WASHINGTON, DC—With members of its closest sister organizations insisting that "it doesn't look a day over 30," the National Organization For Women once again honored its 39th year of feminist activism Monday with a small celebration.
NOW volunteers and executives helped usher in the organization's "thirty-hrmmth" year.
"NOW has been around for—a number of years, and what's really important here is not age, but all that we've accomplished in that time," said NOW President Kim Gandy in a press conference announcing the group's thirty something year of public service. "We've made great strides to secure reproductive rights, combat domestic violence, and rid the workplace of discrimination and harassment. There's no reason why we can't continue to make amazing achievements in our 39th year and in all our other subsequent 39th years."
NOW, one of the largest and longest-functioning feminist organizations in the U.S., states in organization literature that "a champion of women's rights is only as old as it feels."
"Sure, we've been around for a long time, but I could name ten organizations that have been around longer," said Gandy, who called NOW "marvelously mature."
"Besides, no one ever asks the ACLU or the NAACP how old they are," Gandy said. "NOW is just as relevant today as it was in whatever year it was founded."
In the year since it last turned 39, NOW has actively lobbied on issues from same-sex marriage to international women's rights, only once falling into a weeklong lull in activity after a Newsweek interviewer jokingly asked the organization "what it was like to see the 19th Amendment pass."
Confronted with much younger women's organizations such as the Feminist Majority Foundation and College Feminists, NOW is finding it more and more difficult to compete for the public's attention.
"People are being seduced by these flashy, twentysomething organizations because they openly flaunt their assets and have a casual membership policy," said NOW Vice President Latifa Lyles, who added that she "had it on good authority" that the Center For Reproductive Rights has recently had some work done on their offices. "But I think the public can see NOW has only gotten better with age, and respects the organization for its stability and experience. A lot of people find uncompromising ethics really attractive."
Organizers plan to redesign the birthday banner for the first time in 10 years in 2007.
Despite an increased workload and growing societal pressure to form lasting partnerships with other activist groups, the 39-years-young NOW has never been seriously affiliated with any other organization, perhaps due to its decision to focus on ambitious campaigning and legal advocacy work during its twenties instead of public relations. However, NOW vehemently denies rumors that it is only interested in other women's groups, declaring it "just hasn't found the right partner organization to start a coalition with yet."
"Here at NOW, we refuse to further the stereotype that a women's organization isn't complete until it finds a strong partner organization to support it," Gandy said. "No matter how lonely our late-night conferences can get."
In spite of her organization's advancing age, Gandy said that NOW was "going as strong as ever." Over the next year alone, it will lobby Congress for over-the-counter emergency contraception and increased economic protection for mothers and caregivers, as well as confront its more internal concerns of unmanageable lateral expansion and sagging fundraising.
"We've taken aggressive steps to make sure no wrinkles appear in our public image," Gandy said. "Although, around the office, we like to call them 'battle scars.' Or 'laughter lines.' Or 'dignity doodles.'"
NOW's first order of business in their 39th year of operation is to begin preparations for the anniversary celebration next year, during which the organization is rumored to be turning 39. Although the theme, location, and guest list are still being debated, both NOW's national and regional leadership unanimously agreed to invite '70s heartthrob Burt Reynolds to deliver the keynote address.
The Chippendales News Service also contributed to this story