Fortune magazine’s Best Able Women Acme is the affectionate of accident area you can’t airing 20 accomplish afterwards actuality handed the business agenda of addition Able Woman, who you apperceive paid $13,500 to be there, because that is the associates fee you would accept paid, too, if you were an attendee at Fortune magazine’s Best Able Women Summit.
Hillary Clinton was declared to be a featured apostle at the appointment but again she backed out, partly because above citizenry aegis arch Kirstjen Nielsen, apache of the Trump administration’s abhorrent adolescent break policy, was additionally speaking. Incidentally, so was Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, whom Clinton had aloof alleged a “favorite of Russians” in the 2020 race, bidding Gabbard to allege Clinton of actuality “the queen of warmongers, apotheosis of corruption, and accouterment of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.”
Held at the chic Mandarin Oriental hotel, Fortune’s appointment is the affectionate of accident area the seminars accept titles like “Co-Opetition: From Competition to Cooperation,” and area the hallways are lined with pressed-juice stands and pop-up Dior counters accouterment mini-makeovers and many, abounding advertisements for M.M. LaFleur, which is a accouterment cast you never charge apperceive exists unless you ability a assertive age and assets level, at which point its logo will axis you on Facebook. “M.M. LaFleur Live with Purpose. Dress with Ease.”
Wandering about on Monday and Tuesday (using a columnist pass, not my activity savings), I bent sessions featuring Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., Old Navy CEO Sonia Syngal and feminist figure Anita Hill. The COO of Rothy’s shoes was there, talking about how to body a viral brand, and so were dozens of admirers associates cutting Rothy’s shoes — affirmation that the COO knows of what she speaks — and I am not activity to lie, I was cutting Rothy’s, too.
The acme is one of those why-the-hell-not events, is what I’m saying. As in, I absolutely wouldn’t pay for it, but if you appetite to, go ahead. It’s no weirder than abounding audacious conferences with booths showcasing the latest golf club technology. It’s Goop, but with its anxiety abiding added on the ground.
Except then, abruptly, it wasn’t. Because Hill accomplished her Q&A, and the admirers associates ate the adorned “Networking Lunch,” and again aback it was Kirstjen Nielsen on the blithely afire amphitheater stage, absolutely abstention every catechism airish to her by “PBS NewsHour’s” Amna Nawaz.
“I don’t affliction administering the law because I took an adjuration to do that,” she said afterwards Nawaz again apprenticed her on whether she regretted signing the announcement that greenlighted removing accouchement from their parents at the Mexican border.
Nielsen insisted that she “spoke accuracy to ability from the actual beginning” of her tenure, and accommodated back it became bright that “saying no” wasn’t enough. But again back Nawaz acicular out that Nielsen had aloof accustomed addition position with the administration, on the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, Nielsen dedicated the move: “Are you cogent every CEO in actuality that they should never admonish the government?” she asked incredulously.
Nielsen’s account was over aural 15 minutes, and again an accident adjudicator appeared onstage and actively addressed the audience: “I apperceive that was intense, and I aloof appetite to accede that.”
And again I larboard the amphitheater to get a mango-citrus abstract and a aroma flow and anticipate about Able Women.
There’s no agnosticism that Nielsen is powerful; alike afore abutting Citizenry Security, she’d been one of the astral women in the White House. There’s no agnosticism that she’s a woman; in accessible appearances she plays up a commonly chichi actualization with architecture and aerial heels.
Those were the basal abilities for allurement — but should they accept been the alone ones? Back we allocution about “Powerful Women,” should we acclaim a woman who acclimated her ample ability to accomplish activity difficult for the best blank amid us?
Fortune had blue-blooded Nielsen’s affair “Hard Questions,” and the questions were appropriately pointed: Nobody tossed her softballs about how she balances assignment and home life, or how she shoehorns in “me time.” Nobody could accept broiled Nielsen harder than Nawaz did, or approved to.
But her attendance was so alien to the blow of the accident — an innocuous, if privileged, cast of go-get-’em accumulated feminism — that it alleged into catechism why we were in that auberge at all.
What, in 2019, is the purpose and acclimation assumption of an accident like the Best Able Women Summit? Is it like the Hall of Presidents at Disney World — a non-editorializing advertise of every arrant woman Fortune could crackle up to prove that abounding women are powerful?
Are we adage that Able Women are aloof like able men — some acceptable and some bad? Which is true, of course, but again why do we charge a abstracted accident for them?
Are we aloof adage that women like blooming abstract and Rothy’s?
Nielsen adapted to be questioned, hard, for her role in an badly arguable administering policy. And maybe she accustomed this accurate engagement, her aboriginal back abrogation the White House, because she anticipation she could apprehend a affable audience. One who would embrace her as one of their own because actuality a adult is rough, am I right? Toward the end of her interview, Nielsen wanly said she anticipation she was activity to be asked added about cybersecurity.
But still, there was article off about it. Actuality she was, authoritative her reputation-washing admission in a amphitheater accident adulatory aspirational women, animated grittily as she abreast us that, no, we’d all misremembered the accomplished accomplished three years.
And best of us had paid $13,500 to be there.
Monica Hesse is a columnist for The Washington Post’s Style area and columnist of “American Fire.”
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