Simonton crisscrosses the U.S. presenting a thought-provoking slide show titled Sex, Power and the Media. Her aim, she says, is to destroy "the myth of the American Dream Girl." On average, she speaks four times a month and makes about $8,000 a year.
The presentation begins with a revealing analysis of her life and then addresses demeaning images of women found in advertisements and articles in men's and women's magazines. One of her slides is of an ad that claims a bra gives a career woman much-needed freedom; another shows a ditzy gal who takes control of her life by using the right hair conditioner. This is followed by clothing ads that Simonton believes make light of inhuman treatment of women—a model tied up with belts. a teenager with a hot iron on her stomach. Two hours and some 200 slides later, Simonton reaches a fever pitch with obscene photos of raped and dismembered women. She closes with a plea, asking SPORTS ILLUSTRATED to discontinue the swimsuit issue and replace it with a magazine devoted solely to women athletes.
"The swimsuit issue encourages violence and hatred toward women," Simonton says. "It dehumanizes women, turns them into objects. The ratings start the minute the issue is opened: 'I like her because of her breasts.'...'Look at the gams on this babe.' "
Simonton is equally outspoken in criticizing other examples of what she believes are destructive images of women. Here are a few samples:
? Jane Fonda: " Fonda is obsessed with youth and her own physicality. How good she looks will determine her future. That doesn't increase the dignity of women at all."
?Dynasty: "The TV show with the greatest misconceptions about women's conditions. Dynasty women eat chocolates, wear gorgeous clothes, sit around the house and pick up any man they want in a bar."
?The NFL cheerleader: "She's a symbol for the role that women are asked to play in all aspects of men's lives. Women are asked to be men's cheerleaders, to pump them up and soothe them on their bad days, to cheer them off to work and be sexually available when they return."
? Florence Griffith Joyner: "A woman athlete shouldn't feel she has to dress in a way that proves her sexuality."
Though it may be hard to believe, Simonton's actions actually are tougher than her words. An advocate of civil disobedience, she has been arrested 11 times for such acts as littering (one of the roses in a bouquet she was carrying fell to the sidewalk during a protest; she sued and got a $10,000 out-of-court settlement), tearing up a copy of Hustler magazine (she hadn't paid for it), taking her shirt off at a state beach ("I was challenging a sexually discriminative law"), and pouring a few drops of her blood on a sidewalk as a protest against rape. "I'm not going to stand on a soapbox and hand out leaflets," she says. "I want to make sure a lot of people hear about the issues."
For the past nine years, she and other feminists have protested against the Miss California pageant by staging a Myth California contest, an elaborate bit of street theater. To demonstrate her feeling that beauty pageants treat women as "pieces of meat," Simonton has worn an evening gown made from 30 pounds of bologna and a necklace of miniature wieners. "Bologna is very greasy, and it really smells," she says, laughing. "It was all I could do to fight off stray dogs."