NOW president speaks on elections, peace

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NEW YORK – Kim Gandy, National Organization for Women (NOW) president, spoke here Oct. 3, at New York University, before a standing-room-only crowd of about 200 people.

Her speech, on the importance of feminism in today’s world, covered the topics of women’s rights, peace and the importance of the upcoming elections. According to Gandy, the rights of women – especially reproductive rights – are under constant attack by the Bush administration.

Though women have achieved significant victories through their struggles, Gandy argued, now is not the time for complacency. The increasing dominance of the ultra-right in our government is a major threat. “If you have a hostile Congress, a hostile administration. and a hostile Supreme Court, they can completely undo the gains we’ve gotten.”

Gandy said that it would be a disaster if all of Bush’s current appointees for circuit courts were confirmed, because it would give the far right control of nearly all of 13 circuits. She explained that these courts are able to determine whether or not a case can even get to the Supreme Court. Given the relatively youthful age of the Bush appointees, and the fact that these judges would be in office for life, we could expect to see a domination of these courts for the next forty years, or “the entire reproductive life of my 9-year-old daughter.”

Gandy also spoke out against the curtailment of civil liberties as part of the so-called “War on Terror.” Referring to Bush administration officials’ numerous statements in which they said that it was unpatriotic to criticize the government, Gandy exclaimed, “The audacity! The audacity to say, in a country like this, that it’s unpatriotic to criticize the government! It is the most patriotic thing you can do to question your government.” She added that she was beginning to believe that “being called unpatriotic by the likes of John Ashcroft is itself a badge of patriotism.”

Gandy also voiced concern about the Bush administration’s handling of foreign policy issues. Keeping in line with the statement recently issued by NOW against Bush’s Iraq war plans, Gandy said, “It terrifies me that the government we have thinks it’s okay to make aggression without support from the UN.”

Gandy, who was elected as NOW’s president in 2001, said that the organization’s highly grassroots structure was absolutely necessary to make change. This setup is important because, she said, the far right has taken more and more control of the media, making it harder and harder for dissenting views to be heard. For example, NOW has issued many statements which the mainstream press has ignored. Therefore, she said, the only way to make an impact is to make a lot of noise at the local level – phone calls, faxes, e-mails and letters to every one of our elected officials.

It is extremely important that this level of grassroots organizing is translated into a defeat of ultra-right candidates at the polls. Gandy told the World, “There’s no question that these are the most important elections women have faced in the thirty years that I’ve been active in the women’s movement. There’s more at stake now than there ever has been, and if every woman and every man who cares doesn’t get out and vote, we will all suffer a disaster.”

The author can be reached at dmargolis@pww.org