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What Patricia wants

NOW's president celebrates the organization's 30th anniversary.

Patricia Ireland lives her life playing against stereotype. As a girl in the 1950s, she was a tomboy. As a young adult, she took a flight attendant's job at Pan Am, and, resisting the stewardess-as-bimbo image, successfully fought for health benefits for her husband (a groundbreaking victory in the '60s). When Ireland became president of the National Organization for Women in 1991, she had to confront the image of NOW as an irrelevant women's organization promoting narrow special interests. This year, NOW celebrates its 30th anniversary, and, not coincidentally, Ireland has marked the occasion with the publication of What Women Want (New York: Dutton, 1996), a personal account of her own development as a feminist.

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Q: NOW's main focus is still job equity for women. Is affirmative action really as important for women in today's job market as it is to, say, African-American men?

 

A: There's ample evidence that women are still overwhelmingly in traditional women's jobs. It's that old divide-and-conquer strategy that says affirmative action has really worked only for white women, and that there are only a few jobs to go around and black men have to compete with white women for each of them. We need to say: Why, in this globalized economy, are we losing jobs? Because they went from U.S. labor to slave labor in China, or to overseas workers making $1 a day.

Q: You sound like Pat Buchanan.

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