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STYLE & CULTURE | AL MARTINEZ

Witness the emancipation of the little woman

October 21, 2002|AL MARTINEZ

In the old days, women washed clothes in a stream, cooked over an open fire and didn't give their men any sass. They had no desire to hunt with the boys or to engage in any of the activities that were considered in the male domain. And they were always available for the guys when the guys wanted them.

As time passed, women were allowed to join clubs, lunch with the girls, have their hair done, shop, and work as teachers and secretaries. Their primary functions, however, remained in the washroom, the kitchen and the bedroom. But just about the time their skills in these areas were reaching an optimum, something happened.

A drive to free women, known as the Feminist Liberation Movement, came into being. The idea puzzled men because they never considered women to be unfree. They were just doing the female kinds of things that God had intended, plus a few more that the guys had allowed.

Feminist militants didn't see it that way. They began burning their bras, which was OK with the guys, but then began demanding their place in areas once limited to men. This occurred at about the same time as the Pill hit the market, which turned the feminist revolution into a sexual revolution. After that, everything changed.

Women are everywhere today. Well, they always were, but now they've invaded occupations where they were never expected. They're soldiers, cops, plumbers, mayors, ditch diggers, sports announcers. They hang out in bars, smoke cigarettes and often end up in bed with someone they don't recognize in the morning. They are becoming, God help us all, just like men.

Andy Rooney is just going to have to accept that.

I mention this today because of the stir that the gruff curmudgeon of "60 Minutes" has caused by his comments regarding a female sideline reporter on "Monday Night Football." Specifically, one Melissa Stark.

While discussing football on a televised sports show, good old Andy remarked in his usual intemperate manner, "The only thing that bugs me about television's coverage is those damn women they have down on the sidelines who don't know what the hell they're talking about." He was instantly set upon by women across the land, among whom was Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. She was quoted in Time magazine as replying: "Andy Rooney, like my 9-year-old says, is so last month."

Rooney came back by insisting he was only kidding and followed that up with an online "Homage to Women" column. But it was too late for a lot of the women who e-mailed me. One of them described in colorful detail where Rooney would fit on the anatomy of a horse. Stark just ignored him.

This isn't the first time he's been in trouble for shooting his mouth off. You may recall that in 1990 he had to apologize for making a derogatory comment about gays while simultaneously denying that he had made insulting remarks about African Americans. You'd think that a guy in communications would know a little bit, at least, about what not to communicate.

Prettier than John Madden

As for Melissa Stark, I also had a hard time getting used to a cute little dimpled thing talking about the groin injury of a 238-pound line backer, but I guess I'm more flexible than Rooney. I accepted it. Also, I like looking at her a lot more than I do John Madden. She's prettier and considerably calmer. No sudden booms! and bangs! that have characterized Madden's commentary.

Rooney is not, of course, alone in his attitude. An acquaintance called to have me speculate on how long it would be before Stark appeared naked in the pages of Playboy, as though, because she's attractive and increasingly popular, taking off her clothes would be the logical next step. I said I thought she had more class than that, and he replied, "But she's a woman!"

Had Rooney taken the time to read Stark's bio, he'd have recognized how well qualified she is to do exactly what she's doing. A 1995 Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Virginia with a double major in Spanish and world affairs, she began her television career while an undergraduate and has worked in sports ever since. She's no amateur and she's no dodo.

I still love Andy Rooney. However, for his own safety, I'd lay off women if I were him. Just the other day there was the story of a woman who bit her husband to death because he wouldn't have sex with her. They don't mess around anymore.

*

Al Martinez's column appears Mondays and Fridays. He's at al.martinez@latimes.

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