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December 10, 1996 EvaS : Our guest this evening is Rolande Hodel, aka RRHodel. She is the President of the Westchester NY chapter of NOW. Welcome Rolande!:)

RRHodel : Thanks!

EvaS : Rolande, there are so many issues that NOW is involved with. Perhaps you could list the major ones for us?

RRHodel : NOW has five core issues...passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, reproductive rights, eliminating racism, civil rights for lesbians and gays, and ending violence against women. A fairly big agenda.

EvaS : Rolande, do you feel that by fighting all these issues, NOW is watering down its strength? Is it possible to work on all fronts at once? And how is this done?

RRHodel : All these topics are important to women. We do what we can, when we can, with no worries that we are somehow diluting our strength.

LynnCSE : I notice that in listing issues you say lesbians and gays instead of gays and lesbians. I like to see women first. Most copy says gays and lesbians. Good for you! Nice awareness.

RRHodel : Thank you!

Wagster d : Can you tell us what you are doing in the area of reproductive rights?

RRHodel : Members act as abortion clinic escorts. We also work in the legislative arena, both at the county and state levels. We try to do a lot of educating whenever we can. New York was the first state to legalize abortion and the work continues to maintain this right for everyone, regardless of age or income.

LDRWM : Do you feel that equal pay has been achieved, or is the issue just too difficult to pursue?

RRHodel : WE WISH! Pay equity is a giant issue for many and we support those who fight for their rights.

RhondaEsq : In the area of domestic violence, do you (or the group) have a position on the mandatory arrest policy? Do you feel that it benefits or does not benefit victims//survivors of domestic violence?

RRHodel : In our area, police are required to arrest when the evidence suggests it should occur. We know that police are often reluctant to get involved in domestic disputes.

Merlin1954 : I support NOW's goals. What does NOW offer for at-home mothers?

RRHodel : Do you mean policy-wise or as something else?

Merlin1954 : Policy, support, etc. Same as for other women.

RRHodel : At-home women have many of the same problems as women in the paid work force. The same principles apply. The ERA, for instance, would greatly benefit women who choose to stay home.

LDRWM : Does NOW consider sexual harassment to be violence against women issues?

RRHodel : Technically speaking, I think most of us would agree in a loose sense.

LDRWM : Does NOW offer any support for SH victims?

RRHodel : We encourage SH victims to learn about their rights and how to get help. A lot needs to be done in this area.

MT NearYou : I've just received a letter complaining about my Website's "QWL Services, woman-owned and operated. Representing 20% of MTs (80% are women), the guy actually accused me of being sexist! What do you say to that?

RRHodel : What are MTs?

MT NearYou : Massage therapists.

RRHodel : Maybe this guy doesn't really understand what constitutes sexism.

MT NearYou : Seriously...

EvaS : MT, perhaps you should simply quote the statistic you told us when you answer him.

MT NearYou : The stat is just to demonstrate how ridiculous he was. But I would like to identify my woman-owned to inspire other women, not to be taken for a sexist! Was I wrong? I was wondering how would you handle that, from a feminist and a PR point of view.

EvaS : I do think you have to explain your purpose and say that you're not sexist. That's what I would do. I would simply say that because 80% of the MTs are women, that you designed your web site accordingly.

RRHodel : Ignore him. Don't waste your energy. One customer less will not hurt you.

EvaS : RR, you're probably right. :)

MT NearYou : True. Thanks

Wagster d : What steps is NOW taking to promote class and racial diversity within its membership?

RRHodel : Consciousness raising, workshops, and perhaps most important, involving ourselves in other organizations.

RhondaEsq : Are you involved in legislation protecting victims of domestic violence from being discriminated against in obtaining insurance? Life, health, etc.

RRHodel : We are fortunate to have a well-known leader, Charlotte Watson, in our area and we support all legislation which would protect women.

RhondaEsq : Great, thanks. Charlotte Watson is the ED of My Sister's Place, right? (I used to be on their board)

LDRWM : Re SH: I'm very frustrated to hear "a lot needs to be done in this area."

RRHodel : Get involved!

EvaS : LD, it's frustrating to all of us!

LynnCSE : How can we get reproductive issues out of the political arena and away from male interference? Seems to me that is the core. If women get to be in charge of their own bodies, some of the other issues will fall into place.

RRHodel : We will probably never be able to get it out of the political arena. So, one strategy is to elect sympathetic people, both women and men.

LynnCSE : How can you tell who is sympathetic when they talk out of both sides of their mouths?

RRHodel : Official records tell all!

Eclexic : How are you reaching out to younger women?

RRHodel : We have spoken at area high schools and at some colleges. We also had a Young Feminist Conference in Washington not too long ago. Our experience is that there are a lot of young, committed feminists out there!

EvaS : Rolande, you mentioned the ERA before. Why is it so important to get it passed? And how long has it been around?

RRHodel : The ERA would make women's equality permanent and beyond the reach of changing policies...and politicians!

EvaS : And when was it introduced?

RRHodel : Believe it or not, the ERA was first introduced in 1923.

MT NearYou : A tougher question for you...what can be done to convince the Yellow Pages that their mixing of professional MTs with the illicit sex industry hurts women?

RRHodel : Is there really a category called "sex industry" in the Yellow Pages???

MT NearYou : Illicit...not legal.

EvaS : There's one called Massage.

MT NearYou : Frankly, I would have preferred it in the open! Wouldn't you, Eva?

EvaS : Yes, I would, actually. RR, any ideas on MT's question?

RRHodel : What other category would you like to have it listed under?

