Friday, June 19, 2009

NOW election (by Suzie)

The national NOW conference begins today, with a new president announced on Sunday. The Associated Press reports:
Delegates will be choosing between Latifa Lyles, a 33-year-old African-American who has been one of [President Kim] Gandy's three vice presidents, and Terry O'Neill, 56, a white activist who taught law at Tulane University, who was NOW's vice president for membership from 2001-05, and who most recently has been chief of staff for a county council member in Maryland's Montgomery County.
As a young black woman, Lyles says, she can change the perception of NOW, whose members are predominantly older and white. Maybe she can, but NOW has had other officers who were women of color, and people seem to forget that. Here are its founders. The second president of NOW, Aileen Hernandez, was black. She was elected in 1970.

In the AP article, Jessica Valenti, founder of, says young women would be more excited if Lyles was elected.
"When you think of NOW, you think of white middle-class feminism — 70s feminism," Valenti added. "A lot of younger women are tired of seeing the same kind of leadership over and over. ...They're getting excited about smaller, local feminist organizations, more youth-led, doing more cutting-edge work."
In Salon, Judy Berman also favors Lyles, criticizing NOW for lagging behind in technology. She thinks Lyles, who uses Facebook and Twitter, will change all that. She suggests O’Neill’s tactics will be outdated.

Former NOW President Patricia Ireland notes that Lyles is part of the current NOW administration, endorsed by Gandy. She asks: Why didn’t Lyles initiate more technological change as a vice president?

I want young women involved in feminism, but I’m uncomfortable with the idea that it is natural for young women to prefer other young women, and that youth = cutting edge. It would be equally insulting for a woman of my age to suggest that older women are better and that older women would be more excited to elect one of their own. (I identify with what Katha Pollitt wrote recently: I was too young for the second wave, but apparently, too old for the third wave.)

Ireland argues that NOW must be more willing to confront other progressives and the Obama administration. I'm all for that, no matter who wins.