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Bernie Sanders Will Give the Opening Speech at the Women’s Convention & Not Everyone Is Happy About It

Whose time is being reclaimed here?

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The people behind the Women’s March–which saw millions of women protesting Trump’s inauguration–are planning another event scheduled for later this month in Detroit: The Women’s Convention. The convention will be “tapping into the power of women in leadership” with discussions and workshops, encouraging women’s political voice and intersectional feminism. The convention has adopted Rep. Maxine Waters’ now infamous words “reclaiming my time” as their slogan. So of course the honor of the opening speech is going to … Bernie Sanders.

As you might expect, there was a good deal of outrage over that announcement. So much that the Women’s March/Convention team had to clarify that Sanders isn’t the keynote speaker. That honor does go to Maxine Waters.

Still, the opening speech is a big deal, and Sanders’ designation strikes a bad chord with many women. (Not all, of course. Please don’t @ me like I said all.)

It’s not just that Sanders is a man giving the opening speech at a women’s convention. Because male allies are important. But to give a man this prominent spot does feel like a strange choice. Especially this man in particular.

This is a man who used sexist rhetoric against Hillary Clinton in the primaries, calling her “unqualified” and creating immensely insulting talking points around the idea that the only reason she was in the running was her gender.

This is a man who doesn’t believe women’s reproductive rights need to be inherent to the Democratic platform. (Not that he’s a Democrat, but whatever.) A man who endorses anti-choice candidates for office. A man who called Planned Parenthood part of “the establishment.”

I don’t know why none of the many women slated to speak were given the honor of opening the convention.. I can also think of a few that aren’t already on the schedule who would be perfect choices to open an event based around female leadership and Trump-era resistance. Just off the top of my head, maybe …

I know San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, is a bit busy at the moment, but I hope she was at least given the opportunity to turn the convention down before Sanders was chosen.

I can see why the Women’s Convention would be drawn to Sanders. Beyond his fiercely loyal supporter base, he draws a lot of attention. The pushback to his announcement was far louder than the support of Waters’. And I have to count myself as part of the problem there. I, too, missed the announcement of Waters as keynote speaker entirely. Still, headlines and attention, while important for a cause like this, don’t undo the ill will and criticism the convention saw coming from a lot of women today.

(image: Shutterstock)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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