As more people and organizations go online, women's rights activism is taking on a new shape. While the traditional methods are still viable forms of organizing, the Internet is full of useful tools for plugged-in women's rights supporters.
If you are looking for free Internet access, and don't mind putting up with advertising, try Netzero. Connect to www.netzero.com for more information on affordable surfing.
Your first stop online should always be the NOW web site to see what's new and what resources we have to offer. The NOW site has an index of information about cyberspace such as how to create a web page and how to get free e-mail or a free e-mail list at our www.now.org/web/cyber.html page. On our web site you can also find a sample of NOW chapter actions (www.now.org/chapters/nowacts.html), and our complete products catalog is now online (www.now.org/catalog).
A few web sites will now allow you to do free searches of national news stories, a necessary tool for any activist trying to stay informed. Try Search Excite's Newstracker at nt.excite.com or Hotwired's www.newsbot.com to tap into major news outlets and wire services.
For news more specifically related to women, try the Womenconnect site (www.womenconnect.com/politicsdaily) which has a publication about women in politics updated every weekday. The Feminist Majority's web site (www.feminist.org) also carries daily news on women's rights issues, as well as listings of feminist jobs and events.
The American Bar Association has information on where to find a pro bono lawyer at their www.abanet.org/legalservices/probono/home.html web page. This site should prove invaluable for women's rights advocates and any woman in need of legal assistance.
Keep up with your representatives and send them a piece of your mind with the help of the Internet. The Library of Congress has good links for contacting your congresspeople and obtaining congressional schedules and voting records. Start at the lcweb.loc.gov/global/legislative/congress.html page.
Did you hear that Tommy Hilfiger made racist statements on "Oprah"? Did you know the FCC plans to charge long distance rates for Internet usage? Does your computer have the dangerous "Good Times" virus? None of these stories are actually true, although they may sound credible at first glance.
Did you get a petition for women's rights in Afghanistan from a woman at Brandeis University? While this petition contained true information, the e-mail address was canceled, and all e-mail sent to the address now gets deleted.
Just in time for April Fools' Day, you can reduce the dissemination of these so-called "urban legends"-untrue information that seems believable-by first checking them out at the urbanlegends.miningco.com web site. The site includes subject categories and a current list to help you easily locate information about the story you may have in front of you. We can all be more effective e-mail activists if we don't waste our own time and energy and that of others forwarding useless or harmful information.
You can also be assured that the NOW Action Center won't forward any urban legends to our activists. All e-mail messages on our alert list are actions initiated and verified by NOW.
Here's a helpful tip for sending those messages addressed to all your friends and fellow activists. The best way to send e-mail to a group of people who aren't in an official list (see the Fall 1998 NNT for ways to create free e-mail lists) is to use the BCC field.
BCC-or Blind Carbon Copy-will prevent recipients from seeing the other destinations you are sending to and will keep the message short, both of which are important for online organizers.
Many people don't want their e-mail address widely circulated and messages with many visible addresses may be slow to download. Also, long lists of addresses can fill a full page or more of paper.
Most e-mail programs allow you to use a BCC field, although you may have to consult your manual if the field isn't readily apparent.