How The Women’s Convention Capped Off a Demoralizing Week for Women

O.k. look, I’m gonna be honest with you, I had no clue there was a Women’s Convention happening this month until today, and I probably should have known this.  I’m lame.  The reason I didn’t know is because I don’t follow the @WomensMarch Twitter account.  I’ll get to that in a bit, but first I’ll explain: You see, the organizers of the Women’s March are also organizing a Women’s Convention to be held on the weekend of October 27th in Detroit.  Awesome!  I went balls-out (figuratively) for the Women’s March in January (we marched in California; I guess we weren’t hardcore enough to fly cross-country, but still).  The protest signs my cousin and I painstakingly spent hours making are actually still sitting behind me because I haven’t figured out what the heck to do with them and I don’t want to throw them away.  Point being, it was a gloriously cathartic day that brought a little hope to a very dark time (the start of Trumpistan) and it never would have happened without the organizers of the Women’s March and all the local organizers they coordinated with in each city to bring together this global event.  Because of the meticulous planning that went into it, the thing went off without a hitch.  No chaos, no fights, no cars on fire, nothing.  There are a lot of reasons why that was, but airtight organization was a key factor.

The Women’s Convention later this month looks like it has some great sessions and workshops scheduled, such as:

  • Coalition Building: Support Not Duplication – Overview of National, State & Local Organizations
  • Innovation at the Local Level: Down the Ballot for Candidates and Voters
  • I Dream Detroit: Engaging Women of Color in Crafting Detroit’s Economic Development Plans
  • GOTV: Voter Turnout Strategies – Marching to the Polls
  • Lawyering for Gender Equity in the Age of Trump
  • Fighting for Survivors of Sexual Assault in the Age of Betsy DeVos

etc. etc. etc. Looks like some really good stuff here that I expect to be quite productive and educational.  There are also 42 speakers listed as of the time I’m writing this (10/13), but the schedule is unclear on when each of them are speaking.  Unless maybe I’m missing a detail somewhere, which is entirely possible.  Either way the speaker list has a good number of folks on here who I’d definitely like to hear from: Maxine Waters, Brittany Packnett, Angela Rye, Amber Tamblyn, Stephanie Schriock of Emily’s List, and wow none other than Piper Perabo who starred as one of my favorite TV characters of all time, Annie Walker. That was a total surprise, but go Piper.  The speakers are listed like this:

Just names and faces, but no info on when they will speak or what their prominence is, and neither Bernie Sanders nor Maxine Waters are listed as “keynote speakers” or “opening night speakers” or anything like that.  It’s just a list, in alphabetical order.  Bernie was just added yesterday (10/12), and had that been the extent of it, no one would have even batted an eye.  The Women’s March folks put out a press release, which … had the press release said, “Bernie Sanders added to the list of speakers at the Women’s Convention,” again, the most they would have gotten from anyone would’ve been a groan and an eye roll.  Granted, some of the especially anti-Bernie people would have complained, but it would not have been a large group.  It would have barely been a blip on the radar, because while not everyone is a fan of Bernie these days, only the super crazies would argue that he shouldn’t even be allowed to speak at all.

However.  The aforementioned scenario is not what happened.  Instead, the WM’s press release/announcement looked like this:

 

The tweet says he’s simply “joining us”, but the headline of the article says he will deliver the opening night speech.  That implies he’s kicking off the whole thing.  He’s the keynote speaker.  He’s the main event.  I got pretty irked when I saw it, but wondered if I was missing something.  This couldn’t possibly be right.  So I read the article.  And then I read the part of the article with the quote that Women’s March co-founder Tamika Mallory provided to the press:

“I think that no one can deny that Bernie Sanders is probably one of the most powerful U.S. senators … on women’s issues.”

WWWHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT

Are you … I could not even comprehend what I was reading.  Try paying attention to Bernie Sanders at all and then call him a leading champion for women’s issues with a straight face.  You can’t.  During the 2016 campaign, he wagged his finger and waved his hands all over women’s faces, he characterized Planned Parenthood as establishment shills, he hired people to open his rallies who called Hillary and candidates like her “Corporate Democratic Whores”, he whipped up a frenzy of aggressive bros who called women cunts all over the internet and could barely be bothered to even acknowledge it was a problem, he dismissed Trump’s threats to punish women who have abortions as “a distraction”, and the list goes on.  In 2017, he even campaigned for an anti-choice mayoral candidate.  If you’ve paid any attention to Bernie Sanders at all, he has made one thing crystal clear time and time again: He cares about economic equality and class issues.  When his goals in those areas happen to align with feminist goals, super.  Otherwise, go the fuck away because he is not interested.

So, to people who care about women’s issues and have actually been paying attention to what Bernie says and does, this felt like a slap in the face followed by a hard punch in the gut.  It also, though, felt like an oddly fitting cap to a full week of nonstop news about powerful old men (and Ben Assholefleck) asserting their dominance over women.  This past week, starting last Friday, has been an avalanche of harassment stories, intimidation stories, sexual assault/rape stories, and constant reminders of the absolute power men have held over us since the beginning of time.  There’s actually been a very hopeful element to it to in that it feels like we’re making a bit of progress in chipping away at their entitlement and ability to get away with this shit, but it didn’t stop each new awful story of being yet another reminder that we have a loonng, difficult way to go on this.

And it’s not just Harvey and the Hollywood men either: the ever-present reminder at every turn of this thing has been that we chose a sexual predator as our POTUS.  The man leading our country and trying to take away our healthcare and birth control and dignity also thinks he has every right in the universe to grab our pussies and mouth-rape us whenever he wants – or, alternatively, to call us fat pigs if he deems our pussies not grab-worthy.  And nearly 63 million people in this country agree with him.  Including millions of of our own people: women.

So why the fuck not top off the week with the very organization who’s supposed to represent us … who is supposed to BE us … handing their Keynote Speaker slot to the old white man who has been imposed upon us as our true and rightful Lord and Savior past 2 years straight?  Might as well go for fucking broke, right?

Cool!  Thanks, Women’s Convention, for putting us right back here again!  After dealing with this nonstop for a year and a half, we got a tiny break from it, but we were really starting to miss it.  Thank you to Matt, a.k.a. @Bernieswingman, as well for his insightful input.  I will go ahead and just have it tattooed on my forehead at this point, because it will haunt us for the rest of our lives anyway.

:Deep breath:  And let’s not forget, guys, that White Male Dominance/Rape Week led straight out of White Male Terrorism Week, when that one old white fella got bored and decided it would be fun to purchase an arsenal of makeshift automatic weapons and mow down hundreds of people, just because he could.  Hell, White Male Terrorism Week was still going strong when White Male Dominance/Rape Week started.  It’s been a traumatizing 2 years, but each week seems to want to outdo the last, and the last 2 weeks have been a downright horror show.  And sometimes you don’t realize how heavily it’s weighing on your psyche until some little tiny final straw, oftentimes a minor one, breaks the camel’s back.

And that’s the thing: We don’t react to things in October 2017 the same way we reacted to them at whatever earlier date you want to pick, because shit happens and our perspective changes.  e.g. We can only get poked in the eye and grabbed by the pussy and punched in the face by the patriarchy for so long before we haul off and punch back.  The whiplash that happened from the Women’s March’s apparent “And Bernie shall lead us to glory!” announcement was exactly that.  It was an “Et tu, Brute!?” moment.  The reactions looked like this:

Barbara, you are a damn genius.  This is probably the best comment I saw of the entire debacle.

