Last week, Bernie Sanders dropped out as the keynote speaker at the Women’s Convention, the inaugural summit presented by The Women’s March taking place in Detroit this weekend. Sanders said it was because he wanted to assess the status of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, but his decision may have also been driven by a small social media uproar among prospective conference attendees at the idea that a man would headline the so-called “Women’s Convention.”
It’s a shame Sanders won’t be participating: He would have been the ideal headliner since this convention and movement isn’t so much about speaking for or about women as it is advancing the far left’s political agenda, while using “women” as a convenient rhetorical device.
This became apparent with the Women’s March, which took place in Washington D.C., to protest President Trump’s inauguration. The march was always political in nature, and anti-Trump at its core, but organizers showed their true purpose when they decided that not all women who want to march were going to be allowed to join. A pro-life group that had planned to participate was barred from the event. Its website proclaimed a commitment to inclusivity — “recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country” — but they weren’t so commitment to being inclusive that they would actual abide true diversity of thought.
Today, the Women’s Convention is building on the march’s momentum, and has dropped any pretense of representing all women. Its website now makes explicit that the unifying principles of the movement include a commitment to “reproductive rights” and “worker’s rights,” which they specify means supporting “access to affordable childcare, sick days, healthcare, paid family leave, and healthy work environments” and the right to “fight for a living minimum wage.” In other words, the movement behind this convention in Detroit is unified in their support of the key planks of the Democratic Party platform.
There is nothing wrong with a rally bringing left-leaning women together to fight for the public policies that they support. Yet the media ought to recognize that this isn’t really a “women’s convention” or a “women’s march,” but a political event that represents the views of a subset of Americans. They certainly don’t speak for or represent all women, or even a majority of women. They certainly don’t represent women like me.
Unfortunately, public discussions of women in politics and policy are often laced with a sexism that seeks to stereotype women as a monolithic group, as if, just because women share a similar biology, we must also share a certain political perspective too. This was the troubling assumption behind too many spokespeople for Hillary Clintonwho seemed to take for granted that women ought to support a female candidate just out of solidarity for the shared sex. It also underpinned Michelle Obama’s recent statement that “Any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice,” and that such women aren’t acting based on their own preferences and beliefs but are being controlled by others and just “like the thing (they’re) told to like.”
That’s an insult to women. Women aren’t a political monolith. It may baffle Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and all the women’s magazines that were horrified by the thought of a Trump presidency, but 4 in 10 female voters supported Trump in 2016. Many women — just like men! — evaluated facts and the arguments they heard and reached the conclusion that they supported the policies Trump promised to advance, over the agenda pushed by Clinton.
And today, many women worry that the regulations and policies promoted by women at the convention would backfire on women in terms of leaving many with fewer job opportunities and by dragging down wages. Many women support restrictions on abortion. Many are concerned that our broken immigration system is harming the prospects of Americans, straining community resources, and leaving us vulnerable to attack.
This is something the media should keep this in mind when covering the so-called “women’s” convention: Women aren’t a special interest with just one agenda. Women are diverse and have varied opinions on matters of politics and public policies. Pretending otherwise and pigeonholing women isn’t progress; it’s old fashioned stereotyping.