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Good evening and welcome to woman my guest this evening is Karen to crow. She is an attorney from Syracuse New York and is currently national president of NOW the National Organization for Women. She is also author of The Young Woman's Guide to liberation and most recently sexist justice. Karen is here tonight to talk about the National Organization for Women what's right with it what's wrong with it and what's in it for women. Karen welcome to the show. Thank you. Karen could you give us some general background on. I don't think everyone knows about now. Well for those few who don't know about now now was organized in 1960 by Betty free Dan and a couple of dozen other women where some of the women just out of curiosity. The first year Person of the board they felt that there was really no recourse for women within the traditional commissions for the status of women and so on. And. Therefore that there was a need for an organization each threw in a couple dollars and said we're going to form this
revolutionary organization to change the lives of women and indeed I would say that has been done right now now has over 700 chapters all of the United States and indeed many in other countries. And we have over 40000 members. So we're you know definitely at least an adolescent organization at this point. Who are the women who belong to nail someone did a study recently didn't it. Right well first of all the persons who are in now are both women and women and children. And the majority are. White although. There are many minority persons in now. And the majority are. Above average in educational level if. The rumor has that. And the majority live in cities. Although there are of course members of now.
Other women that you feel that now should be reaching that it isn't. Well I guess my ultimate goal is that everyone in the entire country is a member of NOW and then we can just quit. You know I'm go off to an island somewhere and read novels. So actually if there's any person in United States who isn't either a member of NOW or subscriber to a principles I feel that we aren't reaching enough people. I guess the people I'd like to see most. Actively. Into now are the people who wield power in the country since they affect the lives of women and these I guess would be white males. Who are you know president of the United States heads of corporations that would be the group I would most like to reach. I had in mind perhaps groups like college age women. Oh. I think that's why your president are now in on this. I thought you were trying to give out members of the cabinet. Well there are groups of women that we are trying to reach. For example we have started an affirmative action
program within now. To actively recruit minority women and men because we feel that this is an area that has been somewhat neglected. We are for example working working closely with the black feminist organization. To. Work on common goals and to hopefully have you know certain amount of mutual membership. There is as you know very exciting things happening with blue collar women. Who have at least the men if this had it they weren't into women's liberation that that isn't true. I think it's a myth because the. Well I never knew one way or the other you know I get my information of New York Times Like everybody else and we said well this is the thing for you know professional women. I myself don't know too many. Blue collar women although I you know certainly I. Do know a number who have been involved in the movement the interesting thing was there was a study done. A body or go by the National Opinion Research Organization in Chicago. Which show that the attitudes of blue collar women. Are in fact.
Really very pro. Women's liberation an issue by issue. They surprised the whole country including indeed me. In showing that. They are not. Anti women's liberation they're unfair pro women's liberation. And. Now very exciting things have happened in the summer of 74 for example union women for the first time had a large conference and started organizing themselves to fight sexism and you know incredible sex discrimination within unions. So I think that's another group that we're trying to reach out to as far as college age women many college age women are in now in many college age women are very interested in women's liberation and are indeed trying to lead their lives that way perhaps without a formal membership. In an organization. I speak a lot at colleges all over the country and obviously it's a self-selected audience to come to hear me since it's never a required speech but. They certainly you know seem very turned on to the whole idea of really exciting college age
men are turned on to it. Like wait a minute. Is that true or not. You know a hundred percent don't mean pull the wool off your products. But a lot of young men think the whole male role is just ridiculous and are indeed playing to reject it. You know in their own lives this is certainly more true of men in their teens and twenties than. You know older men. But this is something that I find very exciting when I go to colleges is the number of menu ideas the number of men who are saying they just are going to have no part of the kind of life that their fathers lead. What do you think some of the alternatives are that out to us. And I thought acting neoliberals. Well I have this this dream. That. I really think is going to come true someday I don't know when I'll be alive. But I think that. Gender is going to be irrelevant for what people do. And I say. I originally got this idea when I was writing a book on will sexist justice and I. Concluded that there should be gender free law there
is no place in the law. I decided about two years ago for the word man woman husband wife mother was you can talk about persons you can talk about spouses. The reason I came to that conclusion was I felt that in time women are singled out. We lose you know it's it was like a black thing. Then I thought well why should only be in law you certainly could apply to other areas of life. And I start thinking about it and of course it's a mind boggling idea I'm sure many people are turning the dial right now it's crazy. As I said I was speaking the other day in someplace in New England and I mention this gender free thing in some Mormon raised here and said do you mean there is going to be any more sex. No no I said that wasn't we were you know but you know it's not a very widespread concept but what I mean is it should have no relevance. To what someone does for a living or how. Someone relates to children or how someone relates to leisure. The gender that one has just simply should not be relevant hopefully people start raising.
