Originally published September 12, 2011.
Updated and republished September 13, 2015 after a web host transfer.
Sign up to receive emails from the National Organization for Women (NOW), and you will periodically receive emails about their “dedicated network of grassroots activists” that NOW President Terry O’Neill describes as “unparalleled”. NOW President Terry O’Neill (NOW presidents seem to prefer being referred to by their title) continually asks for money to support these unparalleled grassroots activists. I sent an email asking how NOW would use my money if I donated. No one responded. I searched NOW’s website for any information about how NOW leaders use donations. I found no information. I also sent an email to NOW asking how someone becomes an activist. No one responded.
I wrote a long letter to NOW about all of these issues. I also wrote that when I first started paying attention to now.org I thought NOW existed to promote former NOW President Kim Gandy because I was astonished at how often her name appeared on the home page of NOW’s website. (Since I started writing blog posts about feminist leaders, NOW has changed its website.) One email from the NOW Action Center included “NOW President Kim Gandy” 5 times. I received no response to my letter, though NOW President Terry O’Neill puts her name on the home page less often than she used to. Also, in one of her emails asking for money, she assured readers that our money would always be put to good use. She included no details about what the good uses are.
Some months ago, NOW President Terry O’Neill started using the word “allies” in emails asking for money. She never identifies any of these allies. NOW President Terry O’Neill is consistently secretive about how she spends donations, who can be an activist, what activists do, and who NOW’s allies are. I finally found some information on a page at NOW’s website, but that information is no longer on NOW’s website.
Under “Key Elements” was the list below for “Empower Activists”. It is no longer on the web site.
Train new and seasoned activists:
Conduct a political assessment of the community.
Build supporter lists.
Get media exposure.
Plan local actions.
Organize rapid response teams.
Sounds innocent and useful, right? Then why the secrecy? Why hide what they do with the money and whom they do it with? Who else hides what they do and whom they do it with? Addicts. NOW President Terry O’Neill, the dedicated activists, and the allies are all glory addicts. They get their glory fixes from situations that make them feel important and meaningful. They are a dedicated network of glory addicts.
This glory addiction goes back at least two decades. Eleanor Smeal, president of NOW from 1977 to 1982 and again from 1985 to 1987, sent out a letter around 1990 that began with the sentence, “For the past 20 years I’ve fought for women’s rights.” In exchange for completing an Abortion Rights Questionnaire and sending a “generous contribution,” Smeal promised that “at least four times a year we’ll notify you of pending actions nationally and locally and let you know what action steps you can take.” Smeal added the underlining. In that letter, Smeal succinctly described the purpose of the National Organization for Women and her Feminist Majority Foundation — to give glory to feminist leaders while keeping ordinary women silent, passive, and waiting for permission to speak and act.
In an October 7, 2010 email NOW President Terry O’Neill wrote:
“With your help, we can support our grassroots activities in the states where
feminists have the most to lose. States like California, Pennsylvania, Florida,
Washington and North Carolina. We can return our friends to Congress and
bring them reinforcements as well, but only if we have the resources.
With the elections less than a month away, there is absolutely no time to waste.
NOW’s nationwide network of grassroots activists are making phone calls, going
door to door, and urging voters, especially women, to get out and vote — but we
cannot do it alone. Contribute today.”
Notice that NOW President Terry O’Neill does not ask ordinary women to participate in the “grassroots” activities. We are only supposed to send money so that all the glories of being important and meaningful go to the glory addicts.
More clues are in an August 10, 2011 email from NOW President Terry O’Neill:
“But this time around was different! In the run-up to the siege, the National
NOW Action Center worked around the clock, placing hundreds of phone
calls to supporters in the Washington, D.C., metro area, coordinating rides
and trainings, and welcoming NOW grassroots leadership from around the
country into our neighborhood.”
First, the activists at the National NOW Action Center got their glory fix of importance and meaningfulness. Second, the “NOW grassroots leaders from around the country” got their glory fix of importance and meaningfulness. What do you want to bet that donations paid for the travel expenses of those “grassroots leaders” so they could get their fixes of feeling important and meaningful? It is only a guess, of course, because NOW President Terry O’Neill keeps the details of what she does with the donations a secret, that classic sign of addiction.
One of my favorite examples of what NOW leaders, dedicated activists, and their allies will say to justify feeding their addiction is this statement from an article about a spring 2005 State Presidents Training Program:
“In addition to elected leaders, 33 activists from 14 states braved the chill of
an extended Washington, D.C., winter for intensive training in the area of
Telling themselves that they “braved” the chill of an extended Washington, D.C. winter made them feel important and meaningful. I live in Wisconsin. An extended Wisconsin winter is far colder than a “chill”. Would NOW leaders, dedicated activists, and their allies give me the glory of feeling important and meaningful for braving long Wisconsin winters to go about what I do to create equality for women? Never. They are grasstops who cannot allow a real grassroots movement of ordinary women to show up their “bravery” as a sham.
