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Equality NOW: Go Gloria Go!


National Organization for Women
In the 1960s and 70s, a group of determined feminists (women who wanted to be seen as equals to men in the workplace), kickstarted the movement towards equality for women. In 1972, one of these motivated young women named Gloria Steinem 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 25 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."

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.


Ouch - What's That Pain?

Take Steinem's struggle to break into the field of 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 stuck it out though and eventually landed a job with Help! magazine, which gave her the chance to meet influential people in the world of print publishing (after all, the Internet didn't exist yet!). In 1962, she got her first signed article in a magazine that's still around today called Esquire. With this effort, she thought she was on her way to journalism stardom. But her male editors wouldn't give her assignments that had to do with government or political issues, and instead suggested she go undercover as a dancing waitress! It was not until Steinem became a founding editor of New York magazine in 1968 that she was able to choose her stories and cover the things she cared about, such as the assassination of Martin Luther King, and the United Farm Workers strikes.

Daphne and Becky vow to join NOW as soon as they finish smiling for the camera
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, they toured the country calling for women's health benefits, equal pay for equal work, and the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). 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
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. And we have made progress indeed: Ask any woman who came of age in the '50s and '60s, and they'll tell you.

Women still earn only three quarters for every dollar men make
Most of these organizations are still actively working today to protect the rights we've gained while pushing forward with new women's legislation, because even though strides have already been made, there's still a lot more to be done. "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 60's and 70's. Twiss believes this is partly due to the success of conservatives who label any woman who sides with the movement as a man-hating, violent "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

Jennifer - If it's a man's world, what's a girl to do?