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Jewish World Review /June 5, 1998 / 11 Sivan, 5758

Larry Elder

Larry Elder What now, NOW?


This organization, AWOL on Paula Jones/Kathleen Willey/Monica Lewinsky/Dolly Kyle Browning, introduces a new and worthy target: Leonardo DiCaprio. That's right, the star of "Titanic." That Leonardo DiCaprio.

See, a movie studio offered DiCaprio $21 million to play the lead role in the movie adaptation of the 1991 novel "American Psycho." The character, a Wall Street yuppie, stalks and savagely kills women. The studio's act, according to NOW, was one of sheer irresponsibility.

"His public persona, attached to a very violent film of this nature, could have a disturbing effect on teenagers and other fans," said the vice president of NOW. Huh? Would you prefer, say, Brad Pitt? How about Warren Beatty -- he's cheaper. You mean that males, who might identify with DiCaprio, will take up serial murdering as a craft? And DiCaprio's possible involvement makes the film's message "It's cool to stalk and kill women"?

Remember the bricks thrown at Dan Quayle for criticizing the fictional character Murphy Brown, who had a child out of wedlock? Get a life, Dan, they said. It's just a television show! It's fiction!

The National Organization for Women faces a dilemma: success. Its constituents grow ever more prosperous and educated, putting the lie to the notion of the "glass ceiling." If there is a "war between the sexes," it's the only one where you get to sleep with the enemy.

What's an organization with a "you-owe-us" attitude to do? Sexism is in full retreat. With many Yale freshman classes frequently consisting of a female majority, legitimate grievances become hard to come by. NOW and the Maytag repairman share a common fate -- not enough to do. In fact, NOW received $450,000 in government money to "strengthen national tobacco control." Does the in-box seem a little low or what? Almost makes you wish they'd start burning bras again.

The social, political and economic progress of women in the last generation stands nothing short of breathtaking. Mattel recently named a female the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Economist June O'Neill, formerly head of the Congressional Budget Office, calls the "gender pay gap" a myth. Compare apples to apples, O'Neill says, and women and men with the same level and type of experience, quality of education, and consistent years on the job make virtually the same money.

Remember President Bush's "Glass Ceiling Commission"? Although the title suggested a conclusion, the Commission reported lots of good news. While the number of top-ranking women in major corporations remains low, in the last decade, the numbers have increased dramatically, and as for second-tier positions in corporations, women occupy nearly 50 percent of those slots. Nearly one in four Americans now works for a woman, and women today start businesses at a faster rate than men, with a smaller rate of failure.

What now, NOW? How about a new game plan? A true "agenda for women" includes substantial tax cuts. How many women work outside the home just to pay the state, federal and local taxes extracted from hubby's paycheck? Since most families arrange day care through an informal network of friends and relatives, lower taxes would increase the availability and lower the cost of these caregivers.

What about the issue of personal self-defense? University of Chicago Professor John Lott notes in his book "More Guns, Less Crime" that women stand to benefit more from permits to carry concealed weapons than men. Guns, given women's smaller physical size, offer more of an "equalizer" for them than for men.

How about the issue of minimum wage? Although Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) proposes legislation to increase the minimum wage, studies show that hikes hurt women, minorities and teens.

So with the Roe vs. Wade decision apparently safe from a Supreme Court reversal, NOW turns to Leonardo DiCaprio. How sad.

A few years ago, I interviewed a top-ranking female executive in a steel company. I asked whether she sensed that some men thought her inferior or weak. "Oh, yes," she said, "but I considered that their problem." Or as another woman once said, "In order for a woman to get ahead, she must be twice as smart as a male. Fortunately, this is not difficult."

I belonged to a club where I became friendly with an old black attendant. During the 1988 presidential election, he asked me, "What do you think of the chances for president for our Rev. Jesse Jackson?" Oh-oh, the "our" gave it away. Before me stood a major Jackson fan. Do I tell him how I truly feel, running the risk of alienating a friend? Do I tell him that I reject all victicrats? So I took a tactful middle ground: "You know, Bob, I don't think he's qualified." He said, "Me neither. He's in the 'we-shall-overcome' business. And you know what? We done overcome."

Well, NOW, guess what? You done overcome.


6/5/98: What now, NOW?
5/29/98:What's next, ‘burger busters'?
5/21/98: 'Stuff' happens
5/18/98: This just in
5/11/98: Stepping up
4/30/98: Who's faking whom?
4/16/98:To spank or not to spank

©1998, Laurence A. Elder