After Day 2 of the Annual NOW Conference it became very clear to me that we need to:
- act now to stop the erosion of women’s rights, as well as of our allies,
- use terms such as Christian Taliban (this is a wholly personal decision – I heard no one at the conference but me use the phrase)
- foster unity: we are not of one mind but we are working together, mostly.
The day started with the Tucson Now Coordinator and I attending NOW 101 that was a meetup for new chapters and members to meet National Now Officers in the NOW suite for coffee and very basic information. Am I glad I went? Yes. Did I learn a lot? No not really. But that is okay. My brain was on overload from info from the first day. The highlight of the 101 session was actually when a young woman from Romania spoke to us about the lack of access to abortion and birth control and how this denial of access to health care created the horrific conditions found in orphanages in Romania when it opened to the West, and how the Orthodox Church continues those practices today.
Being in the audience for Carol Mosley Braun‘s talk was the highlight of the morning for me.
I am in awe of women of color, such as herself, who have been on the front lines of the white, male, and largely conservative-fueled war on women and minorities for the entirety of their lives. As the first woman of African-American descent to serve in the U.S. Senate she broke ground that was once lethally defended against persons such as herself, and had a cadre of nay-sayers watching and broadcasting her every move. I doubt any woman could stand up unscathed from such scrutiny. Senator, Ambassador, and then entrepreneur – although she did not promote her company to the NOW audience in an expression of ethical standards from which most if not all of those on Capitol Hill could learn, shows that women can survive the political arena. That, in and of itself, is perhaps the most critical message that attending women must internalize from the conference experience. We can and must run for office. Governance in the United States must include women at least in numbers representative of composition of the electorate if structurally generated hostility toward women and the erosion of rights are to end and equality is to be fact for all U.S. Citizens and residents.
Heading Up NOW Is Not for Wimps
Terry O’Neill, NOW President, spoke with a passion that surprised me as she introduced panel and plenary speakers. I am not a big fan of placing an attorney in the key leadership position of a national organization. In the current media-driven culture, it takes a very flexible, talented, and specifically crafted persona to lead, speak, and advocate at all levels of society. Few people can lead, motivate and connect with people in group settings as well as Patricia Ireland who served as NOW President for years during the tumultuous 90s in which feminism became a word from which many third wave feminists distanced themselves. This is like trying to describe the appeal differences between Al Gore and Bill Clinton; it is a matter of charisma underlying conscious study and presentation.
ONLINE ADVOCACY & ACTIVISM
Best breakout/workshop session ever. The session focused on online activism drew a standing room only crowd and struck a balance between the personal narrative of success by two women, Marian Bradley of MT NOW, and Joanne Tosti-Vasey, National NOW Board and PA NOW Executive Committee Member, to bring light and justice to a horrific judicial miscarriage of justice and the responsive, upbeat, and exquisitely informed presentation/demonstration of social media tools by the founders of the first official virtual Chapter of NOW, was a great testament to the extent and power of our reach if we use the tools available to us at this very moment in time.
As my first experience with a NOW conference, it proved to be a crash course on parliamentary procedures. I do not really want to discuss the stuffiness and irony of the conscious choice of one of the most important organizations for women to use a hierarchical, 18th Century, male communication and governance system, such as the parliamentary system, to conduct its business. This, pardon my brutish language, “Chaps my ass.”
I absolutely planned to keep my big mouth shut at this conference, as I am a newbie to the organization. But c’est l’vie I stumbled across an issue about which I happen to have personal knowledge that came up in an Issue Hearing on emergent issues. The issue was not one of the two forwarded out of the hearing, but it was heard and successfully brought to the floor of the Assembly on Resolutions on Sunday by means of petition for which I helped gather signatures after the hearing. The issue? The conservative, opaque , and possible fraudulent “museum” for which I naïvely volunteered in 2002-2003 when I lived in Virginia in the D.C. suburbs which is making its way through Congressional recognition. Every organization or woman concerned with the factual presentation of the history of women in the United States should contact their senators to let them know that any support of The National Women’s History Museum must include transparency of all financial records and a governing board of museum professionals, historians, anthropologists as is the practice observed in any public/private venture with which the government assists. The self-appointed executives of the “museum” are conservative Republicans, have been collecting blind donations for 17 years, and have agreed to only having noncontroversial exhibits. Non-controversial exhibits? I suppose, as do others, that this means no coverage of the torture of women working for suffrage in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, no coverage of the struggle for the ERA, or the stripping of any balanced presentation of the fight for complete women’s healthcare and access to reproductive services . This incarnation of a museum for women is flawed and potentially fraudulent. That said, there is a need for a museum of women’s history. This petition just asked NOW to endorse the notion that this particular version of the idea is flawed.
Life every conference from which I have come away with a positive experience, talking to people from other chapters, institutions and groups and forging personal network bonds provided one of the most important takeaways. This was greatly enhanced by cancelled sessions that allowed me to talk to women interested in subjects about which I care. I am glad for those cancelled sessions as I would not have mingled much with people outside of my region had I relied on the mixer on Saturday evening. I got there too late to claim one of the 50 free drink tickets distributed and the $6 cash money burning a hole in my pocket was not enough to even get a domestic beer and there was no free water so soft-drinks, so I left the event as I was parched and did not feel like sticking around through an auction in which I was too poor to take part. The theme of the conference may have been Strength In Diversity but the structure of the event really did not give support to inclusive intersectionality that is the rubric from which diversity is built.
Summarily, it is very clear to me that we need to act now to stop the erosion of rights, use terms such as Christian Taliban, and become as loud and ubiquitous as we ever have been. We are not all of one mindset, but we all are working together.
I will discuss viewing a film on Anita Hill, talking to vendors, and a few other highlights I’ve missed in this coverage, so far, and why feminists need to blog as plain ol’ women when I cover my view of day three of the annual National NOW conference that took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 27 -29, 2014.