For the first time in 40 years, women will gather in Detroit for the Women’s Convention. And it’s going to be one powerful weekend.
Organized by the team behind Women’s March, the convention will bring together nearly 4,000 women, femmes, and allies for a weekend of presentations, workshops, and movement building toward systemic change.
According to the event site, “Participants will leave inspired and motivated, with new connections, skills and strategies for working towards collective liberation for women of all races, ethnicities, ages, disabilities, sexual identities, gender expressions, immigration statuses, religious faiths, and economic statuses.”
It’s a weekend about empowerment. It’s a weekend about unity and uplifting women and femmes around the globe. It’s a weekend about change.
Which is why it was a shame, at least in my opinion, that the event’s opening speakers included Rose McGowan.
McGowan is one of the dozens of brave women who’ve come forward to accuse movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault.
The actions of these women jump-started an outpouring of support for victims everywhere and prompted a real conversation on the prevailing rape culture in our systems and institutions.
Her speech had buzzwords. It had tweetable quotes. It included a raised fist. It had Katniss Everdeen-like moments of strength and grit.
“I came to be a voice for all of us who’ve been told we are nothing,” McGowan told the crowd.”For all of us who have been looked down on. For all of us who have been grabbed by the motherf***ing p***y.”
She went on to add, “The scarlet letter is theirs, it is not ours. We are pure, we are strong, we are brave and we will fight. “
On the surface, there is nothing wrong with her speech. And yet, I am left wanting and wondering.
I commend McGowan and everyone who had the courage to speak out. The system is created to silence and diminish women, especially survivors of sexual violence. Their bravery can not be understated. But before we can join together, before we can unite in the fight against system sexism, it’s imperative to recognize that as women and femmes, our journeys are not the same.
Women of color, women with disabilities, women in the LGBTQ community, women of faith, and those who intersect all of these identities face the additional burdens of racism, ableism, homophobia, and religious traditions that may prevent them from speaking out, calling out their perpetrator, or naming their shame.
Women and femmes navigating these intersections can’t afford to be silent (and join McGowan’s Oct. 13 Twitter boycott for instance) as they’re voices have been systematically diminished, silenced, and ignored for centuries. The day of McGowan’s shortsighted boycott, many women of color not only stayed online, but spoke even louder, like the incomparable Jamilah Lemieux.
Women like Jemele Hill and Leslie Jones had their names driven through the mud and their character attacked and on Twitter no less. Where was their rallying cry? Where were the powerful white women, their fists high in the air, having their back?
So yes, McGowan’s words were powerful. And anyone who joins her efforts to support and empower women is doing crucial work. But it’s vital to remember everyone who was left behind.
The Women’s Convention is sure to be a stand-out event, with or without McGowan’s brief speech and panel appearance. I hope other presenters like Rosa Clemente, Vilissa Thompson, Monica Lewis-Patrick get similar media coverage for their ongoing work in the struggle.
As for McGowan, who has found herself (by design or by default) the leader of this effort, I hope she makes a concerted effort to signal boost the work of women and femmes of diverse backgrounds. That’s the army of action and compassion we need to make real change.
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