Committee on Feminist Movement History: National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS)
reprinted with permission from: Brannon, Robert (2017) “Alice Paul Awards for Women Who Have Worked to Confront Men’s Violence Against Women,”Dignity: Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence: Vol. 2: Iss. 1, Article 9.DOI: 10.23860/dignity.2017.02.01.09
NOMAS is a 36-year old national feminist men’s network that engages in a wide range of activities on a broad range of issues, detailed at www.Nomas.org. Its collective national leadership includes feminist men and women who are grassroots activists, therapists, teachers, researchers, writers, academics, and community organizers. Some recent projects have addressed support for custodial mothers, programs for men who abuse their partners, services for battered women, confronting women‘s and girls’ use in sex trafficking and prostitution, organizing for racial justice, feminist movement history, and examining men’s and women’s power-and-gender-role dynamics.
Who Was Alice Paul?
Naming these Awards for Alice Paul (1885-1977) seems most appropriate, as Alice Paul achieved the single greatest advance for women in all of human history – and dealt a decisive defeat to male supremacy. In 1919 at the age of 34, Paul had out-witted and out-maneuvered President Woodrow Wilson, after years of his resistance, into agreeing that American women should be entitled to vote. Today, voting is assumed as women’s right, but Alice Paul and her sisters faced men’s mob-violence many times, their banners destroyed, their parades disrupted; Paul herself was imprisoned and brutally force-fed. Gaining the vote was the first such victory for women anywhere in the Western world, the great prize that had eluded Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth C. Stanton, Lucy Stone, Matilda J. Gage, and all of the great First Wave feminists. (This little-known, battle-by-battle story is best told in Alice Paul and the American Suffrage Campaign, Adams & Keene, 2008, U. of Illinois Press.)
Focus of the Alice Paul Award
While the full range of feminist issues are of great interest to NOMAS, we have a special concern with men’s violence against women. Our intention is to especially recognize the feminist women who have been so inspiring in guiding us in this particular dimension of the feminist struggle.
All feminists, almost by definition, are opposed to men’s violence. But not all have been directly involved in actively working against it in some meaningful way. In deciding whom we wish to especially honor, we have looked most specifically at those women who have who have contributed in the areas of sexual assault, rape, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, pederasty, abusively-seeking child-custody, polygamy, bullying, and lesser forms of men’s violence, such as street-harassment, and obscene phone calls. We include those aspects of the ‘sex industry’ clearly linked to violence against women, including sex-trafficking, use in prostitution, revenge-porn, etc.
Those areas are the intended focus of this award. Women whose primary contributions are in other dimensions of feminism are included when we also see clear evidence of work that more directly addresses men’s violence against women.
We include writing as an important form of work, as well as more direct and active forms. We have included poets and playwrights where appropriate, as well as social scientists, service providers, lawyers, judges, writers, journalists, survivors, clergy, activists, and other professional categories.
While these issues and struggles are world-wide, our Alice Paul Award is limited to women of the Second Wave and thereafter (late 1960’s – today), alive or deceased, living or often working in the United States.
There are important issues in feminism, including political equality, economic equality, women’s culture, women’s history, women’s literature, sexuality, health, etc. that have relevance, but are not specifically directed at men’s violence against women. We have also not included here women whose work has almost exclusively addressed racism, homophobia, war, immigration, and other such related areas of activism, although a case can be made for the great relevance of each of these.
Award Selection Process
The Committee on Feminist Movement History made the selections below. Each person made specific nominations of women to be honored, and evaluations of proposed nominees and the award announcement. The process was conducted by email and by phone over a month-long period in late 2016. Contributors were:
Robert Brannon, Ph.D., Chairperson. Feminist activist since late 1960’s, teacher of college women’s studies courses since 1971. Areas of specialization: pornography’s effects on viewers, use of women in prostitution, sex-trafficking, statistics on rape, male-gender-role dynamics, scientific attitude measurement.
