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Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 1999/ 19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Cathy Young

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NOW and later: After three decades the 'womyn's movement' is still out of touch --
WE ARE OFTEN TOLD that feminism has been unfairly demonized by its critics (such as myself) and that, except for a few cranks, it is a mainstream movement for gender equality. I have been asked where I differ with the National Organization for Women, whose goal, according to its 1966 statement of purpose, is "a fully equal partnership of the sexes."

But what does the women's movement stand for more than three decades later? One way to find out is to look at the resolutions adopted at NOW's most recent conference, posted on its website earlier this month.

Not only does NOW champion affirmative action, it clings to the notion of equal pay for "comparable" work -- the comparability to be determined by gender "experts." The resolution asserts that many traditionally female jobs "require skills and training equivalent" to better-paid traditionally male jobs, with two ludicrous examples: bookkeeping vs. truck driving and data entry vs. welding. Does it matter that the women's jobs offer far more agreeable physical conditions, while the men's jobs have a far greater risk of injury and death? Why doesn't NOW encourage more women to seek higher-paying non-traditional jobs instead of calling for salaries to be set by bureaucrats?

A resolution on "Fighting Campus Rapes" claims that "of women 18-24 years of age in college, statistically, one in four will be raped before graduation." Even the flawed study from which this figure is derived included attempted rapes and assaults that happened before college; more reliable research finds that the _lifetime_ risk is between one in 15 and one in seven. NOW is using its inflated numbers to denounce schools' alleged inaction in response to rape complaints, even though on many campuses today the injustice is at least as likely to go the other way.

But the first and longest of NOW's 1999 resolutions is a screed against "fathers' rights" and a call for action on behalf of women in divorce and custody cases.

That's ironic because even many feminists who believe that sexism against women is rampant in our society admit that when it comes to child custody, the bias is against men. Karen DeCrow, president of NOW from 1974 to 1977, is an outspoken fathers' rights advocate.

Of course, NOW doesn't openly support gender-based maternal privilege.

Instead, with breathtaking chutzpah, it paints women as the victims of sexism, asserting that "women lose custody ... despite being good mothers [and] despite a lack of involvement of the father with the children" and that "custody awards are ... distorted by anti-woman bias, money and politics." It beats the alarm about well-connected and influential fathers' rights groups and wails that women in custody fights "are isolated and alone."

What tripe.

Sure, some women get the shaft in custody cases; but all the studies show that, by and large, the odds are against men, regardless of their involvement in parenting. Fathers' rights groups are not nearly as organized or well-connected as NOW chapters and other women's groups; even Legal Aid generally helps only mothers in custody disputes. In one survey, one in ten divorcing mothers felt that the system was biased against women but one in four believed it was slanted against men -- as did three-quarters of fathers.

NOW trots out drearily familiar stereotypes of men as money-grubbers who use custody suits to blackmail mothers into accepting less child support, or abusers who seek custody to harass and control their ex-wives. Are there such men? Sure, just as there are divorced women who use the kids as a weapon against their ex-husbands or a bargaining chip in financial negotiations.

By the way, one of NOW's resolutions proclaims its commitment to a "free and equal society" in which everyone is entitled to the same rights and freedoms regardless of sex. But today's NOW is not on the side of justice or equity; it is on the side of women in any conflict of interest with men. Its hate speech against fathers shows how much its egalitarian rhetoric is worth.

JWR contributor Cathy Young is co-founder and vice-president of the Women’s Freedom Network and author of Ceasefire! Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality Send your comments to her by clicking here.

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©1999, Cathy Young