Prominent feminist Roxane Gay did NOT mince words:

Yeeeikes.  Anywho.  This went on and on.  And it wasn’t just Twitter.  Twitter is very SJW-heavy, but the much more broad audience of FB was NOT having it either.  Tons of angry comments were flooding in there too.  Things were getting ugly.  So what would be the next move of the Women’s March folks?  How would they do damage control?  Well, as one would expect, they started with a clarification:

Ohhh kayy … this statement gives us a bit more background on how they got to this decision, but it doesn’t explain why they felt that the very next choice in line after these 4 feminist leaders was Bernie Sanders.  51% of the entire world population is female.  What kills me is that they could have literally blindfolded themselves and picked any lady at random – it could have been an 11 year old girl for all I care – to keynote this thing and it wouldn’t have caused even a tiny fraction of this controversy.  What about an up-and-comer for Christ’s sake??  Give a new lady a chance!  Anyone?  I should also point out that those of us objecting to this sitch already knew Maxine Waters was speaking.  The convention is even using her quote as their tagline: “Reclaiming our time”.  That’s why it felt even more baffling that they would then put Bernie as the headliner instead of Maxine.  Because from the comms that had been put out so far, that was the implication.  So that was a specific question that many objectors were asking.  But then, Tamika Mallory, WM co-founder with the original Bernie quote above, came in with yet another clarification, of sorts:

Oh.  Dang.  Maybe we really do just need to pay more attention and it’s our bad for missing this very clear announcement of Maxine as the headliner back in September??

Maybe this really does clear things up after all then.  Let’s read the article.

“EXCLUSIVE: Women’s March Organizers Aim To ‘Reclaim Their Time’ At Detroit Convention” … “Now, leaders behind the historic Women’s March have designated ‘Reclaiming Our Time’ as the official theme of its forthcoming Women’s Convention next month in Detroit.” … “The theme stems from Rep. Maxine Waters’ now famous ‘reclaiming my time’ statement” … [Waters said] “I am thrilled to continue my support of this intersectional movement as we gear up for the Women’s Convention” … “We are honored to have the voice of Congresswoman Waters play such a pivotal role in our convention.”

What’s actually even weirder about this now that I’m reading it again is that the word “speak” is never used once.  The fact that Maxine says “As we gear up for…” kind of implies that she will probably speak, but it doesn’t actually say that.  And furthermore, it certainly never mentions her as keynote speaker.  The kicker is, at the end it even says:

“Special guests and headliners will be announced at a later date.”

Headliners will be announced at a LATER date.  Reading this article gives zero clarity on Maxine’s role beyond the convention’s theme and her participating in some way.  So Tamika’s claim that all the dissenters were silly fools for not being informed that Maxine was the headliner was false.  If this Essence article was all that existed to announce this, then it was a communication fail.  And I’m not blaming it on Essence either, I’m blaming it on the WM leaders.  Proofread the article once it’s published and ensure it hits all your key points clearly!

I’m too lazy to look to see what other publications covered this, so I will gladly accept the premise that the mainstream media didn’t cover it, because it’s an easy thing to believe.  They probably didn’t.  But the fact still remains that the one publication who definitely did cover it never specified Maxine as a headliner or a speaker.  The WM folks did add her as a speaker on their page at some point prior to Thursday 10/12, so that we knew, but the headliner position doesn’t look like it was ever put out into the world at all.

O.k. no dude.  Fucking, NO.  We did not.  You did.  You announced him as a headliner.  IN YOUR TWEET from the Women’s March Twitter account.

Symone Sanders, who I like and follow on Twitter, is also participating in the conference and came in on the controversy late.  She was of course defensive of her friends organizing it and also was clearly not up to speed on the details of what had happened:

Hmmmm.  How did this insane false narrative get started … so weird …

Bwahaha.  “Sanders, A Man …” The snark dripping off that one is palpable.  That’s in the Washington Free Beacon, btw; the webpage is laid out weirdly so I couldn’t get the publication name in the screenshot.  But anyway, headline after headline after headline said the same thing.  Nearly all of them said this.  And again, I repeat, the USA Today one was tweeted by the Women’s March account as the official announcement.  Bernie was very clearly centered as the opening night dude.

