Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Yesterday the White House Summit, the United State of Women, was held in Washington, DC. The event was outstanding for many reasons. Bringing together five thousand (mostly female) advocates for women in one space was amazing. The line up of speakers was equally amazing. The list is too long to recreate here but here are some of the names of presenters you might recognize: Valerie Jarett, President Obama, Vice President Biden, Billie Jean King, Amy Poehler, Patricia Arquette, Sarah Jones, Warren Buffet and so many others whose names you may or may not recognize. To me, the highlight was listening to Oprah Winfrey interview the First Lady. As one colleague remarked, the experience felt like eavesdropping.
Many presenters began by highlighting the horrific events in Orlando with unexpected guest Attorney General Loretta Lynch addressing the events expansively in her talk. Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO of TransLatin@Coalition, made the Orlando slaughter both real and personal.
As participants moved to and from breakout sessions, they were accompanied by female musicians who played in drumming and mariachi bands, both of which historically have been closed to women. The drumming did provide a humorous moment. To the laughter and eye rolls of the women, a line of five men, presumably convention center employees, unabashedly walked between the drummers and those women watching the performers, unwittingly becoming a reminder of why we were gathered.
Significantly, participants commented on their freedom to unapologetically focus on women. Straight, lesbian, trans, queer, women of color, younger and older - all were freed. Any need to appease male supremacists with gender neutral language was unnecessary and would have been inappropriate, as it often is. In other words, minimization and denial of the special problems endured by women was absent from the room.
To the White House planners, thank you.
Editors' note: The event was recorded and may be watched on line at the Summit website.