While there’s room at a women’s convention for people of every gender, that room isn’t at the top.
Senator Bernie Sanders will be headlining the Women’s Convention in Detroit later this month, convention organizers announced this morning. And no, I’m not kidding.
The convention, which is the first Women’s Convention to be held in more than 40 years, isn’t strictly targeted to women, one of its co-founders told USA Today in an exclusive interview.
“We believe as women … that we ought to have more than just women at the Women’s Convention,” Tamika Mallory, co-founder of the Women’s March, told USA Today. “People want to hear from the leadership from within our government who can give us some insight about what’s happening … so we can know what we need to do to be able organize.”
I can’t say I’m surprised that the organizers of the Women’s March think a man is best suited to lead the charge. Their marches, while well-intentioned, centered white, able-bodied women and pushed women of color and women with disabilities to the sidelines.
Likewise, Sanders has proven that he’s far more interested in representing his male constituents’ interests than women’s.He may call himself a progressive, but he campaigned for an anti-choice candidate in April. When he was called on his hypocrisy, he doubled-down.
“If we are going to protect a woman’s right to choose, at the end of the day we’re going to need Democratic control over the House and the Senate, and state governments all over this nation,” Sanders told reporters. “And we have got to appreciate where people come from, and do our best to fight for the pro-choice agenda. But I think you just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue.”
It’s easy for Sanders to dismiss women’s reproductive rights as a bargaining chip: He’s not a woman. Despite his personal commitment to reproductive freedom, he isn’t the one who will be hurt by the relentless attacks on women’s access to birth control and safe, affordable abortions. Personal beliefs are meaningless if he isn’t willing to stand strong on behalf of the women he represents.
A woman’s right to reproductive freedom is inalienable. That Sanders, who calls himself an advocate for women, is willing to throw women under the bus for political gain isn’t new. Women have been expendable to political candidates before and they’ll be again. But politicians like Sanders who claim to be allies are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Were Sanders as committed to advancing women’s rights as he claims to be, he would recognize that women need to hear from other women now more than ever. Our rights are under assault from every direction in Donald Trump’s America, and the last thing we need is another old white man taking up space. We’ve heard from Sanders before: It’s time for him to step aside and make room for the next generation of women progressives.
Women don’t need a man to tell them how to mobilize. We need a female leader for the next generation to get behind. While there’s room at a women’s convention for people of every gender, that room isn’t at the top. It’s listening to the lived experiences of women — not talking over them.