NOW ACTS


by Cindy Hanford, Chapter/State Development Staff
 
  • Atlanta NOW Champions Affirmative Action
  • Women-Friendly Campus Campaign at Work at Tulane
  • Chapters Continue to Protest Promise Keepers' Ideology
  • Louisiana NOW Wakes Up PK
  • Tucson NOW Pickets PK Events
  • Milwaukee and Wisconsin NOW Challenge PK Extremism
  • New Chapter Begins in Nebraska with Abortion Rights Action
  • Mike Tyson Update
  • Photo Courtesy of Panhandle NOW
    Panhandle NOW in Morrill, Neb., kicked off their new chapter with a two week reproductive rights campaign, which included a news conference and a display of abortion rights signs. In a town of 974, this chapter is making an impact.
     
    NOW chapters were busy with Love Your Body Day actions in September  and with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Come Out Against Homophobia actions in October. In addition, chapters sprang to action with immediate responses to the murders of hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard and OB-GYN Dr. Barnett Slepian holding vigils and memorials around the country to address the problems of anti-gay and anti-abortion violence.  All the while, chapter activists were devoting themselves to targeted get-out-the-vote efforts and working on election campaigns - a few were even running for office themselves! Additional actions included:

    Atlanta NOW Champions Affirmative Action
    The Atlanta NOW chapter held a march and rally in support of affirmative action on Oct. 17. After almost losing affirmative action in last year's state legislative session, chapter activists were determined to make affirmative action an issue in the November elections.

    Atlanta NOW's action committee was successful in lobbying both the Atlanta City Council and Mayor Bill Campbell for the city's support. The City Council recognized Atlanta NOW's efforts by issuing a proclamation naming Oct. 17, 1998, as "National Organization for Women Affirmative Action Day," and Campbell provided the best the city had in the way of stage, sound system, police assistance and personnel.

    The support of 20 organizations - including the Atlanta Labor Council, the Southern Regional Council and Georgia Rural Urban Summit - made the march and rally a success. Every group brought its own banners and signs expressing support for affirmative action policies. The march wound through the Virginia Highlands community of Atlanta, and crowds paused from their Saturday shopping tasks to reflect on how affirmative action affects women and minorities in their day-to-day lives.

    The rally was the lead story in the Saturday evening media and was broadcast again on the Sunday morning news. After the march and rally, the gubernatorial race became embroiled in a discussion on the importance of affirmative action in the lives of Georgians. Pro-affirmative action candidate Roy Barnes won, and wire stories credited the discussion of affirmative action as the deciding factor.

    Women-Friendly Campus Campaign at Work at Tulane
    The Tulane University Action Team of New Orleans NOW has no problem recognizing hostile-environment sexual harassment, even if some of the men don't "get it."

    In late September, several men at Tulane displayed a sex toy blow-up doll with masking tape over her mouth, her arms above her head and her legs spread unnaturally. The doll was hung in a first floor dorm window in a high-traffic area of campus. University officials ignored complaints, claiming that the display was protected by the men's right to free speech.

    Meghan Streit, Tulane University NOW Action Team president and a former NOW Action Center intern, wrote a letter to the editor of the student newspaper explaining why the display offends women and creates a hostile environment that constitutes sexual harassment. In the letter Streit commented, "In a society in which a woman is raped every 1.3 minutes and in which 51 percent of college men said they would rape if they were certain they could get away with it, a display that either advocates or laughs at violence against women cannot be tolerated on a university campus."

    On Oct. 22, which was National Young Women's Day of Action, the chapter held a petition drive to collect signatures from the student body in support of the letter.  Students were excited to exercise their own free speech and take a first step in becoming politically active. The Action Team submitted 150 signatures to the newspaper along with the letter, which was published on Oct. 30.

    Since mediation efforts have failed, the group plans to file a formal complaint with the university if the window display is not removed.  Streit says, "Tulane women should be able to count on their university to protect their right to learn in an atmosphere that is not threatening to their safety.  The Tulane Action Team of New Orleans NOW will continue to raise our voices until the university realizes that this sort of display is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the student body."

    Photo by Susan Waldman
    Click to see Gender Gap StatisticsMorris County NOW in New Jersey held an "equality" bake sale at the state Fall Festival, charging customers different prices based on the wage gap between white males and women and people of color. The booth also distributed information on pay equality and joining NOW and was a great success as a consciousness raiser.

