Logo Click BACK to return to Basecamp
Lost Teachers
Search Info
White beveled edge

Meet Daphne

Daphne Archive

Cool Links
National Organization For Women

Ms. Magazine

The Glass Ceiling



We picked this dispatch as today's "Best."
Click here to have future picks e-mailed to you!

Equality NOW: The Women Rights Movement Takes Off


Remember the U2 song, "Trying to Throw Your Arms Around the World"? Just before the chorus, Bono sings, "And a woman needs a man likes a fish needs a bicycle." The first time I heard that, I laughed aloud! It sounded so silly but so true - what better way to express women's independence, to assert their emancipation from men? I thought U2 so clever for coming up with that line. Little did I know…

A few years later, as I started to recognize and embrace the feminist ideals, I found out Bono hadn't coined that famous phrase after all. He was only paying homage to one of the women's movement's greats - the glorious Gloria Steinem.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Gloria and several other feminists kick started the movement towards equality for women. In 1972, she helped found Ms. magazine, in order to give women information that went beyond fashion, makeup and men. It tackled (and still does) politics, economics and equality. Six years earlier, Betty Friedan, an influential feminist who wrote The Feminist Mystique in 1963, Pauli Murray, an African American feminist and Episcopalian minister, and twenty-five other women - as well as one man - formed the National Organization for Women (NOW). Its official statement of purpose, which Friedan scribbled on a napkin, remains the same today: "To take action to bring women into the full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men."

National Organization for Women
Ms. magazine and NOW were created out of frustration to fight the prevailing sexist views of the time. Friedan, Steinem, Murray and others were fed up with the way women were being treated, their lack of basic rights and, most importantly, their lack of equal opportunities.

Take Steinem's struggle to break into journalism as an example. After graduating from Smith College with honors and spending two years in India, she landed in New York hoping to find a job. However, this was the 1950s, and, as one Life magazine editor told her, "We don't want a pretty girl, we want a writer." Obviously, he thought an attractive young woman wasn't capable of working as a professional journalist!

Steinem persevered and eventually landed a job with Help! magazine, which, though not a very well respected publication, gave her an opportunity to meet publishers and other influential people. In 1962, she got her first signed article in Esquire and thought she was on her way to journalism stardom. But her male editors wouldn't give her political assignments, and instead suggested she go undercover as a Playboy bunny waitress! It was not until Steinem became a founding editor of New York magazine in 1968 that she was able to select her stories and cover the things she cared about, such as the assassination of Martin Luther King, and the United Farm Workers strikes.

By the early '70s, Steinem was devoting most of her time to the women's movement. Together with Dorothy Pitman Hughes, an African American who founded one of the first community day-care centers for working mothers in New York, she toured the country calling for legalized abortion, equal pay for equal work, and passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Crossing racial and class barriers, they attracted so much support from women and men throughout the nation that they decided to publish their own magazine. It was to be a forum for feminist issues, run by women for women. In January, 1972, the first issue of Ms. came off the press.

Rebecca and Jen support women's rights with NOW Vice- President Kim Gandy
Back at the NOW offices, feminists were working hard. One of its main concerns was to gain recognition of the value of women's work, both in the home and the paid labor market. It first popularized the slogan, "Every Mother is a Working Mother" and the phrase "women who work outside the home." In the 1970s, NOW's lobbying and pickets of newspapers and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission forced the newspapers to eliminate sex-segregated "Help Wanted" ads. It also won lawsuits that helped women break into previously all-male jobs.

NOW's official priorities were (and continue to be) the passage of the ERA into the Constitution, economic equality for women, abortion rights, reproductive freedom and other women's health issues, civil rights for all, opposition to racism and bigotry towards lesbians and gays, and an end to violence against women. Since 1966, the organization has grown to over 500,000 members and 550 local chapters in all fifty states. It pushes for social change by engaging in lobbying work, bringing lawsuits, organizing mass marches, rallies, pickets, and non-violent civil disobedience. In 1978, NOW's march in support of the ERA drew more than 100,000 people to Washington, DC, and, in 1992, it coordinated the largest abortion rights demonstration ever, attracting over 750,000 protesters.

Daphne and Becky vow to join NOW as soon as they finish smiling for the camera
For the last four decades, Ms., NOW, and several other feminist organizations have been fighting the good fight, challenging the system and speaking out - sometimes shouting - on behalf of women everywhere. Although we were given the right to vote back in 1920, the right to do most anything else was a much more recent victory. Ask any woman who came of age in the '50s or '60s, and they'll tell you. The gains have been astronomical.

Unfortunately, according to Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing loudmouths, these brave pioneers might as well be called "feminazis." Equal access to sports, jobs, earnings? Humbug - they're all a bunch of man-hating lesbians! They want special treatment! They are conducting a secret operation to take over the world! You can just hear it in Rush's voice, "Run for your life…the feminazis are coming!"


Ouch - What's That Pain?

This rhetoric sounds ridiculous, but many people buy into it. So, even as we enjoy the many rights secured by Steinem, Friedan, and others, we deride their kind as a bunch of lunatic women turned bitter because of male rejection or other such nonsense.

Is that fair? How can we turn our backs to the feminist movement, especially now, when many of our hard-earned victories are being threatened? Women continue to earn less than men for performing the same job (roughly seventy-five cents to the dollar). Only five percent of women hold positions of leadership in corporations. And although we represent fifty percent of the population, we make up a paltry thirteen percent in the US Senate.

Women still earn only three quarters for every dollar men make
So what has happened to the women's movement? Have we become complacent, or are we tired of the struggle? Since women have gained an element of success in the men's realm, are their efforts and energies directed elsewhere? We've begun wearing power suits and assimilating into the male workforce. And powerful, driven women now invest their time in business, rather than to continuing the cause. Perhaps we've been appeased by the steps forward we have made; perhaps we think that women have simply come far enough.

Organizations like NOW don't think so, and are still actively working to protect the rights we've gained while pushing forward with new women's legislation. "As long as there is sexism, there will be feminism," Twiss Butler, NOW staff member, told Becky. But they need your help. Nothing will change if women aren't committed to demanding it. NOW's membership has declined since its heyday in the '60s and '70s. Twiss believes this is partly due to the success of Limbaugh and other right-wingers who label any woman who sides with the movement as a man-hating "feminazi."

But it's not true. Claiming back feminism is our duty. We owe it to our mothers, our grandmothers, and, most importantly, our daughters. We deserve "a life not just with more justice but also with more freedom, more self-respect, more joy and more pleasure." The time to stand up is NOW.


Please email me at: daphne@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Irene - Roe vs. Wade: Bringing balance to the two sides of the issue
Jennifer - If it's a man's world, what's a girl to do?
Neda - You go, girl! Empowering women everywhere
MAD - The abortion issue: In the hot seat, again