EvaS : You could have Massage, and then Fake Massage, leading to sex. ;> MT NearYou : Good thinking, Eva! Massage Therapy is the legal name of the profession.

EvaS : MT, it really is an interesting question. I have a feeling it would make a good topic in itself sometime. :)

MT NearYou : It's a money question. The Yellow Pages does not want to give up income.

Wagster d : I've read reports that the ERA failed because women's movements underestimated the strength and numbers of anti-ERA grassroots efforts. Is NOW working on gaining grassroots support?

RRHodel : Actually, the ERA failed due to a handful of legislators in three states. There was a lot of grass-roots support. (Insurance companies, too, lobbied against it.) If the votes of the people would have counted, we would have won.

Wagster d : What about the groups organized by Schlafley, etc.? I think you're underestimating their power.

RRHodel : Yes, the Eagle Forum and other groups are not our allies, and their distortions made the discussions more difficult. No doubt about it.

LynnCSE : I worked hard for the ERA and was devastated and burnt out when it lost. Dealt with the most stupid arguments. Jesse Helms women wanted to use men's toilets. Ugh! Ever smell one? And we wanted to fight on the front lines and more. We were too nice. Next time I will be more "in your face."

RRHodel : Last year, NOW adopted new language for a new Constitutional Equality Amendment, but we know it won't be easy. We're it in for the long haul though. By electing more women to office who understand the importance of an ERA.

LynnCSE : Trouble is, all women are not for the cause.

RRHodel : We hope to shorten the process at least a little!

MT NearYou : Women being tired, feeling they're fighting alone, is a big problem, in my humble opinion. Not to mention the Schlaflys of this world. It hurts to discover just how many women male-chauvinist pigs we have.

RRHodel : That's why formal organizations are useful (like NOW!). It gives people a place to hang their hats.

Wagster d : New language? Can you print the new text?

EvaS : Rolande, if you send it to me, we can make sure it gets attached to the log of this conference. Best would be to have it where all can read it. :)

[Editor's note: You can find the new language for the Constitutional Equality Amendment at the end of this excerpt.]

RRHodel : Can we e-mail it to you? It's more than just a couple of sentences.

EvaS : Email it to me and I'll see that it's attached. :)

RRHodel : OK.

EvaS : Rolande, it was very upsetting, speaking of being upset, that the Welfare Reform Act passed. What is NOW doing to change the consequences of this?

RRHodel : A lot of us were pretty angry about this. The best thing we can do at this point is to be sure everybody understands that more than half of all women on welfare are victims of domestic violence and that the states need to do more in this area, if they are really serious.

LynnCSE : We also need to understand that all, or even most, of the women on welfare are black and have kids just to earn a living.

EvaS : Lynn, actually, they're not mostly black. But it's true that most have kids.

RRHodel : Actually, the average woman on welfare is white and has 2 children.

Wagster d : Thanks for clearing that up.

LynnCSE : I know, but that is the myth at least in Wisconsin. Cartoons show the black woman in her big car picking up her welfare check to buy a stash for her man.

EvaS : Lynn, pure myth!!

EEvans8032 : Why isn't there more demand for responsibility from women themselves?

Information on the ERA, from the Nat. NOW Web site: http://www/

CONSTITUTIONAL EQUALITY FOR ALL WOMEN WHEREAS, the National Organization for Women (NOW) is staunchly committed to constitutional equality for all women; and WHEREAS, the recent pointed attacks on affirmative action, welfare, health care, lesbian and gay rights, and reproductive rights, led by Congress, serve as a stark reminder that legislative action alone will never ensure equality; and WHEREAS, an effective Constitutional strategy requires a broad-based coalition of activists from diverse communities and organizations; THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Organization for Women (NOW) adopt the following as a working draft:

1) Women and men shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place and entity subject to its jurisdiction; through this article, the subordination of women to men is abolished;

2) All persons shall have equal rights and privileges without discrimination on account of sex, race, sexual orientation, marital status, ethnicity, national origin, color and indigence;

3) This article prohibits pregnancy discrimination and guarantees the absolute right of a woman to make her own reproductive decisions including the termination of pregnancy;

4) This article prohibits discrimination based upon characteristics unique to, or stereotypes about any class protected under this article. This article also prohibits discrimination through the use of any facially neutral criteria which have a disparate impact based on membership in a class protected under this article;

5) This article does not preclude any law, program or activity that would remedy the effects of discrimination and that is closely related to achieving such remedial purpose;

6) This article shall be interpreted under the highest standard of judicial review;

7) The United States and the several states shall guarantee the implementation and enforcement of this article; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that by January 1, 1996 NOW will prepare and distribute to all of its units educational materials and action-organizing kits on this inclusive constitutional equality amendment;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NOW will convene meetings with historic allies and other progressive groups who have a stake in an inclusive equality amendment, to develop and forward a shared progressive agenda through 1996 election strategies and to discuss the amendment and a long range constitutional strategy; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NOW hold day-long education/action training sessions on the equality amendment to be held in geographically diverse areas in conjunction with the regularly scheduled NOW National Board meetings over the next two years; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that an ad hoc committee, on the model of the NOW Legislative Intent Committee, be appointed to study, analyze, and formulate appropriate constitutional language to include people with disabilities and age within the constitutional protections of "A WOMAN'S EQUALITY AMENDMENT" and that such committee submit recommendations to the National NOW Board to be transmitted to the NOW leadership by the 1996 National NOW Conference and that such proposals be slated for discussion at a constitutional strategies hearing at that Conference; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that NOW urges the National PAC to create specific endorsement guidelines to help assess candidates' positions on the equality amendment.

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