Their sons and daughters. To be people you know and that worry is this person acting you know properly for a boy or. Something I believe that are in my sex characteristics. And you know our role playing is is an inherent thing though. And that will I not pull it out obviously. I think that if culture I think there are many different kinds of personalities. So it is in everybody isn't the same. But I don't think. That's very much determined by biological gender. So you'll find very passive people who love to sit home while they re poetry and they should be encouraged to do that. You know whether they're male or female. Right now you know find a man who's doing it now say somebody in a lot of trouble with his relatives friends everyone will think there's something strange about them. The whole concept of masculinity and femininity seemed to be so ridiculous and I can highly deal with it. And it starts to track a man. Because. They just take a whole set of characteristics. For example I ran for mayor people said do you want to be a man.
No I said I just want to be mayor. That's. When I was in law school what's America you really want to be a man. No no I just I want to be a lawyer. You know this is something this some man wants to be a ballet dancer. You know is he a feminine characteristics now he wants to be a belly dancer you know that thing to me that's a correct way to analyze sex roles. There are people that say if you did that you know if you had a child now. And you brought him up or her up gender free that you would you know destroy them as far as functioning in our society today. I think that's not correct and indeed many more conservative people than I have come to conclusion. I cite Spock. Who. At the beginning of the women I should say the second wave of the women's movement the one that started in the 60s. Spock was. You know something really we had to contend with because his book that was the Bible for people who were raising children said a girl has to know who's
mommy and who's daddy and don't confuse the roles and mommy should be home doing womanly things and this is very important. Early age children find out you know which sex they are and have a very clear. And in the latest edition he's changed that entire thing. And I've heard him several times you know on television. Speaking about you know exactly recant things although I want an article New York Times ID practically Rick you know I think you did yeah he said but he was wrong. And he. Gave credit to the women's movement for having raised his consciousness to the fact that this is not important. A child needs. Good. Cognitive good affective models. You know mommy being a woman and daddy being a man is a now priority or is this a gerund across the whole gender what an alternative. While it's certainly not a Karen to crow fantasy as far as an out priority I would say the top priorities. Are.
Political social and economic change and it is. Carried across fantasy that none of these will come true. Or be in any way affected. Unless. We do change people's ideas of what men and women are. In other words I'm not saying I'm not concerned about. Raising the level of women in employment situations. But rather changing sex stereotypes. What I'm saying is until. Employers think of women as human beings. Instead of in some way deficient men. We will never have equality in employment. A. Top priority certainly is passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. And what is the status of that. At the status of that as of today is that we have 33 states which have ratified and we need 38. We have. Every intention of getting thirty eight thousand nine hundred seventy five. In 1974 there simply won't be enough state legislatures meeting to
get the required five states. I heard the good news the other day that Betty Ford is. Going to be going to both Illinois and Florida. And working with us to get ratification in those two very important states. So the Equal Rights Amendment you know certainly will be ratified but the point that I was trying to make was that I think the thing that stands. Between. Ratification and that ratification is a concept in the heads of state legislators. Who are. Making this crucial vote that women either are or are not human beings and I think it's as simple as that of people think women are different. And in some way I have to be singled out and treated very differently than perhaps in good conscience I can go and vote. We should be proud of constitution because you know we're something no. Resit they just think that we're we are human beings like everyone else in the country then of course they have no alternative but to give us constitutional equality. So what is a top priority really. Yeah good for them. I'm not a fan of you.
But I guess I started by asking you a question about the image of now you know as to who are the people that belong to now. And it occurred to me that there's a gap I think between the image of now and the reality of now. And you say that now it's made up of mostly white fairly well-educated upper socio economic theory married. Women. And that. Doesn't seem to be the sort of radical image that some people have. Well actually we're damned if we do and damned if we don't because people attack us because we're too rich and when I say I mean our rich organization Oh now it's poverty stricken but the people well show me a woman I'll show you a poor person I mean women you know don't have money the best. Usually we can do is married. Or that be the daughter be married to or be the daughter of a very rich man. But what I'm saying is. Perhaps I am wrong in this but I don't worry very much about image
because whatever is said about us someone will attack and I words if we're crazy screaming radicals obviously attack if we're. All Ph Ds. Obviously that will be attacked on grounds of elitism. In fact one statistic about Nam members which. I simply throw out is fit into what you were saying is that most now members are married. And I suppose the images that we all are busy murdering the family just that you know about to get a devil as well it. The fact is most women or many women in America are about are about to get a divorce the divorce rate is now creeping up to 1 out of two marriages ends in divorce. So now member and non member alike you know has a great likelihood. Of getting divorced. But. And I think one of the reasons that perhaps one talks about now and divorce in the same breath is now is working very hard in all the 50 states to. Correct the injustices in the marriage and divorce laws. And so we talk about it a lot.
