A six part series by:
BettyJean Kling WWW.Free-US-Now.com
PG of http://bertrandrussell.blogspot.com
In honor of Women’s History Month and in advance of my ambitious March Membership Drive on behalf of your local NOW chapters, I bring you the following 6 part series as I ask you to join your local NOW organization beginning March 1. By joining NOW in massive numbers we can shape the agenda of an already existing 50 state organization that has been working for women’s equality and advancement for over 40 years. NOW isn’t perfect, but it is structured so that we can work from within it to make it ours and it better.
Part 1 Accentuating the negative
The following series of posts is intended to provide constructive criticism of The New Agenda. TNA still has a chance to become a significant national organization, but the longer it remains a “top-down” entity run on the whims of a single person, the less chance it has to make an impact. In particular, its campaign of denigration against Kim Gandy and the National Organization for Women — spreading false rumors about Gandy’s having been unwilling to endorse Sen. Clinton the Democratic primaries, and about NOW’s having failed to protest the treatment of Clinton and Gov. Palin by the media — threatens to divide politically active American women into opposing camps based on a conflict of personalities. This is completely the wrong direction for TNA to take. Now is the time to use the energy and enthusiasm generated by the 2008 election to elect more women to local, state and national office; get more women appointed to executive and judicial positions; ensure that women are not left out of massive federal programs to encourage lending, entrepreneurship and employment; and drive for legislation to protect women’s rights at the workplace, their safety in the home and streets, and their health, reproductive choices and otherwise.
Until TNA shapes itself into a viable national organization, NOW remains the best conduit for women’s activism on these issues, and should be supported. You can join today at the national (https://www.now.org/member.html?srce=wbsppg) or local (http://www.now.org/chapters/) level, take action on legislation (http://www.now.org/actions/) and work with NOW PACs to empower women in politics (http://www.nowpacs.org/).
The New Agenda, which began with a list of very specific “asks” and the promise of support for whichever party would deal favorably with those requests (http://news.aol.com/political-machine/2008/08/21/obama-camp-warm-to-the-new-agenda/), has begun to decline in its ability to be relevant for a broad spectrum of American women. An underlying lack of transparency, accountability and access has manifested itself recently in several ways.
Accentuating the negative. TNA has been criticized by several feminist blogs lately for declaring Kim Gandy, president of NOW, to be an unacceptable choice to lead the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor. TNA’s statement on the matter contained no specific explanation about why Gandy would be wrong for the job; it simply insulted her (http://thenewagenda.net/2009/02/08/no-way-no-how-to-kim-gandy-for-director-of-womens-bureau/):
The New Agenda believes that while serving as President of the National Organization for Women, Ms. Gandy did not represent the women whom she was elected to represent. The New Agenda believes that Ms. Gandy used her role primarily to advance her own career interests.
The New Agenda would endorse the following candidates for Director of the Women’s Bureau:
- Anita Perez Ferguson, Former President Natl. Women’s Political Caucus
- Mary Beth Maxwell, Founding executive director of American Rights at Work
- Ellen Bravo, Former National Director of 9to5
- Robin Leeds, Winning Strategies
These candidates have represented and worked for women’s rights as opposed to their own self-interest.
While all four of these other women also are accomplished and talented, at least one of the candidates (Anita Perez Ferguson) has no experience whatsoever in labor issues, yet is deemed superior to Gandy, who
- used her law degree to litigate sex discrimination employment cases;
- served on the drafting committees the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which gave women the right to a jury trial and monetary damages in cases of sex discrimination and sexual harassment;
- testified before Congress about the problems facing undocumented workers who are women;
- lobbied to make Wal-Mart a more women-friendly workplace;
- literally stood with Hilda Solis, the nominee for Secretary of Labor, in testifying and rallying for more ownership by women of media outlets.
Amy Siskind Miscalculates the intelligence of American Women. She appears to be an elitist with an agenda which expects people to accept her say-so without doing any thinking for themselves.
The New Agenda thus far has not stated why Ms. Gandy is unacceptable. When a commenter on The New Agenda’s blog asked for the rationale behind TNA’s animus toward the president of NOW, TNA president Amy Siskind replied, “[W]e very purposely chose to not list line items as to why we do not endorse Gandy. But suffice it to say that it was unanimous (less one) amongst our Founders group who are prominent women from around the country and perhaps, through our connections, we know more information than you know. Could that be?”
The elitism typified by Ms. Siskind’s response to a reasonable question – a juvenile sort of “nyah nyah, *I* know but I’m not going to tell *you*” – seems far better calculated to drive potential TNA allies away than to attract them into becoming part of the community. Ms. Siskind did not even give a courteous reply such as, “I’m afraid our decision was based partly on confidential information that we are not free to publicize at this point, but I will follow up with publicly-available information that also weighed in our decision, so that you can judge for yourself and hopefully come to the same conclusion that we did.” Instead, Ms. Siskind expects people to accept her say-so without doing any thinking for themselves.
Indeed, an elitism at odds with a true grassroots attitude has become Ms. Siskind’s trademark at The New Agenda. An entire section of The New Agenda website is devoted to the gender balance of the Obama Cabinet – an important issue, but the 21 seats available in that Cabinet are not available to 99.99% of all Americans, regardless of sex. That 99.99% instead is concerned about keeping their jobs or finding new ones, making their rent/ mortgage, caring for sick family members and otherwise living real life outside Capitol Hill and Wall Street. Their lives are affected by the people in government, but having women as the Secretaries of Defense, Energy, Interior, etc. will not make a crucial difference in whether the average American makes it through this recession with life, health and dignity intact.
Because of that, The New Agenda’s call for President Obama to dismiss Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner for his tax problems (http://thenewagenda.net/media/press-releases/obama-gets-do-over-and-a-new-chance-for-women/ ) – after those problems had been fully disclosed and Geithner nonetheless confirmed by the Senate – verged on irresponsible. Geithner’s work as Sec. Treasurer has not been impressive thus far (one cannot resist comparing it to Secretary Hillary Clinton, who appears to have revitalized the State Department simply by walking in the door (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaLH2HvP0qk)), but calls for his departure, based on an issue that already has been thoroughly dissected and debated, do no service to women or to America generally. Geithner should be out at Treasury if he fails at his job, but he shouldn’t be pushed out prematurely just to have a woman considered as his replacement, particularly when done without suggesting someone who would do the job (restoring faith in the markets) more effectively. Urging that type of reckless destabilization in a time of financial crisis is not an action that would be taken by an organization that feels a serious sense of duty toward American women.
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