In Part 1 – Accentuating the negative, we pointed out that our experience has been that Amy Siskind, far from encouraging a grassroots organization, is running The New Agenda in a hierarchical and elitist “top-down” manner. Rather than appealing to the intelligence of American women, she expects people to accept her agenda without doing any thinking for themselves. We also introduced a NOW 50 state membership drive for March.
In Part 2 – Lack of focus, we note The New Agenda seems to get some CNN interviews and quotes in local papers, but question the actual national membership and get-out-the-vote ability. We also pointed out inconsistency regarding sexism and misogyny which may not be attributed to partisan favoritism but to the same media pressure which Amy Siskind enjoys the light of so long as she obeys their rules.
In Part 3– Failure to make the most of members’ expertise and capabilities, we noted that the New Agenda’s failure to educate its members about issues on which it asks them to take action leaves TNA’s eligibility for a 501(c)(3) foundation — which must be educational (http://www.nowfoundation.org/) and non-political — in question. We also pointed out the lack of disclosure extends to a shortage of information about The New Agenda’s goals.
4) Lack of diversity in the faces and voices representing The New Agenda.
TNA President Amy Siskind has been effective in leveraging her media connections to get herself on TV. However, Ms. Siskind is a white, upper class woman from the suburbs, and having that be the only face seen as “The New Agenda” may leach away the support that ought to exist for the organization from minority, middle and lower income, urban and rural women who also are outraged by sexism and who seek sex equality.
To the extent that The New Agenda’s natural base is among Hillary Clinton’s supporters, TNA ought to be attracting Latinas, working-class and rural folks, not just Wall Streeters (http://thenewagenda.net/2008/10/11/wall-street-without-its-top-three-women/) in Westchester. Its agenda should be informed by those diverse perspectives as well.
Siskind insists on the names of the founders being kept secret, and no one speaks to the media except Siskind — while she is accountable to no one. If a member wants to talk to the other founders – one cannot.
Betty Jean was invited to join by an original founder and thus became privy to that founders’ list. Looking at the original press release, why people were asked to join is now obvious: to get at least one from each of the five fledgling Pro Democracy groups, mostly from the tri state area, with a sprinkling of founders from four further states to inflate a claim of nationwide presence.
When in a serious discussion (explained in the next paragraph) with Siskind over the Favreau turn-around, Betty Jean copied the entire discussions to two other founders, insisting that if this group were to be speaking up for all the women of America, then before they were going to do a 180 turn they should at least consult with the membership or discuss it with other founders. Siskind cut off Betty Jean from the blog, and defamed her as a crazy, dangerous stalker, for the temerity of demanding democracy in The New Agenda. When Betty Jean reached out to the other founders on the list regarding this situation, the founder who gave her the list was immediately removed from the “secret society.” These Stalinist tactics, coupled with further defamation of Betty Jean, led to the resignation of eight members within a very short time, several of whom were attorneys. Do we want this kind of an organization: secret founders; dictatorial, undemocratic behavior; willingness to spread false, derogatory information about a member who disagrees with Siskind?
Regarding Favreau, Betty Jean urged Siskind to rethink her change from demanding that Favreau be fired, to having him be forced to volunteer at a battered women’s shelter. This latter suggestion would make the previously-stated concern about Favreau’s attitude toward women look ludicrous. Who would send a man with a history of disrespecting women and their bodies to a battered women’s shelter? Typical of her elitism, Siskind seemed to view a battered women’s shelter as a rehab center for sexist men — the equivalent of juvenile offenders’ doing highway trash cleanup — not as a refuge for women fleeing the misogyny and violence occurring in their own homes. Betty Jean encouraged Siskind to bring the matter to the membership, rather than changing TNA’s stance and speaking for all the women of the country based solely on Siskind’s personal decision. Siskind cut off Betty Jean, telling others that BJ was a crazy old stalker for wanting to continue to the discussion instead of just trusting in Siskind’s judgment.
Within days, Betty Jean’s daughter Louisa was shot in the head by another man who had been slapped on the wrist for his previous treatment of women. Violence against women is serious; battered women’s shelters aren’t places for Siskind to dispatch men whom she has said are encouraging acquaintance rape (http://thenewagenda.net/2008/12/06/will-president-elect-obama-fire-jon-favreau/). Any organization with leadership that will not listen to its membership, instead demeaning other women as “nobodies,” doesn’t deserve to represent those nobodies. There are plenty of “nobodies” among American women who won’t put up with this. They demand that their voices be respected, even by “prominent” and “connected” women. If there’s an income requirement for getting Amy Siskind’s respect, let her run the Pound Ridge Bridge Club!