By Charlotte Moller, NOW Government Relations Intern
The National Organization for Women is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer, commemorating five decades of grassroots activism. Beginning in 1966, NOW spearheaded second wave feminism and has continued its legacy into 2016. So what does the future of feminism look like?
First, let’s look at what NOW tackled in its first five decades. NOW’s main focus in 1966 was to de-sex job advertising, ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, repeal abortion laws, and end education and employment discrimination. Second wave feminism championed women’s rights through legislation and important court cases such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Roe v. Wade, Griswold v. Connecticut, and the Pregnancy Discrimination act of 1978. NOW was an integral voice garnering lots of attention to these issues. Out of second wave feminism came dozens of social justice organizations not only focused on women’s rights, but all kinds of social justice issues such as fair voting policies, environmental justice, and sensible drug policy reform. Today, there are thousands of dedicated organizations focused on fighting inequalities that work together and serve as allies.
Fifty years later, NOW is still fighting for women’s rights and has expanded its issue areas to be more inclusive and understanding of the intersectionality within the movement. In 2016, NOW’s main focus areas include: reproductive rights and justice, economic justice, ending violence against women, racial justice, LGBTQIA rights, and constitutional equality. As you can tell, some issues have changed or evolved, while others have remained the same.
So where will NOW be in 2066? First it’s important to take a look at what the future landscape might look like.
Feminism’s face has changed along with America’s face. Feminism is no longer a white upper class women’s movement. We have leaders like Malala Yousafzai, Alicia Garza, Don McPherson, Janet Mock, and Laverne Cox. The U.S. Census Bureau let respondents check more than one race for the first time in 2000, and 6.8 million people did so. By 2010 that figure had increased to nearly 9 million, a spike of about 32%. Interracial marriage was only legalized 49 years ago. America will not look the same in 2066. Race in 2066 will mean something completely different to a person in 2016 as it does now to a person in 1966. This progress is a good thing. It means we are growing as a nation while embracing and celebrating our diversity.
Another important factor in this changing movement is our access to technology. In fifty years we may have a totally different atmosphere. In 1966, the most widely used form of activism was physical protest and organizing. In 2016, online activism has become the forefront of social movements. With 84% of people in the United States using the internet regularly, this has been the perfect platform for young people to join forces. Activism is no longer for those who can afford to take the day off from work to picket, or sacrifice losing their job because of protesting, or for those who can hire someone to take care of children or family members while engaging in activism like it was in 1966. The internet is virtually everywhere and can be accessed by almost anyone in the U.S. This has led to powerful social justice campaigns such as Black Lives Matter and I Look Like an Engineer. Technology has become an effective way to educate and inform people across the country.
With these factors in mind, I hope we are still not fighting the same battles in fifty years. Below are a few concepts I hope will be normalized by 2066:
Feminism is a movement for everybody. The patriarchy is harmful to everyone—not just women.
The gender binary and heteronormativity should not exist. Stereotypes and gender roles are harmful for everyone. All gender identities and sexualities should be respected and acknowledged.
Gender and racial parity in all levels of our government is necessary. The United States claims to be a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Isn’t it time for our government to accurately reflect the people?
Political correctness simply means being respectful. Calling people by their preferred pronouns or not using racial slurs is not “political correctness”—it’s called being a decent person.
In fifty years, I envision a movement that is inclusive in fighting a multitude of oppressions by a diverse group of people. People shouldn’t have to choose between their gender, race, religion, ability, class, etc.—the feminism of 2066 should promote understanding that the majority of people won’t undergo one oppression. It is okay to have a movement that has different branches, sectors, and goals. Feminism needs to include this style of diversity because in order to fight the patriarchy for everyone it affects, all different types of people need to be involved. I hope this is the future of feminism because the more variance the movement has the better chance of changing societal norms and prejudices there will be. I envision a world where sexism will not only be recognized by everyone, but actively fought against. In 2016, sexism is not at the forefront of our headlines—there is a certain tolerance for sexism that does not exist towards other oppressions. Feminist is a term people should aspire to be called, not a word to be rejected.
In 2066 the fight will have changed, but the spirit of feminism and equality will continue to burn strong. Congratulations to the National Organization for Women on fifty years of feminist activism and here’s to the next fifty years.