Rose Garrity. Chair of Board, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Director for 40 years of abused women’s shelter in Binghamton, New York.
Chris O’Sullivan Ph.D. Researcher, writer, and editor on domestic violence and other issues of violence against women
Jack Straton Ph.D. Co-Chair of NOMAS Task Group on Child Custody and founder of a campus Men Against Rape group.
Michael Kimmel Ph.D. Author of numerous books on feminism, men’s studies, sexuality, pornography, etc.
Don Bell. Founding member of NOMAS, 1981; Trainer and leader on issues of multiculturalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and HIV/AIDS.
Barry Goldstein. Co-Chair of NOMAS Task Group on Child Custody and author of multiple books on child custody and the courts; He has defended custodial mothers and their children in court.
David Greene Ph.D. University teacher of gender-studies courses for over 30 years, Men’s Studies organizer, authority on class issues.
Phyllis B. Frank. Founder and expert on groups for men who have abused their partners; Co-chair of NY State and national NOW committees on pornography.
It would be impossible to list all of the thousands of individual women, at all levels in the U.S. alone, who have worked on these issues. We have attempted to be somewhat comprehensive at level of publications, and at the national level of activities and contributions. At the state and local levels, we have regrettably but inevitably missed and omitted many very deserving women.
Although we have no current plan to publish future editions of this Award, readers are invited to send names, of themselves or other women deserving to be honored, with a sentence or two of explanation, to:______________ If the number of additional names becomes significant, it may be possible to publish them at a later date.
A shorter list of ten women of Lifetime Dedication and Outstanding Achievement follows the primary list. A draft of this was prepared by Dr. Brannon, as Committee Chair, and then significantly modified and refined by other members and outside consultants. None of these individuals had proposed themselves. The texts of the biographical descriptions were shown to the individuals named, insofar as possible (four are now deceased), and factual corrections made at their request.
Honoring any one woman is somewhat inconsistent with the great collective struggle for equality that we have seen since the late 1960’s. There are, in truth, thousands of women who deserve such appreciation. The world tends to honor those who gain national recognition and publicity, while many others do outstanding things in their local area, and are not widely recognized. We apologize for having omitted middle initials and names and in the listing below, except when required for correct identification.
There are obviously no “correct” or perfect choices. These our Committee’s selections; others may have validly made different choices. Among the many such inspirational women in the U.S., we salute:
Beverly La Belle
Patricia H. Collins
Mary A. Franks
Donna M. Hughes
Eleanor H. Norton
Sally R. Wagner
Mary de Young
From among the inspiring women named above, we wish also to especially recognize, and to honor, the following women, as:
Women of Lifetime Dedication, and Outstanding Achievement in Confronting Men’s Violence Against Women
Catharine A. MacKinnon has recorded a major, concrete achievement, which no one else living today can equal. She skillfully led the way to a huge and historic victory over male supremacy, that has made millions of women lives’ safer and better, today and into the future. MacKinnon was the principal architect of our present laws against sexual harassment, both in employment and in education. Beginning while in law school, she advanced the theory that such behavior, in both its quid pro quo and hostile environment forms, is sex discrimination, a civil rights violation. She then successfully co-litigated it before the U.S. Supreme Court and has worked to extend sexual harassment law around the world. Many women contributed to this huge success, but MacKinnon was truly its prime mover. Catharine MacKinnon is thus the most successful feminist reformer since Alice Paul herself.
A case she litigated first recognized rape as an act of genocide, a legal concept now embraced in international law. Her concept of “gender crime” created a gender-based understanding of sex crimes and their prosecution in international criminal law. She participated formatively in the Violence Against Women civil remedy, the trafficking amendments to the Palermo Protocol, the Nordic model on prostitution, and establishing the harm approach to pornography in Canada. Professor MacKinnon has been recognized as “the law’s most prominent feminist legal theorist,” and among “the most influential American law professors of the century,” “the most important legal thinkers in American law of the past century,” and “the most highly cited legal scholars of all time.”
