Those present at the inaugural National NOW Conference in 1966 adopted the organization's groundbreaking Statement of Purpose, pledging to work toward "true equality for all women." For the last 45 years we have done just that, with great passion and insight.
In that time, NOW has played a major role in reshaping our society to resemble more closely the "equal partnership of the sexes" that we first envisioned. In the areas of marriage, employment and education, we have witnessed pivotal change.
However, women continue to be held back by gender, race, sexual orientation and other forms of discrimination. We still strive to break down the systemic barriers denying girls and women "the chance to develop their fullest human potential." Consequently, this year's National NOW Conference will once again offer women's rights supporters the chance to strategize how to advance our goal of full equality while fending off the escalated attacks of our opponents.
But this year is a little different. As we developed the 2011 conference theme, a bold idea emerged. The world needs feminism.
For more than a century, feminists have been identifying the systems, practices and attitudes that oppress women. These are the same factors that create instability in our world and prevent humankind from flourishing.
The problems we are witnessing in the United States -- the growing wealth gap and decline of the middle class, the ailing economy, the housing crisis -- and across the globe -- deep poverty, violence, epidemics, disenfranchisement -- could be solved if only societies were guided by a feminist framework.
Throw out the old driving forces of corporate greed, domination and exploitation, religious influence over government, and instead embrace the principles that have been steering feminism all along: Equality. Fairness. Opportunity. Non-violence. Empowerment.
As NOW said in its 1998 Declaration of Sentiments: "We envision a world where social and economic justice exist, where all people have the food, housing, clothing, health care and education they need; We envision a world where there is recognition and respect for each person's intrinsic worth as well as the rich diversity of the various groups among us; We envision a world where patriarchal culture and male dominance no longer oppress us or our earth."
So at this year's conference, let us dare to dream BIG. We have to think far outside the cultural box that constrains us all. What will it take to build this feminist future? How will we engage others in this, dare we say it, feminist revolution?
At the 2011 National NOW Conference, we will challenge ourselves to create a feminist blueprint for the world. Come join us.
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