From having an 8 p.m. curfew at college for women but not men to discovering that her husband owned her paycheck under Louisiana’s “Head and Master” law, startling experiences made Kim Gandy join the women’s movement.
Gandy, President and CEO of the National Organization for Women since 2001, keynoted a Yale Political Union debate — “Resolved: The Women’s Movement Has Not Gone Far Enough” — Tuesday night in a half-full Battell Chapel. Gandy discussed the need for a contemporary women’s movement and the fact that “women’s issues” are relevant to both men and women.
“There is more to do,” Gandy said. “For every advance, there has been a backlash. Though the Equal Pay Act has long been passed, we still need an enforcement act to close loopholes — And when you take a look around, women are still locked out of all highest positions of leadership.”
Gandy said while nearly half of law and mathematics college graduates are women, only 15 and 8 percent of women are law partners and math professors, respectively. She said women’s representation in important positions, especially in the government, would benefit more people than just feminists.
“For any institution, from the FDA to the military, to be the best it can be, it must draw on the knowledge and experience of all people, regardless of race, sex, age or sexual orientation. It shouldn’t pick and choose people to leave out,” Gandy said.
When Gandy discussed child care and abortion issues, she was met with loud hisses from many members of the audience. She warned that Supreme Court changes in the next few years could reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision for at least the next 30 years.
“If you cannot decide when and how to form your family, you cannot truly exercise liberty,” Gandy said. “The next three Supreme Court appointments will seal [abortion rights] in or out. That’s what is at stake for this fall’s presidential election.”
Gandy’s speech met with opposition from some audience members. Eric Tung ’06, a member of Yale’s Party of the Right, said he thinks NOW is too radical.
“I believe in emphasizing family and what it means for a woman to be a good wife or partner,” Tung said. “I believe in gender roles and that women are simply better than men at some things. When these radical feminists try to blur gender roles, they undermine institutions like marriage — institutions which hold society together.”
Charlie Carriere ’07 said he agreed with many of Gandy’s points.
“I agree with her that there is still more to be done in the women’s movement,” Carriere said. “I also liked that she brought up age discrimination at work, which worries me because it’s an issue that could concern my family.”
Chelsea Purvis ’06 said she was glad Gandy had come to Yale, and was hopeful Gandy’s visit would raise awareness of current women’s issues.
“There has been a huge backlash against any idea of a women’s movement, which our generation grew up with,” Purvis said. “And thanks to the media and to cultural attitudes, people buy into a very negative stereotype of feminism before they see what it means for themselves.”
Gandy has been with NOW since 1973.