I got right into the She Roars mode by starting off the conference in McCosh 46 with a panel discussion on the experiences of current female undergraduates and grad students. Just to see the diversity in the panel and moderators was immediately inspiring. Things only got better and better and ended with the small audience representing every decade of Princeton women asking questions and sharing their experiences. In this happy uplifted mood, I made my way over to Alexander Hall, Richardson Auditorium, where the record seemed to skip and start playing backward. The hall was so full, I had to sit behind a column from where I could not see the stage. So when the opening remarks immediately went into the introduction of Douglas McGrath '80, I kept waiting for the punch line. Surely this was a joke - the first major speaker at the conference was the epitome of generations of the all white male tradition? And he was here to tell 3,300 women about adapting women's literature about women's life??? His 1950s TV sitcom-style humor and the fact that the first movie clip he showed was the whitest of white women discussing attracting men did not help.
I am truly grateful to all of the work that Jennifer Daniels and the committee did to put the conference together. There were many, many fabulous moments, and Douglas McGrath is beyond need for my approval. However, I think it was a strange and unfortunate choice to have any man open this conference. What I heard over and over again from the women on campus was the need to see other women in positions of leadership and power. Could we have not at least opened our own conference with such a woman? I do not care if she was speaking about the most mundane and technical of issues; it would have been better. The fact that 3,300 women sat in Richardson Auditorium and laughed pleasantly along with no comment and that one older alumna reasoned to me that the organizers chose McGrath because there was no female equivalent of him did not help.