NO control??  Really?  None at all?  Nothing you wrote in your press release suggested that Bernie would be a headliner which coincidentally resulted in ALL publications listing him the opener?  And then someone hacked your official Twitter account to link to one of those very same articles in your official announcement?  And never once did you consider the possibility that giving an old white man such a prominent role – and this old white man in particular – might warrant some verrryyy careful wordsmithing/PR on this?  Not once?  K.  Cool.  None of this was your fault.  It was all the evil Fake News press and hysterical “neoliberal feminists” out there flipping out for no reason whatsoever.  Your ridiculously confusing comms have nothing to do with any of it.  I’m sure that’s right.  There’s no need whatsoever to take any sort of look in the mirror on this one.  No post mortem.  No consideration of maybe hiring a more experienced comms or PR director, nothin’.  Gotcha.

Haha and the thing that cracks me up is that there’s a reason so many news outlets picked up on this: The fact that the Women’s Convention announced a man as their headliner is hilarious.  You think that wasn’t their key motivator for plastering this all over for clicks??  Look at the third sample headline I posted!!  Conservative news outlets thought it was even more hysterical.  I saw them pointing and laughing on Twitter.  You didn’t anticipate that, WM organizers?  At all?  Not even a little?  K.  That’s on you.  No one else.  You.

In the 2 days following the debacle, the strategy from the WM folks wasn’t to apologize for the confusion or for their decision-making skills or anything like that … they instead stuck mostly with the gaslighting approach.  They updated the original USA Today story with clarifications and they put out a Mashable article doing the same, but they all kinda implied that people were overreacting.  Like we were going hysterical without having all the facts (which they were going back and trying to rewrite as quickly as they possibly could).  The kicker in it all was that they even had the gall to accuse us of being the ones who were centering Bernie over the female speakers, as I showed above in Tamika’s tweet.  And their Bernie Bro army then immediately came out in full force to repeat the lie.

Side note: Nomiki Konst is also speaking at the convention.  She spends most of her time railing about how Dems are not working to unify The Left, while at the same time going on Fox News to talk shit with our biggest fucking enemies in the universe to talk shit about Hillary’s book.  UPDATE: Oh look, now she’s back on Fox News again talking shit about Dianne Feinstein this time!!  She is the absolute queen of gaslighting and hypocrisy.  And she is one of the speakers at the convention.  Cool.  That’s.  Cool.

You see, we’re just mad because we’re neolibs.  Only neolibs would complain about a dude taking over the Women’s Convention.  Nina Turner is also a speaker at the convention.  She RTed both of these tweets by Katie Halper, a darling of rose twitter who seems to advocate for espousing some of the dumbass behavior of the Alt Right in order to make them like us (The Left) and join us or something.  She’s at least somewhat adjacent to the dirtbag left.  She’s a friend of the Chapo Trap House bros, who I’m pretty sure mostly think feminism is stupid and unimportant.  My point with this is that these people all run in the same circles.  They are all buds, and somehow several of them have speaking gigs at the Women’s Convention.  Maybe they’ll hire one of the Chapo guys next!

Rosa Clemente is another speaker listed on the convention’s website.

Kaayy.  Cooool.  Cool coolcoolcool.  Let’s all come together and lift each other up, ladies!  Kumbaya.

This post is already too long so I need to finish it, but I need to first round it out by touching on a favorite term/talking point of Bernie stans since the primaries: The idea of certain members of their coalition being “erased”.  You saw it in both Nomiki and Katie’s tweets above.  The idea is that if you point out the majority maleness and whiteness of the Bernie coalition, you “erase” the members of the coalition who are not white dudes.  And depending on the situation and whatever’s being lobbed their way, it’s not necessarily an invalid point.  One should acknowledge their existence.  Unfortunately, though, they use this argument for literally every situation at every turn.  Not just the valid ones.  In this case they demonstrate that you can’t even voice concern about a rich old white man headlining the Women’s Conference without “erasing” everyone involved in the conference (who are mostly women/WOC) … who … I guess … for some reason … chose Old Dude as their Dear Leader (according the headlines).

