When the Women's Convention kicks off in Detroit later this month, it will be Bernie Sanders - the 76-year-old male senator from Vermont - who will take center stage to deliver the keynote address.
The controversial decision to have a man, rather than a woman, address a crowd of more than 3,000 progressive activists at the event, billed as a continuation of the Women's March on Washington DC that was staged a day after President Donald Trump's inauguration in January, sparked a furious backlash on social media.
Will & Grace star Debra Messing on Thursday emerged as a vocal critic of Sanders' pick, questioning the organizers' reluctance to choose a prominent female leader for the job.
Curious choice: When the Women's Convention kicks off in Detroit later this month, it will be Sen Bernie Sanders who will take center stage to deliver the keynote address
Women's Convention will run from October 27-29 in Detroit, offering workshops, forums and strategy sessions, with a focus on the 2018 midterm elections
'Incredibly disappointed @womensmarch,' she tweeted. 'You couldn’t find any inspiring, powerful, woman to give the opening speech? I can give u a long list.'
In a follow-up message, Messing went a step farther in her withering critique, writing: 'It’s Marching backwards. We don’t need a man to delineate our mission. Men have “spoken” for us for eons.'
According to the Women's Convention's official website, the event that will run from October 27-29 in Detroit 'will bring thousands of women, femmes and our allies...for a weekend of workshops, strategy sessions, inspiring forums and intersectional movement building to continue the preparation going into the 2018 midterm elections.'
Of the 39 speakers chosen for the conference, only two are men, including Sanders. Other participants include actresses Amber Tamblyn and Piper Perabo; Rep Maxine Waters, a Democrat from California; and Ohio politician Nina Turner, among others.
Vocal critic: Will & Grace star Debra Messing on Thursday hit out at the event organizers, questioning their reluctance to choose a prominent female leader for keynote speaker
Holding nothing back: In a follow-up message, Messing went a step farther in her withering critique of the pick
Tamika Mallory, one of the organizers of the upcoming conference, told The Detroit Free Press in an interview Wednesday night that he was the right choice to headline the first day of the convention.
'He is really in line with the principles of the Women's March,' she told the paper.
Sander, who unsuccessfully ran agaisnt Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, said he was 'honored to join the women.'
'Now more than ever, we must support the leadership of women across the country and fight together to advance our progressive agenda,' he told the Free Press.
But not everyone welcomed the decision to give a prominent role to a man at a women's conference with the motto 'Reclaiming Our Time.'
April Reign, an activist who helped launch the #OscarsSoWhite movement in 2015, hit out at the organizers of the convention, saying she was 'stunned' that a man was picked to open the first women's convention in 40 years.
MSNBC political analyst Joan Walsh remarked sarcastically: 'Might just be me, but I'd have loved to see a woman keynote the Women's Convention.'
Peter Daou, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign, was not impressed
Not feeling the Bern: April Reign, an activist who helped launch the #OscarsSoWhite movement in 2015, lashed out at the board of the conference
Sarcastic: MSNBC political analyst Joan Walsh injected a dose of sarcasm into the conversation
Many social media users were left frustrated and enraged boy Sanders' pick
Some Twitter users put together a list of high-profile female politicians and activisst who could have delivered the keynote speech instead of Sanders, among them Harvey Weinstein accuser Rose McGowan; former first lady Michelle Obama; US Supreme Court justices Sonya Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Hillary Clinton and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.
As the firestorm over Senator Sanders continued spreading on social media throughout the afternoon, the Women's Convention put out a statement on its Instagram page, suggesting that the organizers' hand was forced, in part, by scheduling conflicts.
'We all know how busy women leader are, and we are grateful for the support of women like Secretary Clinton along with Senators Harris, Warren and Gillibrand,' the press release read, in part. 'Although their schedules did not allow them to join us in Detroit the weekend of October 27, they will be fighting for our shared values, as they do every day.'
Women's Convention put out a statement on its Instagram page, suggesting that the organizers' hand was forced, in part, by scheduling conflicts