NOW’s New York state conference, held last month at the Crowne Plaza in White Plains, could make me cry. Thirty years ago there were hundreds of women, passionate arguments, sweet sisterhood, vicious infighting, consciousness raising, contested elections, accusations, vegetarians (!), lesbians (!!) and the glorious feeling that we were changing the world at that very moment. How could we transfer, to today’s generation, that much excitement, that much power?
There’s still fight left in the sixty-some who attended. Oddly, we are not much comforted by the statistics â€“ women making up half, more than half, of the enrollments in colleges, law schools, medical schools. Our tired-out daughters, juggling babies and professorships, have neither time nor strength to keep up the fight. Why don’t they see that, when something bad happens (tenure denied), the fault is systemic â€“ not theirs? They’re going to lose â€“ from sheer exhaustion.
Current president Marcia Pappas with no staff at all fools the folks in Albany into thinking she has a staff of ten She is so appreciated that members tried to change the bylaws and keep her forever. (They also tried to delete the quorum rule but the motion failed. And true to form, somebody moved to suspend the bylaws.) Former state presidents Marilyn Fitterman and Noreen Connell were honored. Speaker Ellen Snortland argued for teaching self defense so that it becomes as automatic to our children as buckling their seatbelts and entertained us with her mother/daughter stories.
High point? A discussion, in lively NOW tradition, of the stand NOW should take on the burqa.
Muslim women’s organizations have asked for NOW’s support. We stumbled, briefly, over whether we should support a cultural tradition or oppose a health hazard. At the end of the hour, it’s a question of coercion and we oppose it.
The crying part comes because we know where we are, we know what it took to get our daughters where they are now, and we know â€“ or think we know â€“ how precarious it all is. I don’t think we made any mistakes (or not many) along the way â€“ and I think, when NOW isn’t out there anymore, that the next generation will pay high price.
– Deborah Zipf
Deborah Zipf is a graduate of Middlebury College. She is active in local non-profit advocacy organizations and city political groups in White Plains, New York. Ms. Zipf coordinates graduate program admissions at Pace Law School and generally ensures that the department functions smoothly.