Well what are some of the injustices that you say. Well the main injustice and I said this so many times that you feel like I should turn on the record if. Every woman is taught from early childhood that if she marries the right man. Well first if she does the right things to attract the right man. So if she's good looking and. Talks weakly and isn't competitive you know just. It was a good Miss America type she will marry the right man and he will support her the rest of her life. And that's you. That's not bad it's. Not the choice of many of us but in other words it's a life time occupation. The fact is that. This isn't true many many women get divorced and find themselves broke and indeed within an ongoing marriage many women are hardly being supported. In grand style as we're told in all the magazines you will happen to us. I think the main injustice is indeed an economic one which is kind of ironic because of the myth to see every woman cleaning up in divorce court. Divorced women are so
rich and they're often the islands you know sipping coconut milk and saw it's not true. Divorced women are very poor and of course every divorced woman watching this knows it that her standard of living has gone down enormously. That's what about alimony. How do you feel about that. Well how I feel about it all as most women don't get it. And. Alimony is awarded. In a very small percentage of divorce cases. And indeed when it's awarded and the husband doesn't want to pay you know lotsa luck. The lawyer isn't there when you call you know the secretary says well we'll call back tomorrow. The lawyers in court it's extremely hard to collect I believe the statistics are about 10 years after divorce something like 1 percent of the women collected support a road related area that I think is even more shocking is child support. Their words to people are hit you know have this child and then they get divorced and. Impregnated.
Huge majority of the cases the husbands are not contributing. To even one half the support of that child I think what I was after was you have a quote on your book jacket about alimony. And I know I'm going to get it wrong but you something about it proves that women can't work or something like that. Well read up. I'll remember what it is. I think it's a. Front. And. Alimony is the recognition by the legal system that most women can't earn a living. Yes I still agree with this. Still timely quote. This. Quote comes out of. When you're talking about alimony. Where would the thing that's thrown at me most when I talk about discrimination against women in particular a law is. Oh alimony wise these women get al-Mahdi you know we poor man. Men say to me what can I do about alimony. And they expect me to say pay it you know you show up and I say Join now. Oh and if. I say to
this man who's allegedly saddled with huge alimony payments your son will not have to pay alimony. If. You join in the human liberation movement because. The recognition that women cannot support themselves. The reason that states. Instituted alimony provisions which as I said before rarely work. Is that. The state did not want the burden of divorced women they didn't want them on the welfare roles and they recognized that. If a woman has small children and there is no childcare facilities. Available to her she will no doubt not work. And even if she works she will earn so little money. That she will be a burden on the state. And so what it is is that. It's. The recognition that women are in a childlike status and most of us cannot earn enough money to support ourselves and our children and therefore the state prefers to you know stick some man with the burden rather than. Have a state welfare department
paying it. I want to go back to something that is said in the beginning of the show. Do you think the basic purposes have now of changed over the years when Betty Friedan started now. With a priorities different than they are now. Unfortunately most of the original goals of now eight years later I speak. Have not. Been achieved. So that we still have most of the original goals of now. As our current calls. I think. What I mean by that we still trying to get the equal rights ratified. We're still. Fighting the abortion battle now. We spent enormous amount of our time and energy and money. On the abortion fight and then got. Very excellent Supreme Court decision which is now. Again under threat by various so-called Right to Life forces. So we still have to spend time and money fighting the attack on the Supreme Court decision. This was an original goal of now a woman's right to control her own body and indeed still is so we haven't.
