Friday, July 08, 2005

Welcome Back NOW

I made it through the first NOW chapter meeting! At least 25 people showed up and crammed into a small porched-in area. As people kept arriving, I got more and more nervous and excited. I needed to try and lead a good first meeting, which would drum up enthusiasm, excitement and empowerment among those who have shown up. As expected, I forgot to give details and didn't figure out quite how to get people to fill out questionnaires, but I am learning how to pull this together.

There can be no better time to start up a NOW chapter. Many of the women present stated that they were deeply concerned about women's reproductive freedom. Another contingent expressed a desire to fight Wal-mart. Many original NOW members, who go way back to the early feminist organizing, were there. And, to compliment this, we had several young women, mostly high school students, who wanted to learn about politics and strive for women's equality. I love that we have such breadth in terms of age. Yet, we did not have ANY women of color. This, I think, has dogged NOW for many, many years. The fact is, I think women of color feel quite torn between allegiances to their race/ethnic group/religion and women's rights.

Some of the younger students came from working class backgrounds, and perhaps many of the adults, but, in general, it was a well-educated crowd. I would like to figure out how to make it possible to bring in more working women. Part of that strategy will involve making more scholarships possible.

What I am sure to learn from this experience is how all this theoretical stuff I have been pushing around on paper plays out in the real world. I am sure to be exasperated by some of my future efforts, but while it is all fresh and new, I am encouraged. I could barely sleep last night, playing the meeting over and over in my head.

What I am most fearful of is putting myself out in the community, in an extremely public way, to support women's rights and women's equality. Of course, what is bound to happen, is that I will be accused of "killing babies." One new member wisely told me that she is concerned that we do not engage in defensive or aggressive tactics against the many folks in this small community, who think we are murderers. I agree, and yet, I do not know how to prevent being called horrible things. I am also not wholly prepared for what is likely to be said about me. I will be making myself a lot more vulnerable. Right now, I live happily in a bubble of like-minded people in the community. I am not wholly prepared for what I will begin to think of this area once I see the underbelly.

Another, long time member of NOW, pointed out several times that while there are 30 people present today, there are 300+ at any given church in town, painting us as evil. Rick Santorum's book may soon become their guide. All I can hope is that the women who did show up, will find even more women and men to bring to these meetings.

In any case, I made it through my first meeting and I have my work cut out for me now. I just hope that I begin to sleep more soundly at night, knowing that I am trying to do something.