NOW Members Talk Media and Message At 1999 National NOW Conference in L.A.

This fourth of July weekend in the movie and television capital of the world, activists at the National NOW Conference will focus on images of women in entertainment, advertising and news. The conference, July 2-4 in Los Angeles, will be followed on Monday, July 5, by a Media Institute, both at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

"We're living in a media-saturated society, where entertainment and politics are closely intertwined," NOW President Patricia Ireland observed.  "Remember TV's Murphy Brown giving an angry response on her show after Dan Quayle's real-life election-year attack on her for being a single mother?"

Violence, especially sexualized violence, by men against women is a widely accepted staple of television, movies, music, videos and computer games. Yet the few times the formula is reversed, the condemnation by angry male critics is loud and clear.

Responding to attacks on the title characters' violence against men in "Thelma and Louise," Geena Davis said "Let's get real here for a second. Ninety-nine percent of all other movies are about women either having shallow, one-dimensional caricature parts or they're being mutilated, skinned, slaughtered, abused, exploited with their clothes off." (Quoted in NOW member Suzanna Danuta Walters' book "Material Girls.")

A Feminist Message

With the advent of digital television, more opportunities are potentially available for feminist programming. New media technologies, their growing impact on women's everyday lives and strategies for making change will be considered at the conference, and they will be at the heart of the Media Institute being organized by NOW's Feminist Communication Network Task Force.

"NOW is committed to becoming a major force in communications," said Helen Grieco, chair of the Task Force.  "We are determined to control our own message."

Controlling NOW's image is also on the agenda in Los Angeles. NOW will premiere an advertising campaign designed to present the organization to the public on NOW's own terms. The television and print ads are being created pro bono by the Bomstein Agency, a well-respected Washington, D.C. advertising and public relations firm.

"We're thrilled with the Bomstein Agency's tremendous commitment of time and talent on this project," said Ireland. "The ads portray the great diversity of NOW's activists and the substantial improvements we have earned for women: making women more independent, winning more economic opportunities for women, empowering women to control our own lives and destinies."

"The campaign will also use hard-hitting issue ads that make clear how much NOW is still needed," Ireland concluded.

NOW's Past, Present and Future Converge in California

The Pioneer Reunion planned by Los Angeles NOW is generating enthusiasm with long-time movement organizers. At a recent meeting of the Veteran Feminists of America in Washington, D.C., women from all around the country thanked NOW, talked about how to spread the word and made plans to attend.

This gathering of feminist generations will provide even greater opportunities than most conferences to catch up with friends, be inspired and gain new insight into NOW's issues, philosophy and history.

Activists at the conference will also revisit NOW's statement of purpose to ensure that it portrays the organization's mission at the turn of the century. The purpose will be considered in light of the Declaration of Sentiments, NOW's new vision statement adopted by delegates at last year's historic conference. Proposals for an updated statement of purpose will be circulated throughout the organization and will be voted on as a by-laws amendment at the Miami national conference in the year 2000.

Return to Summer 1999 National NOW Times

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