Gloria Steinem is the single most visible, universally admired, beloved and respected feminist alive today. Co-founding and guiding Ms. magazine was but one of her innumerable creative achievements. As a writer she championed countless feminist causes. As a young woman, she infiltrated the Playboy Club as a “bunny,” then wrote a feminist critique of Heffner’s profit-making woman-abuse (observing that the required AIDS-tests clearly indicated that bunnies were expected to engage in prostitution). Her inspirational 1970 essay in Time, “What It Would Be Like If Women Win,” made feminism understandable and appealing to many mainstream readers. She resurrected Wonder Woman, on the cover of the first issue of Ms. in 1972, and explored the true roots of this iconic feminist figure in human prehistory. Her 1978 Ms. cover story asserted that “Blatant or subtle, pornography involves no equal power or mutuality; Erotica is b as different from pornography as love is from rape, as dignity is from humiliation, as partnership is from slavery, as pleasure is from pain.” Steinem wrote an article on female genital mutilation in 1979 that brought this atrocity – from which “75 million women are suffering” – to the attention of the American public. She observed that “genital mutilation can only be understood in the context of the patriarchy.” During the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings in 1991, she strongly supported for Anita Hill, who accused the nominee of sexual harassment. Steinem proposed that Hill instead should be on the Supreme Court.
Very few social scientists have ever distinguished themselves as both theorists, authors, and prolific editors, and also, as empirical research scientists. Dr. Diana Russell, almost uniquely, has been an extraordinary achiever, in both dimensions. Over a fifty-year career, Russell has authored over 20 important feminist, often prize-winning books, and hundreds of articles, on a vast range of women’s issues. These included lucid, expert explanations of pornography’s harms to women. Russell championed the term “femicide,” which electrified the front-line feminists in many other countries, and led already to new legislation against the nightmare of woman-killing, in eight different countries of the world. As an empirical social scientist, Russell conducted the most accurate, methodologically-competent scientific research ever done on the prevalence of rape – 24% – in the female population of all ages. No other research on rape has ever equaled Russell’s work, for scientific rigor. (This landmark scientific research is described in Sexual Exploitation, Sage, 1984) From this data, Russell later also obtained the best-ever information on childhood sexual abuse. Her report, The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women, was the first scientific study of incestuous abuse ever conducted, and won the C. Wright Mills Award, the most prestigious prize in social science. Catharine MacKinnon wrote: “Professor Russell is the recognized academic expert on the empirical study of sexual violence against women in the United States… None of the conceptual, factual, political, or legal advances in understanding, documenting, and opposing violence against women in this country, including my own work, would have been possible without her ground-breaking studies and scholarly publications.”
A native of South Africa, Russell was a courageous early opponent of racist apartheid. Nobel Prize-winner Desmond Tutu said: “I fairly burst with pride, that South African soil has produced such indomitable women..”
The most serious encounter which so many women experience with patriarchal male violence is abuse and/or violence from a husband, boyfriend, or male partner. Perhaps the most celebrated and respected leader in this central area of feminist anti-violence work was Ellen Pence. She not only confronted the questionable clinical take-over of help programs intended for such men, she developed a far superior alternative approach: the Coordinated Community Response. This is an inter-agency collaborative approach, involving police, probation, courts and human services, working together in response to domestic abuse. This model is now used in all 50 states, and over 17 countries. It generated the well-known “Power and Control Wheel.” Pence worked on legislative efforts, legal reform projects, shelter and advocacy program development, and training programs for judges, probation officers, law enforcement officers, and human service providers. She authored educational manuals and curricula for classes for battered women, men who batter, and law enforcement officers. Pence was the chief architect of the Praxis Institutional Audit, a method of identifying, analyzing and correcting institutional failures to protect women drawn into legal and service systems because of violence and poverty. Ellen Pence was widely loved, for her sense of humor, her brilliance, and her lifelong dedication to this great cause.
