National NOW Times >> Summer, 2001 >> Article
by Cindy Hanford, NOW Staff Writer
NOW’s National Board called for an Emergency Action for Women’s Lives on
February 11, NOW chapters had 10 weeks to organize and raise funds to get
activists to D.C. for the April 22 action. Chapters met the challenge and
took pride in knowing that NOW was taking the lead to defend women’s
In addition, many chapters organized
Valentine’s Day actions to call for passage of federal legislation against
hate crimes, celebrated Women’s History month in March, and worked to draw
attention to the inequity between the salaries of men and women on Equal
Pay Day (April 3).
Wisconsin NOW Works to Raise Women’s Pay and
Get Out the Vote
On Tuesday, April 3, Wisconsin NOW held an Equal
Pay bake sale in Madison, selling baked goods to men for $1 and to women
for 75 cents. The event called attention to the pay gap that still exists
between men and women.
Equal Pay Day falls on Tuesday to mark the
day of the week that women’s earnings catch up to those of men’s previous
5-day work week. The event falls in April because women must work 16
months to make as much money as men do in a year. Statistics from the
Department of Labor show that women earn between 72 and 77 cents on the
dollar when their median pay for full-time work is compared with that of
men; minority women make even less.
In addition to selling baked
goods, activists handed out information on pending federal legislation to
address gender-related pay inequity: the Fair Pay Act (S. 684/H.R. 1362)
and the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 77/HR 781). Wisconsin NOW also reminded
people to vote in their state’s spring elections, which also occurred on
Maine NOW Calls for End to Hate Crimes
Valentine’s Day, Maine NOW members rallied against hate. Activists stood
amid three-foot-tall snow banks in Portland, holding signs reading "Speak
Out Against Violence." The rally was part of a national effort by NOW to
use Valentine’s Day to raise awareness about hate crimes. Other
organizations supported the protest, including the Maine Speak Out
Project, Peace Action Maine and the Young Adult Abuse Prevention
NOW supports federal legislation to expand the definition
of hate crimes to include crimes targeting women, people with
disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. Maine
NOW President Renee Berry-Huffman gave examples of recent violent crimes
in Maine motivated by sexism and homophobia. She was quoted in the
Portland Press Herald: "When things like this happen, it’s a call to
action. We need to make people aware of this. We need to bring attention
to the fact that there is no room for hate."
Florida NOW Fights
Anti-Abortion Rights License Plates
In Tallahassee on March 1,
Florida NOW was in Leon County Circuit Court asking Judge Nikki Ann Clark
to ban "Choose Life" license plates. Florida NOW, a Palm Beach County
synagogue and three other plaintiffs argue that the plates violate
constitutional provisions separating church and state. The suit asks Clark
to recall the 13,000 plates already on cars. As of April 30, the judge had
not ruled on the case.
Legislation in support of the plates was
first passed in 1998, but was vetoed by then-Governor Chiles. In 1999, the
legislation passed again and was signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush. In
November 1999, Florida NOW filed a lawsuit against the state to prevent
distribution, but the case languished in a Palm Beach County court and
tags were released to the public in August 2000. Eventually, the Fourth
District Court of Appeals transferred venue to Leon County.
group that lobbied for the plates argued that "Choose Life" is a message
meant to encourage adoption, but refused to substitute language directly
mentioning adoption. Quoted by AP, Florida NOW’s lawyer Barry Silver said
the license plate’s proponents purposefully chose an anti-abortion rights
message. Silver stated, "They could have passed a license plate that said
‘Adopt A Child’ and we wouldn’t be here."
NOW argued in court that
the phrase "Choose Life" is so closely related to the anti-abortion rights
movement that people could assume the state agrees with that movement,
even though abortion is constitutionally protected in Florida. A
pro-choice rabbi and minister testified that this also undermines their
authority with their congregations and unconstitutionally involves the
state in religion.
The tags will generate revenue for
organizations that provide support to pregnant women "who are committed to
placing their children up for adoption." The program will provide no funds
to women who wish to keep their children. Funds may not be distributed to
any agency associated with abortion activities, including counseling for
or referrals to abortion clinics.
Anti-abortion rights groups in
35 states are working to promote similar tags, with legislation already
introduced in 12 states for the 2001 legislative session. In August, a
federal judge temporarily blocked Louisiana from issuing "Choose Life"
plates, citing violation of the First Amendment. Activists working to stop
such state legislation and needing legal arguments against it, may contact
Attorney Linda Miklowitz; c/o Tallahassee NOW; P.O. Box 47; Tallahassee FL
32302-0047; TallahNOW@aol.com or 850-656-0012.
