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The outrage about the Women’s Convention misses a key point

by Jason
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It’s October 2017 and some fights just won’t die. 

Take a look at the most recent intra-resistance clash. In September, organizers of the Women’s March announced that they’d decided to designate the theme of their upcoming convention as the famous Maxine Waters’ quote “Reclaiming Our Time.” The all-powerful Congresswoman would be featured as headliner. 

The convention only generated modest amounts of buzz until recently, when organizers revealed that they had invited Senator Bernie Sanders to deliver an opening night speech on October 27th.

Cue the hot takes.

Critics tore into the convention’s organizers, calling his invitation “incredibly stupid,” a “disappointment” or simply a “disgrace.” Someone organized a position to have Senator Sanders removed from the Convention and others even threatened a boycott. The president of EMILY’s List, which supports women running for elected office, had this to say:

“We have more women leaders in elected office than ever before,” Stephanie Schriock said. “Women ARE leading in the Senate. This is a moment to highlight them.”

Most of their concerns were centered on the same theme: that a man, and particularly Bernie Sanders the man, shouldn’t be prominently featured at a convention organized around the empowerment of women.

But part of this agitation seemed to be grounded in a bit of misinformation. As organizer Tamika Mallory emphasized yesterday on Twitter, Bernie Sanders is not headlining the convention. Typically, that role is given to the most prestigious speaker at an event — and here, that title belongs to the one and only Maxine Waters. The senator is introducing her and speaking on opening night. 

It’s easy to understand why some folks may have been misled:

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There is other data that seems to have been lost in the mix: Of the over 60 speakers asked to be at the convention, just two are men. The rest are women, and predominantly women of color, from different points along the liberal-to-lefty political spectrum. Maxine Waters, a woman of color and a #Resistance hero, is the star act.

The organizers reportedly invited Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to attend the convention — all of whom were unable to attend.

Beginning with the Women’s March, organizers behind the movement have always tried to build a coalition between diverse groups of feminists, including, occasionally, men. The Women’s March in Washington included everyone from Madonna to Van Jones to Angela Davis to the Indigo Girls to Janet Mock. Clashes are to be expected. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already participated in a heated group chat about the movement and its followers.

Bringing in big names like Bernie might draw controversy — but, the organizers contend, it also invites more people into the movement who might not otherwise be paying attention.

Ask yourself: How much did you know about the Women’s Convention before the Sanders controversy erupted?

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to feel uneasy about having Sanders speak and doing so on opening night. The Senator is an imperfect and sometimes inconsistent ally. It’s hard to forget when he called Planned Parenthood “establishment” or campaigned with an anti-choice mayoral candidate. Women make up just 19.6% of Congress. It’s understandable — if maybe flawed organizing — that some folks might want a convention that not only centers women, but features them exclusively. 

But no matter what, it’s important to take a break and breathe in the larger picture for a minute. Waters will headline. This convention will go on. The hot takes will soon cool down and the dumb Facebook war you’re in the middle of will one day end. 

Just please, if you can — stop feeding it.

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