In the spring of 2022, the writer, podcaster and teacher Meghan Daum led a group of ten women into the California high desert for three days of brainstorming about an exciting new project. In a series of candid, intense, deeply informed, and often emotional discussions they wrestled with some of the most vexing and complicated issues of our times: the chaos of COVID policies, the new gender ideology, the state of the #MeToo movement, gun rights, reproductive rights, the ideological capture of fine arts and culture, and much more. It was a life-changing experience.
It was also the start of The Unspeakeasy.
Brainstorming retreat in Joshua Tree
What Is The Unspeakeasy?
The Unspeakeasy is a community for women who crave honest, rational, nuanced conversations about the subjects that don’t come with easy solutions or lend themselves to memes or hashtags. It's kind of like The Unspeakable Podcast, except everyone’s invited to join the conversation, connect with one another, and expand our worldviews while also reclaiming a sense of shared reality.
Why Is It only for women?
Every day, Meghan hears from people who tell her they feel like they’re going crazy. They tell her that ideological polarization has made them feel like they can no longer be themselves around friends and family members with whom they once felt perfectly aligned. Though Meghan hears from women and men alike, she's noticed that the effects of this alienation can be especially pronounced for women, who are often more sensitive to the social penalties that come from speaking up. No one wants to be kicked out of her book club for recommending the wrong author, let alone hurt someone’s feelings by suggesting they might be wrong about the agreed-upon narrative. So we often stay silent. And bowing out of private conversations leads to being left out of the public conversation too.
What’s Happening Next?
Early next year, The Unspeakeasy will launch an online community offering subject-specific discussion forums, guest lecture series, writing groups, book clubs , ways to organize local in-person meetups, and more.
The Unspeakeasy’s flagship offering are the so-called “sanity spa retreats.” Following the brainstorming session last spring, The Unspeakeasy held were two official retreats this fall, in Vermont and New York, and they were spectacular. More are planned for 2023 in various regions of the U.S.
What Happens At An Unspeakeasy Retreat?
Stony Point, NY retreat in October 2022
In a word: talking. And more talking. Over the course of four days and three nights, Meghan facilitates conversations on a range of topics, curated around participants’ interests and areas of knowledge. Guest speakers join in person and/or via Zoom. Occasionally there will be weekend retreats that are daytime only and can accommodate a slightly larger group. But by and large, retreats are inclusive of accommodations and all meals and are limited to 15 participants. As with all Unspeakeasy events, everything is off-the-record.
What Does Not Happen At An Unspeakeasy Retreat?
There are no trust exercises, breakout groups, talking sticks, walking meditations, or mandatory outings. (There might be yoga and some hiking opportunities, but it’s optional!) Most importantly, there is no social media usage regarding the retreat while it’s in session. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, what happens at an Unspeakeasy retreat, including names of participants, stays at the retreat.
Who Comes To An Unspeakeasy Retreat?
All kinds of women of all ages and from all kinds of backgrounds attend retreats. This is not a secret gathering of girl bosses or high profile media figures. The point of The Unspeakeasy is to bring together women representing a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Retreat participants have ranged in age from their twenties to their seventies and have included teachers, scientists, librarians, political consultants, stage performers, stay-at-home moms, students, healthcare providers, community organizers . . . the list goes on and on.
I’m Interested! What Do I Do Next?
Retreats for 2023 are currently being designed and planned, including a weekend retreat in Los Angeles February 18-19. Email Meghan at firstname.lastname@example.org and she or a team member will give you more details.
Stony Point, NY retreat in October 2022