Highlights of the NOW National Conference

NOW Conference 2010

(L-R) NOW President Terry O'Neill, Stephanie Poggi of the National Network of Abortion Funds, NOW Vice President-Action Erin Matson, Kierra Johnson of Choice USA, and abortion provider Dr. LeRoy Carhart.

Three Virginia NOW officers attended NOW’s 2010 National Conference over the 4th of July weekend in Boston – President Diana Egozcue and V-Ps Marj Signer and Maria Lauron. It was a jam-packed, thought-provoking, spirited event that sent us home eager to step up activities for equality.

The annual conference is important for many reasons, including that NOW members vote on issues affecting women and thereby set policy for the coming year. This year’s resolutions demand transparency and accountability from British Petroleum and the federal government as they address the Gulf Coast oil disaster; call on the Senate to censure and expel Sen. David Vitter (R-La.); demand an end to gun violence against women, and urge Congress and the IRS to rein in the aggressive and unconstitutional lobbying of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. We committed to an aggressive campaign to restore coverage of abortion care in the new health reform law by repealing the Hyde Amendment and called for an immediate suspension of dismissals under the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

We also called for Congress to pass legislation to combat the sexualization of girls by the media. This resolution came out of our Mid-Atlantic Region conference in April, based on work done by Montgomery County, Maryland, NOW’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. The legislation is the Healthy Media for Youth Act (HR 4925) and it would combat the media’s negative impact on girls’ and women’s self-image by promoting healthy, balanced and positive images of girls and women in the media.

The speakers were inspirational. Nebraska physician Dr. LeRoy Carhart, one of the few brave doctors in the U.S. to perform late-term abortions, gave a moving speech in which he proclaimed it time for reproductive rights supporters to go on the offensive against anti-choice terrorists. Celebrated feminist author and media critic Susan Douglas described the dangers of “Enlightened Sexism”—the title of her new book. Enlightened sexists acknowledge the gains feminists have made and claim that full equality has been achieved. Since sexism is a thing of the past, their argument goes, we can all lighten up and spend our time on shopping for make-up, sexy clothes and other girly pursuits. Douglas made a powerful case that much unfinished business remains, to loud applause. (Thanks to blogger Karen Bojar of Philadelphia NOW for information about these speakers.)

Last but not least, the conference was fun (who said feminists are always serious). Fabulous music, a loving salute to former national V-P Olga Vives and other Latina leaders, lots of friends old and new – and of course, the opportunity to stay up late discussing, arguing and strategizing. Join us next year!

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