I want to start by establishing that I have a background in feminism and women’s issues. I considered myself a feminist for approximately twenty years. I have a B.A. in Women’s Studies/Writing (an individually planned major). I read books about women’s history for a decade or more. Then, of course, I have my own life experience.
For thousands of years, men who felt superior to women decided their superiority entitled them to privileges women should not have. These men kept women silent and passive to keep them inferior and unequal. Feminist leaders also have a history of creating inequality. I first experienced inequality created by feminist leaders in the 1980s. I included examples of my own experiences plus examples that other women experienced.
1st Inequality Experience
During my college years, I worked at a women’s resource center. A woman who considered herself a feminist became the director. The new director did not work all of the hours she was scheduled to work. She claimed more time on her time card than she was scheduled to work. She gave her work to staff members and volunteers instead of doing it herself. She lied to the public, lied to the staff, lied to the board of directors. She verbally abused a number of staff members. After she left two more directors who considered themselves feminist behaved in all of the same ways. They did not work all the hours they were scheduled to work, claimed more time on their time cards than they were scheduled to work, gave their work to other staff members, lied to everyone, and verbally abused a number of staff members.
Creating equality would mean that all of the directors worked the hours they were scheduled to work, claimed only they time they actually worked, did their work themselves, were honest with the public, staff, and board, and treated staff members with respect. Instead, all three of the directors acted as if the title of director bestowed them with superiority and privilege.
2nd Inequality Experience
Around 1990, I received a letter from Eleanor Smeal. 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.”
Creating equality would mean giving women who support abortion rights opportunities to decide which actions they want to take and when they want to take action. Instead, Smeal creates inequality by keeping pro-choice supporters passive.
3rd Inequality Experience
The September/October 1993 issue of Ms. Magazine published a discussion between four feminists — bell hooks, Gloria Steinem, Urvashi Vaid, and Naomi Wolf — about the myths of the feminist movement, the backlash to the feminist movement, and the movement itself. These four feminists also discussed why many women do not call themselves feminist.
Creating equality would mean feminists asking other women why they choose not to call themselves feminist. Instead, hooks, Steinem, Vaid, and Wolf created inequality by denying other women the right to speak for themselves.
After reading that article, I chose to stop calling myself feminist.
4th Inequality Experience
About this same time, an acquaintance told me she had found a feminist network in her field. She called the phone number listed and said she would like information about the network. The feminist on the other end of the line said, “We know who we are.” A couple of years after my acquaintance told me that story, I asked her about it again. I wanted to make sure I had heard her correctly. I had.
Creating equality would mean feminists in the network would welcome every other feminist in that profession. Instead, the feminist on the phone created inequality for my acquaintance by treating her as inferior. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that the network no longer exists.
5th Inequality Experience
In the early 1990s, I started working on my thesis. I asked a feminist professor to be my advisor. My thesis was about women as television talk show hosts. I had chosen my topic in 1988 after watching Oprah Winfrey betray a female guest on her show. Wanting to understand why Oprah would betray another woman, I watched every talk show hosted by a woman for several years. From the list I compiled of topics and guests, I identified four cultural themes women use to betray each other:
Women as mothers
Women and their appearance
Women as deviants
Teenage girls as threats to society
Females grow up in this society learning to betray each other according to these four cultural themes. I added historical patterns to my thesis with examples of women using these themes to betray each other. Six weeks before I was supposed to publicly talk about my thesis to other grad students, my advisor told me to base my thesis on the theories of feminist writers I had never heard of. She told me I could put only two paragraphs of history into my thesis. She verbally abused me in an attempt to get me to agree to being silenced. Then she insisted that I say “Thank you” for her “advice” to use someone else’s research instead of my own.
Creating equality would mean respecting what I wanted to say through my research. Instead, my advisor attempted to create inequality for me by silencing me.
