PHILADELPHIA — “I have to settle once and for all if Matt McGorry is actually sexy,” I heard a man tell his companion shortly after I arrived standing at NARAL Pro-Choice America’s “Men for Choice” event. “I think it’s the douchebag factor.”
This essential question went unanswered, as Matt McGorry, wokest bae on Twitter, didn’t show up. Neither, as far as I could tell, did Aziz Ansari, Jon Cryer, David Eigenberg, or Andrew Rannells, the other celebrity members of the honorary host committee (Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn, also a member, did attend, along with Sophia Bush—who I unfortunately did not encounter—and Ashley Judd).
Like a lot of DNC-related programming, the Men for Choice event was painstakingly choreographed, choked with media, and completely fine, rendering it fist-clenchingly safe from all but the most innocuous of press coverage. John Legend’s “All of Me” cooed at partygoers as I walked in, followed by a performance by Nashville band JP Harris and the (ahem) Tough Choices, who kicked things off by apologizing for their state’s political leanings. The food was a masculine yet approachable assortment of meatballs, chicken wings, and mini gourmet sandwiches.
Midway through the party, Tony Goldwyn addressed the crowd, explaining to lustful cheers that “when we give women control over their own futures, we’re actually building healthier families, a healthier country.” Ashley Judd gave an impromptu talk about her multiple experiences with sexual assault, one of which resulted in a pregnancy that she chose to terminate; she noted that “rapists have paternity rights in 22 states, including the state in which I was raped, and the state where the rapist is from.”
The event’s attendees were split about 60-40 between women and men, and many of the latter had gamely put on little pins that said “Feminist” in several languages. A group of about 10-15 of them, pinpointed as non-media attendees, were stalked by myself and the rest of the press in quick, brutal succession for shouted interviews about their opinions on women’s rights. “It’s too loud here,” one said to me as a means of begging off.
“I grabbed two buttons when I walked in,” Stephen Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, told me. Benjamin, an early Hillary supporter who served on this year’s platform committee, had spoken a day earlier at the DNC. “I want to make sure that my daughters have a chance to enjoy every single freedom and right that I enjoy.”
Have you always been pro-choice? I asked.
“Yes,” he replied, suggesting that I take a look at the legacy of J. Marion Sims, known as the “father of modern gynecology” but notorious for his torturous experiments on enslaved black women and their infants.
“There’s a process that you go through in which you immerse yourself in your culture, and at some point you realize that the challenges facing one oppressed community are universal, that they apply not just to ethnic or racial minorities,” Benjamin said. “For so many years in this country, the bodies of African-Americans were not their own. They were controlled by laws and by men who meant them no good, and I refuse to support policies or practices that regulate how a woman controls her own body.”
I left the party soon after this conversation, all thoughts of Matt McGorry having vanished.