Have you ever been in one of those relationships in which you slowly realize that it wasn’t working out, even though you share many of the same basic values and when you first started the relationship, it almost seems as though you were never meant to be separated? As painful as it might be, you know that ending the relationship is highly neccesary, yet, you still spend restless night thinking about the decision, because it affects the very life that you’ve lived.
That’s now I currently view the National Organization for Women – at least at the national level, anyhow, and since a NOW member and state president who I looked up to asked about my disenchantment, I figure it’s time I clear the air, keeping in mind that we can all disagree, yet still work on the very foundation of what we believe in.
My biggest problem with national NOW is that it seems as though it’s simply not doing enough. Yes, while I understand NOW’s mission statement, as a third-wave liberal feminist (with a sprinkle of 2nd-wave ideologies), I feel as though NOW is not extended its arms enough, to reach out to every woman who might need empowerment, and take on sexist ideologies and practices that have poisoned our societies.
As I got back from Iraq, I’ve been spending a lot of time going up and down the coast, visiting immigrant communities, and even in New York City, there seemed a lack of reproductive centers in those immigrant areas. Sure, we fight against Tim Tebow and the crap he and his mother spewed, yet what happens when women truly need access to reproductive healthcare, to include abortions? What is the point of fighting for legislations if we are ignoring women in poorer and immigrant communities?
Chinatown in New York City, as an example, has new immigrants who live around its bubble, many who do not speak English and have come into the country either with their husbands or having brought here by immigrant men who have married and brought them here. How are we supporting these women? What can we do to ensure that, in a new country, without a voice, they still get access to reproductive healthcare that “our” women get? How can we empower them with reproductive justice if we do not even know they exist?
We talk a lot, too, about immigration reforms in regard to those South of our border. Yet, what efforts has NOW made to reach out to these immigrant women to empower them through reproductive justice? Simply put, by having the “Press 2 for Spanish” on the phone is not good enough. We need education campaigns to show women that they have options, and just aren’t limited to the choices of their sexual partners and what they want. When has NOW spoken out on this?
But internationally, things look even more bleak. With systematic practices of misogyny taking place across the world each day, oftenin the Global South, where women are burned, acid thrown on their faces, for simply appearing to be impure or rejecting the advances of a suitor, NOW instead chooses to take on David Letterman. With millions of women dying each year in the Global South because of the lack of maternity care, NOW instead chooses to engage the privileged Mrs. Tebow, whose 30-second spot, whether it is aired or not, does little to help those milllions of other women, who do not even have choices.
Simply put, NOW isn’t taking on enough of the issues that are important to women. When I think of NOW, I no longer think of an organization for women, but rather, privileged, college-educated women (and dare I say mostly white). While all women need and deserve empowerment in the patriarchy, putting one group of women above another is simply unacceptable, as it ignores the intersectionalities of race and gender.
But there are also other things that have made me uneasy about NOW, mostly from an ideology framework: In taking on David Letterman, NOW made his lover out to be the victim, citing that Letterman exploited her, using his power. You see, I get it. I get that, often times, women do get exploited by their bosses, but I also get that there are many times, whether the power is in age or position, relationships of equal, where women freely consent and choose to be in such relationships, are possible.
By making this woman into a victim without her asking it to do so, NOW not only takes away her power of choice and voice, but also uses her as an ends to a means of ending unequal relationships, without having asked her to do so, or having her asked it to do so. How is that hornoring women’s choices? Pro-choice, NOW needs to learn, extends to more than just abortions, but also personal decisions – include those dealing with sexuality, women make. NOWl, it seems, fails to realize this.
Then, there is also the problems with Shelly Mandell and Marcia Pappas in the 2008 elections. To be completely sure, Mandell and Pappas are free to choose whichever feminism makes the most sense to them, but I disagree with them both on their politics. The problem, though, is that by being in leadership positions, both Mandell and Pappas, no matter how much emphasis they put on their individuality, speak for the organization overall, and to be honest, I am not sure I’d want to be associated with local presidents who make the political statements and decisions they did.
In all, NOW is still extremely important to me. It was where my feminism began. It was where I made many friends, fell for feminism and loved it so deeply I know I’ll never leave. Yet, I also know that siometimes we grow out of relationships, and now, more than ever, I no longer that fluttering heart and a feeling of affinity when I think of NOW. I sure hope that changes, because NOW was my first love within feminism, and it’s a love I hope, never ends.