his business is one of the highest forms of flattery available to women." Sweetheart, get me rewrite.

If power is an aphrodisiac, how do we explain Viagra? The Gender Gap Gavel pounds on the desk of those wonderful researchers who gave us a pill to cure male impotence before a pill for male birth control. In return for 10 little blue pills, we send them a copy of "Lysistrata."

Boston Globe

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