Missing women at progressive conference.

Last week, I wrote about a New York Observer "exposé" on the overwhelming whiteness of mainstream magazines; coming 'round the bend this week are fingers pointing in our own progressive direction at a lack of women and people of color as speakers for an upcoming conference called "Saving Our Democracy," sponsored by the Nation Institute and Mark Green's New Democracy Project.

Via ITT List, I read a great response to the controversy (complete with excellent letters by Nation columnist Katha Pollitt and Bitch Magazine editor Lisa Jervis!) from American Prospect's Garance Franke-Ruta. Out of 25 speakers at the conference, only two are women. Pollitt goes on to point out that the conference doesn't have anything on "reproductive rights, abortion rights, the rollback of feminist gains, 'family values' as an attack on women, or the specific role of gender politics in the rise of the Christian and Republican right." Franke-Ruta sums it up neatly here:

On top of which, controversies like this benefit no one. They make women feel diminished and excluded, and men feel like they're never going to be able to organize a simple public conversation with their professional friends without getting hit over the head with identity politics. And yet the same sad script keeps playing out, over and over again, until everyone feels like throwing up their hands in despair.

I'll go another round about the topics to say that there certainly doesn't seem to be anything groundbreaking or innovating about the schedule; no talk specifically about Internet advocacy and citizen media empowerment/development, for example. But that's another blog post for another day.

Back to the problem of the women-folk. Over and over, abortion rights and women's rights are trotted out when terribly convenient for the left, as we've seen with the Alito business. You can almost hear it from the progressive war room: "Lessee... we don't like this guy, um, can we get the women out here?" Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to have the support for my reproductive freedom. What's infuriating is how quickly that support is dropped the moment it's too sticky or inconvenient, or when it comes to the hard work of building a progressive moment. Remember the discussion about feminists being the reason Democrats can't win? (Appropriate responses were blogged here.)

Bottom line, yet again: pipe down about your "issues," ladies. You're breaking up the "movement" while we run into the ground. We'll call you when we need you.

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