Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Organizers of the infamous 2017 Women’s March are hosting a convention for women in Detroit this weekend where they will bring together leaders of the women’s rights and “progressive” movement and every day women – but the affair is already riddled with criticism and internal conflict.
The Detroit Metro Times is reporting on the event which will be held at Cobo Hall in Detroit with the intent of educating women on how to become empowered leaders in today’s society. Organizers are offering workshops, strategy sessions and forums, such as “Lawyering for Gender Equity in the Age of Trump,” and “Planned Parenthood Action Fund Grassroots Organizing 101: Power, Privilege, and Winning with Soul!”
“Tapping into the power of women in leadership as the fundamental, grassroots force for change, participants will leave inspired and motivated, with new connections, skills and strategies for working towards collective liberation for women of all races, ethnicities, ages, abilities, sexual identities, gender expressions, immigration statuses, religious faiths, and economic statuses,” organizers say on the event website.
As attractive as it might sound, the convention has been riddled with criticism and infighting. For example, as the Metro Times reports, it comes with a high price tag – $295, plus an $8.37 online processing fee, for three-day general admission. This does not include airline or hotel accommodations.
Deborah Podorsek, 30, the single mother of a 12 year-old boy, told the Times she was interested in attending but couldn’t afford it.
“When I saw the price, I immediately disregarded any thought of going because it was that far out of my budget,” she says. “I think it’s also important to mention, that price in a city such as Detroit seems particularly insulting. It seems aimed solely at women who are already established in their careers (based on the price) and is therefore ignoring the opportunity to hear from and share with thousands of women who have important things to contribute, or could greatly use the knowledge gained from this conference to ignite change, but cannot due solely to lack of finances.”
Perhaps because of the pricing or due to the fact that it only appeals to a select group of women, the convention wasn’t generating much buzz so organizers decided to up the ante a bit. They designated the theme for the convention as “Reclaiming Our Time,” the same line used by Trump-hating Congresswoman Maxine Waters who is a featured headliner at the event.
They also decided to invite Senator Bernie Sanders to deliver the opening night speech, which kicked off a firestorm of protest over the idea of having a man headline the event. Critics used words such as “incredibly stupid,” and “disgrace” to describe the decision. Someone even organized a change.org petition to have the Senator removed from the lineup of speakers.
But the internal chaos is only part of the problem with this convention. The bigger concern is the fact that it only represent those women who identify as “progressive” which means the majority of American women won’t find anything they can relate to at this event.
As Helen Alvare of Women Speak for Themselves (WSFT) writes, there are a lot of issues the Women Convention proposes that are the same things WSFT proposes such as networking with other women to organize positive change, learning how to write up your opinion and get it in the news, in your kids’ schools and in front of your political representatives.
“A lot of the issues they see under the umbrella of social justice do need to be addressed, politically or culturally,” Alvare says. “Helping workers get a fair deal, assisting long-discriminated-against minority groups, lifting up the poor. Heck yeah!”
But the convention makes some major mistakes, such as excluding so many millions of women as well as some of the most vulnerable Americans – the unborn.
“Being pro-legal-abortion, the Convention devotes several sessions to promoting ‘abortion rights.’ Talk about inconsistency: insisting on a right to destroy the lives of human beings at one of the most vulnerable moments of human life, is NOT ‘empowering!’ It destroys life. It does NOT empower women to care. It does NOT empower women to demand that friends, family and society embrace them pregnant or not, mother or not,” Alvare writes.
Their second mistake to is to put so much of their “faith” in just one side of the political spectrum.
“Political solutions are sometimes necessary. But the cause of women (and children, and others…) does not belong to one political party. It can and should be advanced by both parties. Both parties are obliged, and both parties can have constructive ideas about how, effectively, to advance the causes of women and all vulnerable Americans. The ‘cause of women’ is bigger than one political party,” she continues.
The Women’s Convention also overlooks some of the most important ways to effectively help women. For example, the Convention fails to even mention the family.
“The family may not sound like a ‘glamorous’ cause on its face. But it’s foundational; it’s essential, and both the left and the right sides of politics and even academia are increasingly in agreement that strong, stable families are key to the well-being of children. Whatever helps people toward healthy marriage, toward marital childbearing, toward weathering the ups and downs of family life, helps women and children and the common good.”
The Convention also only mentions religion insofar as they call upon religions to mobilize to support abortion.
“A women’s movement that truly looked to support women would recognize that religious practice is closely associated with women’s happiness, health, stable marriage and marital parenting. Religion is one of the few social institutions with no vested interests, pouring money and love and time into the lives of individuals and communities for the purpose of restoring lost dignity and hope. Women in the US are quite religious – and will be motivated by it to do justice and to love and serve the other. Leaving out religion in a movement that seeks to empower women to do good is a huge error.”
Last, the Convention fails to take on one of the most powerful forces immiserating women in the US today, and what is fueling demand for abortion: the sex and dating “market” women enter to find a loving, committed relationship.
“Too often today, casual sex is expected as the default ‘price of entry’ for women to find a romantic relationship that will lead to marriage,” Alvare writes. “These ‘markets’ are shaped in large part by the separation of sex from love and from marriage and children, made possible by abortion and by the aggressive promotion of contraception as women’s ‘freedom.’ Talk about overlooking the elephant in the room! How many books about the college ‘hookup scene,’ the Tinder Apocalypse, and Cheap Sex does it take before the so-called “women’s movement” takes notice of the fact that women hate our culture’s sexual expectations?”
Alvare generously shares these talking points with all of us so that we can use them to reach out to the women in our own circle of friends who might be taken in by the appealing rhetoric of the organizers of this new “women’s resistance” movement. We need to remind women that we’re all in this together and if we join hands instead of divide ourselves along political lines, we’re only hurting ourselves and the effort to correct a society that provides liberty and justice to us all.
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