6th Inequality Experience
In 2008, I started regularly visiting the National Organization for Women web site (now.org). I did not join but I did sign up for emails. Some of the emails I receive are from the NOW National Action Center. In the emails, NOW leaders ask supporters to take action by sending an already written email labeled “Your letter”.
Creating equality would mean NOW leaders encouraging supporters to use their own words to write letters and emails that are meaningful to them. Instead, NOW creates inequality by silencing their supporters.
7th Inequality Experience
In the October 2010 issue of Harper’s Magazine, Susan Faludi wrote about a feminist conclave she attended. The feminists at the conclave discussed intergenerational issues without a single younger woman being present. When one of the feminists suggested inviting younger women to the next meeting, she was “promptly shot down”.
Creating equality would mean inviting younger woman to meetings on intergenerational issues so they could speak for themselves. Instead, feminist leaders silence younger women by denying them opportunities to speak for themselves.
8th Inequality Experience
In a number of interviews both in print and on television, Gloria Steinem has repeatedly used a version of the statement below:
“Women have two choices: Either she’s a feminist or a masochist.”
“You’re a feminist or a masochist.”
“It is not at all an exaggeration to say that feminism-the belief in the full social, economic and political equality of women-is mental health, and that the only alternative is masochism,”
“You know in my heart, I think the only alternative to being a feminist is being a masochist.”
Creating equality would mean supporting every woman’s right to define herself. Instead, Steinem silences every woman who chooses to define herself as something other than feminist.
What These Experiences Reveal
The above examples expose feelings of superiority in feminist leaders. Feelings of superiority mean expectations of privilege. Expectations of privilege require inequality. Feminist leaders create inequality for other women so they can maintain their superiority and privilege. By keeping other women passive and silent, feminist leaders are able to give themselves glory.
~~NOW has changed its website since I started writing about feminist leaders. The indented paragraph below is from the original version of this blog post. Visit the new now.org and click on the NOW Leaders page. You’ll see that feminist leaders create inequality by keeping secrets from the mostly female NOW members who pay their salaries.~~
NOW has changed its website again. It removed the NOW Leaders page. This only means they are no longer announcing that NOW leaders keep secrets. NOW leaders still keep secrets. They keep their “activist” training secret from the women who pay for the training.~~
Visit now.org to see whose names appear on the site. Sign up for emails and see whose names are mentioned. Do searches at the website for “training” and “activist”. See how many names of ordinary women you can find. Then look for NOW giving glory to the words and actions of ordinary women — women who are not officers of NOW chapters or in the “dedicated network of grassroots activists”. In an article about “4,000 Massachusetts NOW activists and their supporters” (search for “4000”), the only NOW activists quoted were:
NOW National Board member Ellen Zucker (mentioned two times)
NOW President Patricia Ireland (mentioned four times)
Massachusetts NOW President Ellen Convisser (mentioned two times)
Attendees at a spring 2005 NOW activist training weekend included 11 “new state presidents, coordinators and executive directors” as well as “33 activists from 14 states” who “braved the chill of an extended Washington, D.C., winter” (search for “33 activists”).
Feminist Leaders Create Inequality To Feel Glory
NOW leaders keep the glory for themselves and exaggerate situations to give themselves glory. (Braving a chill where the average low winter temperature is around 30º F? I will refrain from laughing even though I have lived through average winter lows below 10º F for more than two decades.)
Feminist leaders obviously demonstrate superiority priority. Psychologist Marty Sapp gives one example of superiority priority in the article, “School Counseling for African American Adolescents: The Alfred Adler Approach”. Adolescents with superiority priority are “striving to be socially superior to others at any cost” and need to be “most competent” and “most right”. This need for superiority is a way to avoid feelings of unimportance and meaninglessness. Adolescents with superiority priority evoke feelings of inferiority in other people.