Attorney Dorchen Leidholdt is a feminist visionary, activist, and professional. She has represented hundreds of women victimized by domestic violence, sex trafficking, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced and child marriage, the threat of ‘honor-killing,’ and the internet bride trade. She has been a founder and leader opposing violence and sexual exploitation since the 1970’s. She is currently Director of Battered Women’s Legal Services for the agency Sanctuary for Families, with 45 full-time attorneys, the largest legal services program for victims of gender violence in the U.S. She was the lead organizer of the 1987 conference “The Sexual Liberals and the Attack on Feminism” at the New York University School of Law, and in 1988, of the first global conference on trafficking in women and girls. Leidholdt was a principal architect of the best-designed American law to date against sex-trafficking, prostitution, and pimping: the 2007 New York State Anti-Trafficking Law. She previously co-founded and co-chaired the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), and New York’s Women Against Pornography. Leidholdt legally defended a women who had been pimped by Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione. She has spearheaded federal litigation preventing child protection agencies from charging battered mothers with “engaging in domestic violence, and led campaigns to make stalking and strangulation crimes, and to require judges to consider evidence of domestic violence in custody cases. She has addressed the General Assembly of the U.N. with a survivor of sex trafficking, and has received numerous awards, including one from NYC for “outstanding leadership in breaking the cycle of domestic violence.”
Professor Donna Hughes was a biologist and geneticist before evolving into a women’s studies scholar. She has emerged as one of the world’s leading authorities on the trafficking of women and girls around the world for prostitution. She has written extensively about women’s rights in the Islamic world and about women in science. Hughes has published research on sex trafficking and prostitution in Russia, Ukraine, Cambodia, and the U.S., and on the trafficking of North Korean refugees in China. Her stunning report from Cambodia, that little girls being held captive in prostitution brothels were described as “sex workers” by U.S. – funded bureaucrats, caught the attention of many.
Dr. Hughes has also written incisively about the new role of the Internet in aiding the trafficking of women and about abuses of the mail-order bride industry. In 2009, she was a major force in confronting and defeating twenty-nine years of decriminalized prostitution in Rhode Island that had prevented law enforcement from investigating sex trafficking and pimping. Most recently, she founded the much-needed new open access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal, Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence (www.digitalcommons.uri.edu/dignity). Combining scientific rigor and integrity with a feminist urgency and energy on behalf of vulnerable women, Donna Hughes is having an immediate, visible, positive impact on the world.
Betty Friedan will be remembered forever for two stupendous achievements in advancing women’s equality. Working entirely alone, she wrote the earth-changing book, in 1972, which sparked the emergence of 2nd wave feminism: The Feminine Mystique. She wrote tellingly of the emptiness in so many talented women’s lives that she called “the problem that has no name.” She later wrote: “…my whole life had prepared me to write that book. The book came from somewhere deep within me, and all my experience came together in it … I and every other woman had been living a lie.” Her chapter on Freud was a clear and persuasive account of Freud’s unconscious bias, animosity, and lack of insight or concern with women. She described how even Margaret Mead had gradually slipped into Freudian psycho-babble and glorification of women’s traditional, biological roles. She wrote of an “enduring patriarchal power structure,” which systematically suppresses women. For decades afterward, women would approach Friedan with nearly identical words: “Thank you!… Your book changed my life…” Then, not content to be only a universally celebrated writer, Friedan joined with other women in 1966 to found the National Organization for Women (NOW), now the world’s largest feminist organization, and served as its first President. She also co-founded the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) in 1969 and then the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971. Her influence can be seen in every dimension of 2nd wave feminism.
