NOW Acts

by Cindy Hanford, Chapter/State Development Staff

New chapter Martin NOW in Tennessee organized their first action, a Take Back the Night march and rally that drew more than 200 people, to protest violence against women.  Photo courtesy of Jean Williams.

  • Minnesota NOW
  • Indiana NOW
  • Pennsylvania NOW
  • San Fernando Valley/NE LA NOW Helps Pass Law Protecting Rape Survivors
  • New Jersey NOW and Nevada NOW Protest Violence by Athletes
  • Martin, TN NOW Takes Back the Night
  • Greensboro NOW Presents the "Welfare Blues"
  • Pikes Peak Region NOW Protests the County Commissioner

  • This spring and summer, NOW chapters were busy coordinating regional conferences, sending delegates to NOW's Women's Rights Convention and Vision Summit in Rochester, and participating in Lesbian and Gay Pride Marches. Other actions included:

    Chapters Refuse to "Submit Graciously" to Promise Keepers

    NOW chapters across the country continue to protest at events held by the Promise Keepers, a religious group whose leaders embody the sexism, racism and homophobia of the radical right. NOW's presence continues to garner press coverage of the Promise Keepers' misogyny. Some recent NOW actions include:

    Minnesota NOW

    On July 18, the 150th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention, Minnesota NOW protested outside the Metrodome in Minneapolis while the Promise Keepers were inside for a rally.  Minnesota NOW's protest was joined by other organizations concerned with women's rights, religious and political freedom, and discrimination against gays and lesbians.  In a speech, Minnesota NOW President Julie Blaha summed up her message: "On this historical date, we call on the men of the Promise Keepers to go forward with us, rather than pulling us back toward the religious and legal submission of women of the 1800s. We call on the Promise Keepers to fully support the equality, involvement, and leadership of women in the home, in the church, in the workplace, and in the political realm."  The Minneapolis Star Tribune noted the decline in Promise Keeper's attendance even though the $60 entrance fee no longer exists.

    Indiana NOW

    Indiana NOW President Stephanie Ortoleva reports that "sexism, racism, homophobia and theocracy got a challenge," when Indiana NOW protested the Promise Keepers' July 25 gathering in Indianapolis. NOW activist Ellen Denham stated, "It is important that the people of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana, including those men attending Promise Keepers events, be made aware of the political agenda of the Promise Keepers leadership.  We aim to create an awareness of a different agenda - one that advocates equality for all women and men of all races and creeds in our society, our homes, our schools, our jobs and in our houses of worship."

    Indiana NOW's signs read "Promise Us Equality," while Promise Keeper hecklers responded with "NOW supports Satan(!)" The men attending the event seemed confused by protestors who asked them why the Promise Keepers leadership did not work for legislation aimed at ending violence against women, like the Violence Against Women Act.

    Pennsylvania NOW

    While many NOW activists were in Rochester for NOW's Vision Summit, others in the greater Philadelphia area were organizing against the Promise Keepers rally at Veterans Stadium. On July 10, NOW activists were joined by members of the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP,  Equal Partners in Faith, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State for a showing of NOW's video on the Promise Keepers.

    The next day Pennsylvania NOW activists protested outside the Promise Keepers event. Delaware County NOW's President Katherine Mason was quoted in the press: "The issue is that the Promise Keepers are presenting themselves as a religious organization when fundamentally they are a political organization."

    California Chapter Helps Pass Law Protecting Rape Survivors

    The San Fernando Valley/Northeast Los Angeles (CA) chapter of NOW was successful in initiating and lobbying for a new state law to protect rape survivors. The legislation (AB 1926), which prohibits descriptions of survivors' clothing from being introduced as evidence in sexual assault trials, became law in July.

    Chapter activist Tricia Roth approached Assembly member Scott Wildman about sponsoring such legislation after she read about a similar bill passed in New York state. Wildman agreed to introduce the legislation, and the chapter gathered support for the bill among other women's groups and the California District Attorney's Association. California NOW endorsed the bill as part of its legislative agenda, and San Diego County NOW activist Beth McGovern testified for the bill before the Public Safety Committee of both houses of the legislature.

    San Fernando Valley/NE L.A. NOW chapter activist Jan Tucker commented to the press: "It used to be that women were dragged through a gauntlet about their sexual history. The [California Rape Evidence] act now prohibits the use of that kind of questioning unless there is a pretrial hearing where the defense attorney can prove it is relevant."  The same rules of evidence will now pertain to the survivors' clothing.

    Activists wishing to pursue similar legislation in their states may contact: Tricia Roth, c/o San Fernando/NE L.A. NOW, P.O. Box 7141, Van Nuys, CA 91409.

