When the organizers of the Women’s March, who are also organizing The Women’s Convention, announced Bernie Sanders as the opening night speaker of the convention, many supporters were none too pleased.
Considering that The Women’s Convention organizers and speakers are primarily women of color, it seems like a baffling decision to have a white man, especially one whose supporters are notoriously sexist, open the conference.
While it has been wrongly reported that Sanders is the headliner––he’s not; that honor belongs to Rep. Maxine Waters––many are still critical of his presence at the convention, particularly as the opener, and they’ve taken to social media to voice their concerns.
One of the conference organizers, Tamika D. Mallory, pointed out that to disregard The Women’s Convention simply because Sanders is one of two men presenting and is the opener is to diminish the work of women of color who have organized the conference and will make up the majority of speakers.
While a number of would-be conference attendees are now asking for their money back, there’s a better way.
It’s possible to voice displeasure at Sanders opening The Women’s Convention while also supporting the important, necessary work of the women of color who are speaking and organizing the event.
The answer? Stage a walkout.
This is something Bernie knows all about. Remember when Hillary Clinton was accepting the Democratic party’s nomination for president at the Democratic National Convention––a historic moment regardless of one’s political inclinations, as it was the first time a woman had been nominated for president by a major political party in the U.S.––and Sanders’ supporters walked out?
If Sanders’ supporters don’t support women, it’s understandable why those attending The Women’s Convention wouldn’t want to support him.
Staging a walkout during Sanders’ speech would send a powerful message that women don’t forget the injustices against them and that visible allies, especially those who are white male politicians, must be held accountable for their actions.
Should the exit doors be barred to prevent people from staging a walkout, perhaps a well-timed chorus of “well, actually”––the rallying cry of mansplainers, trolls, and faux allies alike––would be appropriate.
However, the most important thing to remember is that after people have walked out, they need to come back when a woman of color has taken the stage.
Mallory has accused those critical of Sanders’ opening the conference as bashing Black women leaders. Considering that so few conferences acknowledge the voices of Black women leaders, much less schedule women of color as the majority of the speakers, listening to these women when they’re giving the mic is vital for allies.
Returning from the walkout to show up and support the speakers who are women of color would send an equally powerful message that attendees are willing to listen and do the work of uplifting these women’s voices, but that they also want to hold the event organizers accountable because accountability is a non-negotiable factor of leadership and activism.
The Women’s Convention will be taking place in Detroit, Michigan, from October 27th to October 29th. You can find more info, including the link to register, on this page.