There is something I just do not get about what Rick Perry and his fellow GOP are doing in Texas. They have decided to cheat the anti-reproductive health care bill's way through so openly that a woman would have to be blind not to know what is going on at the capitol in Austin. In other words, any pro-choice woman worth her integrity is going to have to act. It is as if Perry and co, with their pockets full of unregulated corporate cash, have decided to go full government intervention and regulation on women's bodies. Anyone who knows anything about a Texas woman when you get her riled up, must be scratching their heads as it is obvious Perry has taken on a battle he will not win in the long run. Or, as one male Texan Democrat, Beyrl Armstrong, stated, "I have a mother, I have a wife, I have nieces. It's real important they be treated as competent human beings who can take care of themselves. These women are pissed off. Don't kick sand in a Texas woman's face, it's not going to work."
In other words, I think the real reason to vote Perry and his fellow GOP out of office is because you have to just be plain stupid to make so many women in Texas as angry as they are right now. It also demonstrates a complete lack of respect for the poor, the disenfranchised women in rural areas, who will have basically no access to reproductive health care of any kind if this bill passes. How stupid can it be to legislate against what medical professionals, specialists in women's reproductive health, have declared as they denounce this GOP lead bill.
I feel for the pro-choice women in Ohio, Kansas, North Carolina and elsewhere (except Oregon it seems which is the only state whose rules around abortion have remained intact over the past 40 years) who have recently had affordable access to reproductive health care curtailed. In fact, in some cases women will most likely not have access to birth control, breast exams, STD testing, and may also have to leave their home state to get an abortion.
But now the right wing has attempted something really stupid; they have brought their campaign to eliminate access for all of the above, to Texas. Well, let me tell a thing or two about Texas women: They are strong, tough and used to big ole men with guns trying to run the show. Many of these women, like Wendy Davis, are extremely smart, extremely realistic, and know from hard, real-life experiences exactly what they are dealing with when it comes to conservative politics run mostly by men. It's sort of like women in Naples or Sicily, when they are outspoken, they are some of the most incredibly brave women around, because they are dealing with a paternalistic mafia-like control system which, and let's be honest about this, is not unused to killing off anyone who challenges their well-entrenched control structure. The more evolved men in Texas also need to be supported as they too have grown up surrounded by some pretty exaggerated male "role models." But many of these same men have also come to appreciate and love strong women. And by the way, anyone who thinks you have to be a militant feminist, man-hater with hairy legs to be pro-choice (as many of the comments on my last piece implied), take a look at Senator Wendy Davis. She is now being criticized for being "too hot"-hell you can't win with these folks. It demonstrates how threatened they feel, but the reality is, all voices need to be heard and respected.
I grew up in Texas knowing more people who had died horrifically violent deaths than anyone I know from outside of Texas. You have to learn to defend yourself and your rights or you could end up silenced or even dead. I also grew up inside of a Republican political reality, spent lots of time as a child in many a Republican campaign headquarters, and in Austin at the capitol. There used to be a lot more moderate Republicans in Texas. That appears to have changed. It changed, in part, when the religious right took over parts of the state, when religious organizations, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, became more about women obeying their husbands than about tolerance and inclusion. Churches the size of baseball stadiums began springing up, almost like a corporate equivalent or God's monopoly on the way of thinking. Or as one female relative said as she left the Baptist church and became an Episcopal, "They expected you to hang your brain up outside the door before you entered. You could not question." Yes, there would always be "those liberals in Austin", a few feminist mayors of Houston from time to time, but the face of Texas was also becoming one which was frighteningly not tolerant, and I would argue, not very Texan.
A lot of what used to be the norm in Texas, is also evolving however, and this is what is frightening the GOP. In fact, the very changes which are also making Texas a more progressive, interesting and diverse place are what scares the Good Ole Boys and will eventually hinder their way of doing things. But if you can redistrict these dissenting liberal voices out of existence by basically nullifying their votes, then there is something which is not only not democratic taking place, I would argue it borders on fascism, as well as outright misogyny. It is all about losing control, and if there is one thing these hardcore right wingers hate, it is losing control.
As my godmother said to me last night on the phone from Seattle (where she and I both escaped to years ago to get out of Texas), women in Texas have grown up knowing what they are up against and it makes them extremely resilient. But I argued that I was tired of always having to be on guard and permanently tough and wanted to live in a place where I could use my energy to move forward and not always be fighting for basic rights. Yet I knew my godmother had a point. Women who are constantly forced to deal with this kind of macho behavior and whose rights are threatened daily, are also those women who are fighting for all of us. We need to stand with them.
Recently I considered returning home to Texas, but I have a teenage daughter. I was not about to have her have to live through perhaps even a less tolerant version of the reality many of my generation grew up inside of, that too would be stupid. But I also wondered if it might not toughen her up a bit, make her better prepared for much of the "real world" where women have to fight for their voices to be heard every single day, and where the voices of many have almost been silenced.
Those of us who have been Texans for many generations, and who recall how it used to be, both the good and the bad, know that real Texans are not born they are made. This struggle for basic rights will shape this generation of Texas women and men. People will be talking about Senator Davis' filibuster for many years to come. Those who have made, and will make the trip to the capitol in Austin to make their voices heard, will become politicized forever. They will not forget the energy and solidarity which we have witnessed.
When President Obama, the son of a single mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, who struggled to educate herself, him and his sister, (and in fact made sure that they had access to the very best education the U.S. could provide and who died worried that she had no health insurance), sent that Twitter message reading, "Something special is happening down in Texas tonight." He knew exactly what women have fought for, and it was surely in solidarity with the memory of his mother and all she did for him that he sent it. He is also married to a strong educated woman and has two daughters. He knows what this situation in Texas means for women and for the country. Perhaps we should follow his mother's example, and put the emphasis on education, and legislate for better access to education so that future generations don't make the same mistakes Perry and the Texas GOP are making.
If you want to see the future of America, look at the men and women who have mothers who have worked, been educated and had careers and fought for women's rights. If you want to see men who truly respect women, look to men like President Obama. If you want to see women who are our future, look to women like Senators Wendy Davis and Leticia Van De Putte and others who are ready to stand up and fight for all of us.
Texas is such a big place that when people ask me where I am from, instead of simply replying "American", I proudly say I am Texan. Wendy Davis and Leticia Van De Putte make me extremely proud to be a Texas woman. I know that the country, and the world will be watching as we move ahead in the days to come.