Really gotten rid of any of our original goals. I think we've broadened. The. Scope of what we're into. It's at least my feeling that we're really into a whole cultural revolution we're into. A very profound change in how men and women live and relate to each other and how they relate to children. And as my guest said originally. At least that was my perception I could have been a member of NOW since 1967. Originally our goals. Were more bread and butter goals. Like. Like. Employment equality and employment equality of educational opportunities are still our goals and these are still alas not achieved. I think now many of us think. In terms of a. Broader. Thing which as we were saying earlier in the show. I think the people who have come around to the whole cultural revolution idea. Have done so because we realize our narrower our narrower goals will not be achieved unless the
society starts to regard women very differently. So it's not a question of discarding old goals it's a question perhaps of having made an analysis of them. And. Having realized. That it's not so easy. To say so incredible male chauvinist employers now women are going to be up there in management. You know you have there's a lot of education that has to take place. Another thing I think is really happened is we've become a two sex movement. And. The things that we're saying are really relevant also to men it's not a question of. Women wanting to get a big bigger slice of the pie and we're going to take away all these rights from these men that have America step on us anymore and get off my back and all this stuff I think we sort of passed through their faith to the realization that the trip that's laid on women and the trip that's laid on men are both really kind of outdated. I think the men who belong to now have made a contribution to this point. Oh yeah. Unfortunately I don't. There aren't enough men and far as I'm concerned
would you say 10 percent right and at least that's the figure that I'm given. I think the. Men who join now early are to be credited you know as John Stuart Mill was way ahead of his time. The men who join now. Five six seven eight years ago and indeed are joining today simply are you know X years ahead of their time. I really think that the rhetoric is going to change the rhetoric of man is going to change. And. We will find fewer and fewer men. Really fighting you know to be Tarzan. In the coming years. I want to ask you this about the NBA national black feminist organization. Do you see the formation of the NBA foe as a failure of the women's movement. Do you think that the black women split because they weren't getting what they needed from the white feminist movement. Well the answer to your second question I can't give you life to some black women if they feel you know the White
House movement feel that as far as do I think the formation of their organization indicates a failure on our part. Absolutely not I think the formation of any feminist organization. Is in a sense a success for all of us. The more organizations there are I think the more people. Who will be attracted the more voices they will be speaking I love to go somewhere like Washington have. 10 feminist organizations represented. I think that's more worth the contact that I've had with black feminist groups there's been you know strictly positive. We're very eager to work together. And. I by the way I do not regard now as a white feminist group. It is a feminist group for. People of all colors in both sexes so. But because as is the fact most of the people in NO are white if. Black women and Chicano feel that they want to form their own organizations I think the only thing the only role for now in such.
Emerging you know the only role for now with regard to such emerging organizations is to give modest support you know that we possibly can and encourage them and work with them in coalition. Do women still come up to you and say I'm for equal pay but I'm not for the women's movement. Right. Well they don't say it to me so much as they seem to say it is their reporters so we will be interviewing you know the first woman call minor something a male. Oh you know you have this great job now you're making you know $12 an hour. Are you for the women's movement. Absolutely not you not me I'm a famine darling person I just you know I would be really great to be a coal miner because you know my alternative was making 30 cents an hour doing something and. That you know doesn't turn me on particularly but I. Now much I can do about. You know women. Often like some issue and claim they don't like the others. They like equal pay but they don't like the abortion issue.
But that doesn't bother you. Know new list I mean bother me I would love every person in the world to share my exact fuse and. You know that would be interesting aesthetically pleasing and it would create justice for women but I know that's not a character girl fantasy you know. OK I think now it's less militant than it used to be a more militant. I don't know how to judge. That. I would say now is not militant has never been militant enough to suit me. And is not. Now. Not presently militant enough to suit me. But we have some very basic hangups to get over you know women are supposed to be timid. And. Many of us are trying very hard not to be. Very much a part of the training. Of female persons to. Push for your rights because traditionally we've been rewarded. For not complaining for accepting our lives. And we've been punished for speaking out so it's a great psychological barrier to get across.
N.O.W. Now
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Episode Description
This episode features a conversation with Karen DeCrow. She is an attorney from Syracuse, NY and the current national President of The National Organization for Women. She is the author of A Young Womens Guide to Liberation and Sexist Justice.
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Woman is a talk show featuring in-depth conversations exploring issues affecting the lives of women.
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Talk Show
Social Issues
Copyright 1974 by Western New York Educational Television Association, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Director: George, Will
Guest: DeCrow, Karen
Host: Elkin, Sandra
Producer: Elkin, Sandra
Producing Organization: WNED
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Identifier: WNED 04319 (WNED-TV)
Format: DVCPRO
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:28:48
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Chicago: “Woman; N.O.W. Now,” 1974-09-18, WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 25, 2022,
MLA: “Woman; N.O.W. Now.” 1974-09-18. WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 25, 2022. <>.
APA: Woman; N.O.W. Now. Boston, MA: WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from