    Martin, TN, Takes Back the Night

    On April 16, Martin NOW held its first action, drawing more than 200 people to a march and rally in a Tennessee town with a population of about 8600. Working in conjunction with the Obion County Bar Association and several organizations from the University of Tennessee at Martin, the chapter organized the events to protest violence against women.

    Marchers carried banners and "Stop Violence Against Women NOW" signs. The march ended with a candlelight rally. Statistics of domestic violence, warning signs of abuse, and support for survivors were the main themes of the speeches.

    The event was well-covered by the local press. Stated Martin NOW contact Jean Williams, "We had a great turn out; it was a wonderful, empowering experience."

    New Jersey and Nevada NOW Protest Violence by Athletes

    NOW activists in New Jersey and Nevada have used the publicity surrounding convicted rapist Mike Tyson's efforts to get back his boxing license as an opportunity to protest violence against women.
    On July 29, NOW NJ protested outside the Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton while Tyson was inside for a meeting of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. The protest was covered widely in the press, including USA Today. NOW NJ President Bear Atwood was quoted: "To give a boxing license to a convicted rapist would be an insult to every woman in our state."

    NOW New Jersey's press release emphasized that Tyson is only one of many in the sports world convicted or accused of violence against women:  "For too long athletes have been getting away with a lower standard of conduct ...It's time to end the 'boys will be boys' attitude that still prevails in our society when judging athletes ...Women have had to watch time and time again as athletes who have committed domestic violence, assault or rape return to play as heroes. Recently, we saw Marv Albert return to broadcasting ... women's safety is not valued."
    Protesters carried a banner that read "Rape is Not a N.J. Sport - Take a Hike, Mike" and signs that said "Stop honoring and rewarding violent athletes."  Later, Tyson unexpectedly withdrew his request prior to a decision from the N.J. control board on his license.
    Tyson was eligible to apply for his boxing license from the Nevada Athletic Commission on July 11, but had abandoned that route to concentrate on New Jersey, perhaps because of the public outcry generated by Southern Nevada NOW's organizing efforts. The Southern Nevada chapter, assisted by the Washington Feminist Faxnet, had organized a successful letter-writing campaign to the Nevada Athletic Commission.
    This chapter's efforts were also highlighted in USA Today. Chapter president Anne Golonka stated, "We responded to press inquiries from Canada, Europe, the United Kingdom and all over the United States."  In promoting the letter-writing campaign, Golonka wrote, "We must make a choice to provide our children with more suitable heroes."  Tyson has now applied again for a license in Nevada.

    Greensboro NOW Presents "The Welfare Blues"

    With the effects of punitive welfare reform legislation becoming more obvious in their community, the Greensboro (NC) chapter of  NOW is addressing the issue by presenting a musical play entitled "The Welfare Blues."  The play dramatizes the impact of the current welfare reform movement on women and families.
    After Greensboro NOW organized a bus for women to attend the Women of Color and Allies Summit in February, the chapter was revitalized and members decided to prioritize welfare reform as one of its major issues. "The Welfare Blues" was written by Wambui Bahati, who joined NOW at the Summit, and is performed by seven NOW members who have made the play a traveling road show. Presented in public housing communities, health centers and libraries, each performance concludes with a panel discussion by legislators, transportation, social service and childcare representatives.
    "The Welfare Blues" series of five skits addresses the myths and realities surrounding time limits, pregnancy, and mandatory drug testing, along with the public's distorted image of who receives public assistance and the amount of the federal budget allocated for public assistance programs.  The performance has been recorded for public access television. For more information, contact Greensboro NOW at P.O. Box 20332, Greensboro, NC 27420.

    Pikes Peak Region NOW Protests County Commissioner

    On July 23, the Pikes Peak Region (CO) chapter organized a zap action that drew about 200 people to downtown Colorado Springs in support of a recall movement against County Commissioner Betty Beedy. The "Break it to Betty" rally was organized by the chapter after Beedy appeared on the ABC talk show "The View."
    On the show, Beedy made racist, sexist and homophobic remarks.  Asked to explain her position against gay rights, Beedy replied that a person's sexual preference is known only when it is revealed.  Turning to host Star Jones, who is African American, Beedy said, "It's not like the race issue, where we can look at her and know that she's different - she's different than the white, normal {sic} American."
    Earlier this year, Beedy had said she could not vote to rename a Colorado Springs highway after Martin Luther King, Jr. And, she had previously aroused ire by commenting that single mothers who date and receive child support are "sluts."
    Chapter President Tess Powers spoke at the rally: "Today, we are going to break the news to Betty Beedy that she doesn't represent El Paso County....To claim that she represents us on national television was not only incorrect, it was arrogant."  Activists have until Sept. 21 to gather more than 7900 signatures for the recall effort.

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