Somehow, ordinary citizens who believed in Barack Obama managed all by themselves to contact people, organize meetings, and urge people to go out and vote. NOW leaders, dedicated activists, and their allies seem to think that ordinary women who support equality do not to have the same abilities as the ordinary citizens who believed in Barack Obama. According to NOW President Terry O’Neill, ordinary women who support equality need leaders, dedicated activists, and their allies to speak words and take actions. What is unparalleled about this dedicated network of glory addicts is its system of excluding ordinary women from taking real grassroots action.
Feminist leaders, dedicated activists, and their allies need ordinary women to remain silent and passive to guarantee a steady supply of the importance and meaningfulness that satisfies their glory addiction. NOW leaders, dedicated activists, and their allies will employ all the secrecy they can muster to keep feeding their addiction. If any of them read this post they will do what any self-respecting addict would do — deny, deny, deny.
I challenge NOW President Terry O’Neill to explain her secrecy about how she spends donations and chooses activists. I challenge NOW President Terry O’Neill, the dedicated activists, and their allies to explain why they prevent ordinary women from taking their own — and real — grassroots actions.
Paula M. Kramer
Resource Rock Star (See websites below.)
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Posts on this blog alternate with posts at the link below. Posts for both blogs are published on Wednesdays as they are ready to be published. Time between posts could be weeks.
Standards For Success Posters
Resource Rock Star Details
For a wide ranging selection of articles on feminism and other topics,
see The Zawadi Nyong’o Daily
As an American, I have freedom of speech.
As a woman, I have the right to express my opinion about anything the National Organization for Women claims to do for women.
In 2016, I started adding the section below to all of my new Feminist Leader blog posts. I also added it to all posts published before 2016.
The National Organization For Women
National NOW has blocked me on its Facebook page. I wrote comments based on my blog posts. All of my blog posts are based on a wide variety of evidence. Much of the evidence comes from National NOW’s website, emails and posts from NOW presidents, and emails from NOW staff members. I use no hostile language, no slurs, no profanity. I do use the phrase “glory addicts” in reference to NOW leaders. I also use “glory addiction”, “glory fixes”, and “a dedicated network of glory addicts”. Dr. Marsha Vanderford (Doyle) identified the glory needs of pro-choice leaders in her 1982 dissertation.
Feminist leaders have been silencing women for decades. bell hooks, Gloria Steinem, Urvashi Vaid, and Naomi Wolf got together for a conversation that was published in Ms. Magazine in 1993. The discussion included why women choose not ta call themselves feminists. Did these four feminist leaders working for women’s equality ask women who choose not to call themselves feminist to speak for themselves? Of course not! The four feminist leaders silenced millions of women by speaking for them without first requesting permission to speak for them.
Imagine a group of women who choose not to call themselves feminists getting together for a conversation to be published in a magazine about why some women call themselves feminists. Would hooks, Steinem, Vaid, Wolf, or Ms. Magazine agree with nonfeminist women denying them the opportunity to speak for themselves? Of course not! Would hooks, Steinem, Vaid, Wolf, or Ms. Magazine agree that nonfeminist women had the right to speak for feminist women without their permission? Of course not!
My feminist leader blog posts provide evidence that feminist leaders still create glory for themselves while relegating supporters to “secondary importance”. Dr. Vanderford used the words “relegated” and “secondary importance” in her dissertation. Eoin Harnett of University College Cork in Ireland used the same “secondary importance” phrase:
“Throughout the ages, women were frequently characterised
and treated as inferior and of secondary importance to men.”
NOW leaders even relegated two of their supporters to secondary importance. The supporters responded to my last two comments on National NOW’s Facebook page with comments supporting NOW. NOW leaders silenced those supporters by removing their comments along with my comments. Instead of creating equality, NOW leaders treat other women the same way patriarchal men treat women:
NOW leaders silenced at least three women on Facebook while posting claims to be creating equality for women. Secondary importance is the opposite of equality, as women throughout the ages could testify.
In-House Rhetoric of Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Special Interest Groups in Minnesota: Motivation and Alienation
Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1982
Marsha Vanderford Doyle, Ph.D.
(Now Marsha Vanderford)
Quoted words on page 350.
“Let’s Get Real about Feminism: The Backlash, the Myths, the Movement.”
hooks, bell, Gloria Steinem, Urvashi Vaid, and Naomi Wolf.
Vol 4(2) September/October 1993: pages 34-43.
“Multitext Project in Irish History: Movements for Political & Social Reform, 1870-1914”
University College Cork, Ireland
This project is no longer available online.
Updated April 30, 2017.