If the phrase "white-knuckled" could apply to eyes, mine would have been the color of blanched sand dollars as I followed the historical events playing out on the floor of the Texas legislature on Tuesday night. Like thousands of people, I nervously toggled between live, online streaming, the chatter and cheers burning up the Twittersphere and the major online news outlets attempting to cover the debate as it unfolded. Democratic Senator Wendy Davis was attempting to stop a potentially devastating anti-abortion bill that would effectively obliterate women's access to safe reproductive care in the state of Texas. