When Anne and I went to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. on January 21st this year, our lives were changed. Not since the Equal Rights marches in the 70s had I seen women rising up and claiming their political voice with such intensity and determination. They gathered there and around the country with their allies to say, “Women will be heard and women will unite in a show of political power and will to reclaim our country.”
We were both excited to learn that the organizers of the Women’s March are holding a national convention just an hour from our house in Detroit. The convention is titled “Reclaiming our Time” and the website is WomensConvention.com. The ticket price is a steep $295 but we’re going because this transformative movement is something we want to be part of and to elevate. Women united together CAN transform America.
This is precisely why I was gobsmacked to learn this morning that the person they chose as their opening headline speaker, kicking off the convention on the evening of Friday, October 27th, is a white man, Senator Bernie Sanders.
I mean no disrespect to Sen. Sanders. I think his participation is terrific and can help bring even more attention and energy to the convention. But the opening keynote speach? By a man? A man who lost his presidential primary to a woman by 3,708,294 votes, no less? THIS is women “reclaiming their time”? Were they honestly unable to find a powerful woman for this most-important opening speech? How does that fit with the stated goals of this convention?:
Tapping into the power of women in leadership as the fundamental, grassroots force for change, the Women’s Convention will bring together first time activists and movement leaders, rising political stars that reflect our nation’s changing demographics, and thousands of women who’ve organized sister marches, huddles, rallies and resistance actions, large and small, since January 2017.
Organizers claim Sen. Sanders was chosen because he “knows how to mobilize a new generation of activists.” Surely he isn’t the only one doing this and surely there are women who ARE. For example, how about one of the other speakers at the convention, Leah Greenberg? Leah co-founded the Indivisible Team who put out the Indivisible Guide that has created an entire movement around the USA of citizens, most of whom are women, who are resisting Donald Trump and the regressive Republican agenda. The Indivisible Team created the most revolutionary citizen’s movement since corporate American created the Tea Party and it’s leaders are millenials, many of whom are fierce women warriors like Leah. You can listen to an interview we did with Leah on The Sit and Spin Room podcast HERE. She’s inspirational.
Again, there’s no reason not to have male allies like Sen. Sanders on the stage during the convention. But for the opening speech to be by anyone but a woman is, frankly, astonishing, particularly given the theme of the convention, “Reclaiming Our Time”.
I’ll be at the convention and I’m looking forward to all of the speeches and the energy we’ll all come away from it with. I just hope that the rest of the program is better thought out than this choice which seems to me to be tone deaf and misguided.
And one more thing: The phrase “Reclaiming my time” is from an African American woman in Congress, the incredible Maxine Waters. Waters is a speaker at the convention. But she is NOT the opening speaker. The privilege was awarded to a white man.
UPDATE: In an apparent response to the vociferous outcry from women all across the country, the organizers of the convention released this statement on Twitter:
We invited many elected officials to our convention that align with the purpose and mission of our existence – to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. We are thrilled that Rep. Maxine Waters and Senator Sanders will be speaking at the Women’s Convention. We all know how busy women leaders are, and are grateful for the support of women like Secretary Clinton along with Senators Harris, Warren and Gillibrand. Althought their schedules did not allow them to join us in Detroit the weekend of October 27, they will be fighting for our shared values, organizing and advocacy, as well as grassroots leaders running for and serving in office across the country. We are excited to come together, to unite across our differences and to fight for the future we all believe in.
That’s all well and fine but the fact remains that the Women’s Convention is headlined by a man and he’s a man that many women frankly find divisive to a fault. Don’t believe me? Check out the responses to their tweet and the comments on their Facebook page. Oof.
This post has been edited to remove reference to an article by The Onion from 2007 that was unfair snark on my part.
NOTE: This post has been updated HERE.