So when Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List and another speaker at the convention, dared question the decision to seemingly center a white dude at the Women’s Convention, she was met with some amazing feats of acrobatics from Bernie’s special ladies.  Winnie Wong, professional Bernie stan and also a speaker at the Women’s Convention, was RTed by Niki and Nina and all her other friends and fellow convention-speakers:

So, let me get this straight: Any woman who dares question the efficacy of using an old rich white man to headline the Women’s Convention is actually a … racist?  And a misogynist?  Being sick of Bernie Sanders makes you a racist and a misogynist!  That is, wowzers.  Gaslighting Level 5,000.  Impressive.

Which brings me to an observation of the Bernie stan phenomenon that has blown my mind since the start: Bernie’s lady stans constantly walk around holding a crusty old white man in front of them as some sort of personal beacon/mouthpiece.  And when you tell them you’re not interested in listening to said old geezer yourself, they accuse you of dismissing them, i.e. women/WOC.  No.  Dude.  I thought I made it extremely clear the first time: I DON’T TRUST THE OLD MAN YOU HAVE FIGURATIVELY STRAPPED TO THE FRONT OF YOUR BODY 24/7.  HE’S THERE ALL THE TIME.  PLEASE MOVE HIM OUT OF MY WAY.  UNPLUG HIM FOR A SECOND. I’D LIKE TO TALK TO YOU, BUT I’M NOT INTERESTED IN HIM.  HE KEEPS WAGGING HIS FINGER IN MY FACE.  HE’S AGGRESSIVE.  NO THANK YOU.

And by saying that, I’m “erasing” them.  Am I the one erasing y’alls in this situation though?  Are you sure it’s me?  Or are you the one erasing yourself and then drawing in Bernie Sanders in your place?  I’d love to talk to you.  It’s only once you strap Bernie to your chest that I start to walk away.

So, that’s where we are with the Women’s Convention now.  They sure AF got people to pay attention to it, but not in the right way.  My armchair advice to them from the beginning would have been to avoid having either Bernie or Hillary there.  As a woman Hill would have certainly been more appropriate, but the 2016 divide is still too fresh.  The best way to start to move past it is to move past those two specific people.  And there are plenty, plenty of other ladies out there with important things to say.  Let’s let them go for it.

And in the end it was easy to put together the puzzle pieces of what happened from observing this whole sitch: The organizers felt like they needed to get a few more big names to justify the not-cheap price of the tickets, and they were stressed out because the A-list feminist faves declined to do scheduling conflicts: HRC, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Liz Warren.  Ol’ Bernie was ready to show his ass right up when they called, and they were relieved AF to get another big name for their headlining/keynote speakers.  They wiped the sweat off their brow, posted the press release, and breathed a sigh of relief.  When their announcement was then met with backlash, it felt like people being overly critical when they’d put their blood sweat and tears into this thing.  And I get it.  We’ve all been there in trying to plan events, work projects, weddings, etc.  No one is trying to devalue all that planning they did or the content they put together for the convention, though it may feel like it when everyone is coming at you with proverbial guns blazing.  I get why the gut reaction is to lash back.  That’s why you make sure you hire great Comms & PR folks, so you don’t find yourself in this situation to begin with.  And if by some chance you do have a PR problem, you have someone to handle that professionally.

And interestingly, as I’m about to finally post this late on Saturday night, I see that the WM Twitter account finally tweeted out an apology today (which is now 10/14):

This, to me, translates to, “We downgraded Bernie’s role after everyone flipped out.”  But o.k.  Fine.  I’ll take what I can get.

I’m glad they finally acknowledged this.  Did it come after 2 full days of accusations that we were insane and dismissive of women/WOC?  Yes.  But again.  Better late than never.

This is an interesting statement, as I think the WM does have at least some Bernie/Our Revolution people at the top of their ranks … I am not familiar with most of them but co-chair Linda Sarsour is most definitely a top Bernie-backer.  And many of Bernie’s lady stans are scheduled to speak at this convention, which certainly is no coincidence.  I mentioned at the top of this post that I never followed the WM Twitter account, and there’s a reason why.  I sensed some bizarre decision-making right before the Women’s March in January that actually foreshadowed exactly what happened this week with the convention.  Linda Sarsour was also kinda the main face of the movement at the time, and … I dunno, she has some strange views on women.  Weirds me out.  I was glad for the great work they did pulling the march together, but I wasn’t sure I could trust them yet to advocate for the movement the way I needed them to.  So I followed the @wmbayarea account instead.  I preferred to follow local leaders in this case who were more focused on the task at hand.  That remains the case, though there are not currently any local events planned per my knowledge.

