Sunday, August 20, 2006

NOW seems stuck in yesterday

NOW seems stuck in yesterday

This is the latest article by Cathy Young.


The feminists of 1966 were interested in justice for all. They were highly critical of the notion that breadwinning should be the man's sole or primary burden and that a married woman automatically should be entitled to financial support from her husband during marriage or after divorce.

In more recent times, however, NOW and its state chapters have tended in almost knee-jerk fashion to side with women in the debates over divorce, often advocating higher and more long-term spousal support.

While paying lip service to the idea of equal parenting, NOW steadfastly has opposed efforts to broaden the rights of divorced fathers.

With the exception of a few chapters, it has staunchly opposed such proposals as joint custody and mediation instead of litigation.

Ten years ago, NOW issued an "Action Alert against fathers' rights," which accused divorced men who seek a role in their children's lives of abusing power "in the same fashion as do batterers."

The top resolution adopted at its 1999 national conference was another call to arms against the fathers' rights movement, asserting that "women lose custody of their children, despite being good mothers, despite a lack of involvement of the father with the children, and regardless of a history of being the primary caregiver." (That undoubtedly has happened in some cases, but to this day it is still far more frequently fathers who experience such injustice.)

NOW's 1966 statement declared that women must seek equality "not in pleas for special privilege, nor in enmity toward men, who are also victims of the current half-equality between the sexes -- but in an active, self-respecting partnership with men."

Sadly, many of the organization's policies and practices have betrayed this principle.

Feminism is still needed in 2006, at a time when social conservatism is on the rise and when many conservative women's groups that claim to offer an alternative to the women's movement promote retrograde and limiting notions of gender roles.

But what's needed is a call for equality, not special privilege or enmity toward men. NOW's feminism is not its foremothers' feminism, and that's too bad.

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