Feminist leaders avoid feeling unimportant and meaningless by evoking feelings of inferiority in other women. They make other women feel unimportant and meaningless. When I read in Eleanor Smeal’s letter that she would contact me “four times a year” to let me know what actions step I could take, I felt I would be unimportant 361 days a year. Every time I receive an email from the NOW Action Center asking me to sign “Your letter”, I feel describing my experiences in my own words would be meaningless. How can feminist leaders convince men to treat women as important and meaningful when they cannot do it themselves? Feminist leaders create inequality between women so they can feel most competent, most right, most brave, and most deserving of glory to feed their own endless needs for importance and meaningfulness.
Leading up to the 2012 presidential election I found an example of conservative women leaders creating equality between women. Smart Girl Politics put ordinary women on its website so they could use their own words to describe what actions they took in their own lives. College students, employed mothers, at home mothers, and grandmothers who joined Smart Girl Politics Action could take a free weekly SPG101 interactive webinar. Smart Girl Politics did all this because its founders saw ordinary women as important and meaningful.
Any woman could sign up to be a Smart Girl member without paying a cent. New members could immediately post blogs or organize events. Any Smart Girl member oculd contact any other Smart Girl member. Smart Girls found ways to work together solving problems in their communities.
No nonmember can even email NOW without being assaulted by an automated email response with NOW membership information (“Join NOW!”). Joining NOW means paying a membership fee. NOW members are unable to contact each other or say anything at the NOW website beyond commenting on a staff written blog. NOW members cannot work together to solve problems in their own communities. What NOW wants from its members is a continual flow of money so NOW leaders and their “dedicated network of grassroots activists” can travel around the country and socialize with each other while pretending to create equality.
I read a number of blog posts listed at the SGP website. I agreed with some of them. I disagreed with some of them. I was offended by some of them. I am offended by everything I read at the NOW website because all of it is written with a “We’re superior, you’re inferior” tone.
Since NOW leaders don’t get what equality means, I will explain it to them. Equality means that NOW members get to do anything NOW leaders get to do. Since NOW leaders do not allow NOW members to do anything NOW leaders do, NOW leaders are only pretending to create equality.
It is telling that a conservative organization like Smart Girl Politics created equality for its supporters while a feminist organization like the National Organization for Women creates inequality for its supporters. Why would women call themselves feminist when they enjoy more equality by not calling themselves feminist?
I am one of the women Gloria Steinem would define as a “masochist” for choosing not to call myself feminist. I would be a masochist if I had set aside years of research and allowed my thesis advisor to silence me. Instead, I switched to a male advisor who helped me speak my words through my research.
I would be a masochist if I allowed feminist leaders to keep me passive. Instead, I take action any time I see an opportunity to take action.
I would be a masochistic if I allowed feminist leaders to silence me. Instead, I write letters and emails with words that are meaningful to me.
I would be a masochist if I ignored my life experiences to remain the silent and passive wallet feminist leaders expect me to be. Instead, I use my life experiences to show how feminist leaders create inequality.
I now call myself an equality advocate — I advocate equality between women, between men, and between men and women.
I tried being feminist for approximately twenty years. The experience left me emotionally battered and continuously unequal. As I see it, Ms. Steinem, one alternative to feminism is equality for all women.
Read the letter I wrote NOW in January 2010.
Seven months after posting this blog, I came across the November 2010 issue of More magazine. That issue included an article about young feminists. One of them was Jessica Valenti, who once worked for the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. Valenti’s experience working for NOW provides evidence to support my claim that feminist leaders create inequality so they can feel important and meaningful.
Valenti told More,
“Whenever there was a photo opportunity, all the young women and
women of color would be ushered to the front. But when it came to
inviting us to important meetings, that just wasn’t happening. When
push came to shove, no one really cared what our opinions were.”
The feminist leaders of NOW purposefully create inequality within NOW so they can keep every opportunity to feel important and meaningful for themselves.
To read the opinions feminist leaders purposefully ignore, go to feministing.com.
Paula M. Kramer
All rights reserved.
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 or months.
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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.