Dr. Melissa Farley has practiced as a clinical and research psychologist, totally independent of academia, for over 45 years. Arrested numerous times in civilly disobedient protests of nuclear power and of sexually-violent pornography, she has made one huge feminist challenge – the use and abuse of women in prostitution – the central focus of her own life’s work. As a social science researcher, she has interviewed women being used in prostitution, often at huge risk to herself, sometimes at gunpoint, in nine countries across the globe. Her non-profit website, www.prostitutionresearch.com, has information on (the few) services that exist for such oppressed women, the latest data and research information, and receives 40,000-60,000 views per month from around the world. When a U.S. grant became available to study the sex-industry of Nevada, both “legal” and illegal, Ambassador John Miller knew that the best-qualified researcher in the world would be Dr. Melissa Farley. The book that resulted, Prostitution & Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections (2007) is, still today, the best scholarship in print on prostitution. One important chapter details the innumerable barriers to women who desperately wish to leave prostitution. Another reports empirical research on the negative attitudes and beliefs of college men in Northern Nevada exposed to nearby brothels and legal prostitution, as compared with similar college men in other states. A deeply committed feminist, Melissa Farley writes with infectious, passionate conviction, like an Andrea Dworkin with a Ph.D.
Andrea Dworkin was not adequately known, or universally admired, in her own too-brief lifetime. To the many women and men inspired by her, however, she was the fiercest, most consistent, and most eloquent opponent of male supremacy we have ever heard or read. Her battle to enact the first-ever civil rights law addressing the harms to women caused by pornography, co-authored with Catharine MacKinnon, was legally unsuccessful in the U.S., but In Canada, the Supreme Court has adopted their approach to addressing pornography’s harms to women (Butler, 1992). Dworkin’s powerful voice was able to first raise an awareness of pornography’s multiple harms-to-women, in countless other feminists. A survivor of male violence herself, she wrote and spoke extensively about rape, battering, prostitution, and all other abuses of women and girls. Andrea Dworkin wrote over a dozen books, including fiction, testified before Congress, and spoke with electric effect across the U.S. and around the world. Few could ever move a room the way she could. All of her books are freely available at (www.radfem.org/dworkin). Letters from a War Zone, 1989, perhaps her finest, most readable collection of essays and speeches, is as vibrant, impactful, and on-target today as when it first appeared.
Phyllis Chesler wrote the most widely-read feminist book of all time in 1972: Women and Madness. In that pioneering work, she exposed the patriarchal world of psychotherapy, and the profound contempt for women which pervaded clinical practice. From her own life-changing experience of being a captive bride, barefoot-and-secluded in Afghanistan, she escaped, and soared within a few years to become the most visible radical feminist in academia. In 1970 she demanded of APA one million dollars in reparation, to women abused by the mental health profession. The next year, she rocked psychology again with the evidence that numerous therapists were sexually exploiting female patients, which led to changes in state laws. Over the next 45 years Chesler authored a dazzling array of books and articles, becoming the most prolific, wide-ranging feminist thinker since Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Mothers On Trial first clearly revealed how often abusive ex-husbands seek, and obtain child custody, by exploiting male privilege. About Men, Sacred Bond, Letters to A Young Feminist, and Women of the Wall display the wide range of her concerns. She lucidly examined racism and anti-Semitism, in “The New Anti-Semitism“.
Beyond many important books, Chesler has worked in person with endangered civil rights workers in Mississippi, with women imprisoned in psychiatric hospitals, and most often today, with women fleeing gender apartheid. Today she is conducting new empirical research, on horrific male-supremacist “honor killings” of women, in five continents. She is an international contact and refuge for women who are death-threatened because they refuse to veil, or to marry their first cousin. Her closest colleagues now are Muslim and ex-Muslim feminists and dissidents. Her web site (www.phyllis-chesler.com ) is the leading source in the U.S. today of information on severe woman-abuse, in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.
The names above only scratch the vast surface, of the legions of women who are working to confront the age-old injustice of men’s violence and male supremacy. We as feminist men proudly join them in working for these goals.