Tuesday, October 7, 2008

You're Doing What NOW???

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

The members of the National Organization for Women will never cease to amaze me. I admire the organization as a whole (and having given most of my summer to their office for free, I mean that) but individual members seem to feel an obligation to make the organization look ridiculous at least twice a year. Really, I can't think of a better way to undermine a group which is completely vital, but which is still struggling to stay relevant. After the Ted Kennedy debacle in January, when the president of New York NOW blasted Kennedy for his endorsement of Barack Obama, accusing him of "conveniently forgetting to mention women and children when [he talks] about poverty or human needs or America’s future or whatever," despite the fact that Kennedy has always been a strong advocate of women's rights in Congress.

NOW was quick to disown the accusation. And they were equally swift to back away from the newest renegade, the president of L.A. NOW, Shelly Mandell, who recently introduced Sarah Palin at a rally, saying, "I'm a life-long Democrat ... I don't agree with Gov. Palin on several issues…I know Sarah Palin cares about women’s rights, she cares about equality, she cares about equal pay, and as Vice President she will fight for it."

The blogosphere was thrown into chaos. Apparently Mandell was speaking for herself as an individual, but she didn't hide her affiliation with NOW, and made no mention of the fact that both her state and parent organization have endorsed Barack Obama. And really, what on earth was she thinking? How can Sarah Palin fight for equal pay in Washington when her running mate has already expressed his opposition to a recent fair pay act? NOW is right to be outraged at the use of its name in conjunction with a woman who represents the antithesis of all that it stands for.

A statement came out later in the day, from California NOW president Patty Bellasalma. "The use of Shelly Mandell’s Los Angeles NOW title was apparently intended to mislead the public," Bellasalma said, "and indeed has resulted in local television outlets and internet reports misstating that LA NOW has 'endorsed' Sarah Palin or that she has a record of supporting women’s rights. This in fact is not the case. I can assure you that there is no local or state affiliate of NOW, including LA NOW, which endorses or supports the McCain/Palin ticket.

But the whole situation is transparent, and appalling. American women need to be given more credit - and politicians need to recognize that feminists can think for themselves, and will not blindly swing toward a ticket that will take away their rights, even if NOW says so.

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