    Chapters Continue to Protest Promise Keepers' Ideology
    NOW chapters across the country continue to protest at events held by the Promise Keepers, an all-male religious group whose leaders embody the sexism, racism and homophobia of the radical right. NOW's presence garners press coverage of the Promise Keepers' misogyny, an element of the group that is often glossed over by the media. Some recent NOW actions include:

    Louisiana NOW Wakes Up PK
    On Oct. 24, 1998, members of Louisiana NOW and allies gathered outside Donald Gardner Stadium in Opelousas, La., to protest a meeting of 300 Promise Keepers. The publicized intent of this PK meeting was to deliver a "wake-up" call to the local community and to address the "moral problems" of teenage pregnancy, unwed mothers and women as spiritual leaders.

    As the Promise Keepers promoted their sexist agenda inside the stadium, protesters stood at the entrance to the parking lot with posters and NOW rounds. In a small, conservative town the size of Opelousas (20,000 people), the protesters caused quite a stir, but certainly increased awareness of women's rights concerns. The following morning, they graced the front page of the Sunday newspaper.

    Tucson NOW Pickets PK Events
    On Sept. 18-19, Tucson (Ariz.) NOW picketed Promise Keepers' gatherings at the Tucson Convention Center. The pickets were supported by members of other Arizona NOW chapters and by women from the University of Arizona.

    Tucson NOW Coordinator Paula Bachman-Williams said that one danger in the Promise Keepers' message is that it could promote domestic violence. "The group emphasizes control, and when men feel they are losing control, they are more likely to use force to assert their dominance. On one hand, they're saying they're good for women, but they don't talk about equality. You can't have equality with women being submissive," said Bachman-Williams.

    David Bachman-Williams carried a sign declaring: "My wife is my equal partner," and engaged PK attendees in discussions about the group's views on women.

    Milwaukee and Wisconsin NOW Challenge PK Extremism
    On Sept. 26, activists protested at a Promise Keepers' event, bringing public attention to PK's threat to women's equality and their political extremism. Wisconsin NOW Vice President Jennifer Olenchek stated, "The Promise Keepers are a threat to civil rights, abortion rights, and equality for women, people of color, gays, lesbians and all who stand for social justice. We were there to challenge the Promise Keepers to really follow through on their commitments to respect and honor women."

    New Chapter Begins in Nebraska with Abortion Rights Action
    When Diane Foster of Morrill, Neb., saw 4500 crosses displayed on city property as an anti-abortion rights message, she decided it was time to start a NOW chapter. As a response to the crosses and anti-abortion rights signs posted by Lutherans for Life, Foster worked with NOW State President Sondra Zinke to convene Panhandle NOW in this small community in western Nebraska (pop. 974).

    In September, Diane petitioned the Morrill City Council to give equal time to a reproductive rights message and organized a two-week display of pro-choice signs that included over 50 NOW rounds and "Keep Abortion Legal" signs.  The first official chapter meeting and a press conference brought more attention to their exhibit in support of reproductive freedom.

    Foster received assistance in organizing that first meeting and action from her sister-in-law Connie Hannah, president of Virginia NOW, who flew in from Norfolk for the events. Said Hannah, "I was raised in western Nebraska. This is where I first encountered sexism, racism and domestic violence.  I challenge all activists who have moved away from home to go back and try to start a chapter near your roots."

    Mike Tyson Update
    Our Fall 1998 story, "New Jersey and Nevada NOW Protest Violence by Athletes," reported on several local NOW actions. On Oct. 19 the Nevada Athletic Commission voted 4-1 to restore Mike Tyson's license to box. In the November issue of Playboy magazine, the convicted rapist was asked his opinion of NOW: "Don't tell me about no [expletive] women's lib.  How can a bunch of [expletive] whipped men let their women parade around in a crusade saying, 'All men are pigs. Us against them.'"

    Tyson shows no signs of remorse. At the re-licensing hearing, the boxer (whose previous marriage involved charges of abuse and who lost his boxing license for biting Evander Holyfield's ear), pretended to bite his current wife's ear. And in the Playboy interview, Tyson said, "A lot of young women don't understand what they're getting into...when they lock themselves in a room and engage in sex with a man who knows how to handle a woman."  [Note: Our quotes are taken from AP wire stories which deleted the expletives - we don't read Playboy at the NOW Action Center!]

    Thanks for information provided by: Malcolm Gideons of Atlanta NOW, Meghan Streit of the Tulane Action Team of New Orleans NOW, Roxanne Guillory, Molly Staffer and Linda Sievers of Louisiana NOW, Paula Bachman-Williams and Marjory Eggleton of Tucson NOW, Jennifer Olenchek of Wisconsin NOW, Connie Hannah of Virginia NOW and Susan Waldman of Morris County NOW.


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