California Protest Music of Hate
On Feb. 21, NOW President
Patricia Ireland joined activists from California NOW, the Gay &
Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and other organizations
outside Grammy Award ceremonies in Los Angeles to protest the hate and
violence in the lyrics of rap artist Eminem.
The National Academy
of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) nominated Eminem, infamous for his
menacing lyrics, for four Grammy Awards and invited him to perform at the
ceremonies. Eminem was honored by the Academy with three awards, including
Best Rap Album and Best Rap Solo Performance.
Eminem’s lyrics are
explicitly violent and particularly attack women, lesbians and gays.
Consistently calling women bitches, sluts and whores, Eminem sings about
killing his wife, raping his mother and having his crew rape his little
sister on her birthday.
NOW’s news release announcing the protest
stated, "Violence against women is a serious problem, one that women’s
rights groups, shelters and survivors of male violence deal with every
day. To ignore Eminem’s lyrics proves only how numb our society is
becoming to violence as entertainment."
Eminem’s Grammy wins are a
seal of approval from the recording industry. To express concern, write to
NARAS, 3402 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405 and ask them not to
reward artists who promote hate and violence.
NOW Produces Play, Offers Script to Chapters
(New York) NOW recently produced a play about Margaret Sanger titled
"Woman Rebel" and is offering to make the script available to other NOW
chapters. Elaine Lytel, a long-time NOW member, wrote the play in 1981.
Former NOW President and current Greater Syracuse NOW
Vice-President Karen DeCrow writes: "Lytel passed away in January 2000.
Her NOW colleagues were pondering an appropriate tribute. Robert
Seidenberg, a chapter member, recalled the play, which had not been
produced since 1981. His idea was translated into action by Earl Colvin,
producer at the Syracuse community theatre, Theatre a la Carte."
March 20, a staged reading was held. DeCrow reports it was an excellent
production and a major success, attended by a large crowd. DeCrow notes,
"Alas, the issues raised during Sanger’s lifetime - birth control and
reproductive freedom - are as relevant today as they were during Sanger’s
lifetime." Elaine Lytel’s children, David and Laurie Lytel, have agreed
that the play script should be made available to any NOW chapter
interested in producing a staged reading. If interested, contact Laurie
Lytel at (702) 362-5626 or Karen DeCrow at (315)
Fayetteville NOW Celebrates Susan B. Anthony’s
Fayetteville (North Carolina) NOW celebrated Susan B.
Anthony's birthday on Feb.15 with a fund-raising lunch. Anthony is
credited with leading the fight for women’s suffrage and was involved in
the temperance movement, the movement to abolish slavery and the women’s
rights movement. As early as 1872 she was advocating that women receive
equal pay for doing the same work as men. Robin Davis of Raleigh NOW,
dressed in period clothing, quoted Anthony’s writings.
Riddle, local radio personality, spoke to the group about the progress
made by women in broadcasting since she started out in commercials in the
early ’70s. She had been told that it was "station policy to not hire
women" and "Girls can't read the news." She has co-hosted a morning show
for the past 25 years and consistently wins awards for her work. Joyce
Malone told her story about becoming the first African-American woman to
get her wings as a paratrooper in the army, despite being told she would
Fayetteville NOW President Esther Barkley said, "This event
was such a success it will be our first annual celebration of our
Women’s clinics in Fayetteville have
repeatedly been the target of clinic violence, and anti-abortion
protestors picketed the hotel where the fundraiser was
Tallahassee NOW Organizes
Members and friends of Tallahassee NOW gathered
to commemorate Not MY President’s Day on Feb. 19. The event was held on
the second-floor balcony of the Leon County courthouse, in the shadow of
the state capitol where, according to activists, Republicans stole
Florida’s 25 electoral votes.
Activists performed a dramatic
reading of the transcript of a BBC news program titled "What Really
Happened in Florida," explaining how 20,000 or more votes were taken from
presidential candidate Al Gore. Tallahassee NOW collected contributions
for NOW in Bush’s name and promised that contributions to the chapter
would be acknowledged to "Resident Bush."
News crews from the local
ABC and CBS affiliates and Florida Public Radio covered the event. A
statewide news channel interviewed Tallahassee NOW President Linda
Miklowitz about the counter-holiday. "This is the first of four annual
‘Not MY President Days,’" promised Miklowitz.
Many thanks for
information provided by: Linda Miklowitz of Tallahassee NOW; Deborah Bell
of Texas NOW; Maggie Sacra and Lorraine Baysek of Tidewater NOW; Renee
Berry-Huffman of Maine NOW; Karen DeCrow of Greater Syracuse NOW; Roberta
Waddle and Judy Lowe of Fayetteville NOW; Elizabeth Volz of NOW-New
Jersey; and Shahla Werner, Jean Beschta, and Rachel Murray of Wisconsin