OH, and one last thing I just remembered, my final rant: My first reaction after reading the WM apology tweet thread: You know who has not given one single fuck about any of this and will continue to not give a fuck?  Bernie fucking Sanders, that’s who.  I can guarantee you this dude could not care less what kind of discord his speaking gig has sewn amongst the women/feminists of America.  I am telling you, if this gig had been offered to Obama, for instance, he would have either politely declined or been extremely cognizant of the optics and reaction.  Any guy who actually gave a true honest shit about the women’s/feminist movement would have.  And if they accepted and then saw this shitstorm, they would do everyone a favor and pull the hell out.  Do you think Bernie even bothered to know it was a controversy to begin with?  I’m picturing one of his scheduling people mentioning it to him and him brushing it off with something like, “They’ll figure it out.”  Homeboy cares about pushing his pet issues and drumming up support for 2020.  That’s why he’s doing this.  Not because he gives a shit about the feminist movement.

O.k. that’s all.  All I can say is, I’m glad the WM leadership has finally taken at least a partial look in the mirror on this one.  But they need to learn from it.  They’ve kinda sorta become the face of the women’s movement over the past year and that is a gigantic responsibility.  If they can’t figure out how to represent us in a broad and inclusive way and how to avoid these ridiculous unforced errors, they will continue to stumble and the whole thing will die quickly.

But I dunno.  Even with all this ridiculous shit, and even after this horrible week after a horrible previous week after a horrible 2 years … I still have hope.  For some reason.

I don’t currently trust the team running the WM stuff, but even if that completely implodes, there are a bazillion more brilliant ladies who are already out there carrying the torch.  While this week was pretty damn traumatizing, it also proved that we’re changing the world and chipping some decent chunks out of the goddamn patriarchy.  And we didn’t need the WM organizers for that.  Many women have stepped up and made their voices heard this week and are already acting as driving forces of cultural change.  We’ll let the Women’s March people do what they want, we have a bazillion other pots in the fire in the meantime.  We’re getting it done on our own.  Even with the Pussy Grabber in Chief as president.  Uggh.  We’ll get there.  We’ve got a long excruciating road ahead, but we’ll get there.  Someday.

——————

Epilogue, 10/19/2017:

Lol.  Guess  ol’ Bernard wasn’t thrilled with his demotion after the outcry.  His late-breaking epiphany 4+ weeks into Puerto Rico’s crisis is a pretty transparent and “heroic” way to extricate himself from Women’s Convention debacle after his role was clearly downgraded.  Remember when I said earlier that any man who gave a shit about women/feminism would decline the offer of a headliner position at a Women’s Convention?  And maybe if he gave half a shit and was dumb enough to accept the offer, that he’d at least have the decency to bow out after the backlash?  Well, Bernie couldn’t even do that right.  His cancellation notice mentioned nothing whatsoever of the discord he helped sew and the rift through The Left that he just made even deeper.  The Women’s March organizers had the decency to acknowledge the way they added to the pain already being felt by self-respecting women across this country.  Did Bernie?  Bwhaha fuck no.  He doesn’t care.  He doesn’t even understand why this would even be a problem at all.  Because he’s clueless about women and has no idea whatsoever what our perspective is or what it might be like to spend 3 minutes in our shoes.  He’s never considered it.  He’s 76 years old – He’s not ever going to consider it.

Lol, lord.  And thus concludes the Bernie Takes Over the Women’s Convention Saga of 2017.  I think.  Thanks to him, the two factions of The Left are now at each other’s throats again in a way I haven’t seen since this time last year.  Thanks Bernie.  We’ll see where this takes us.

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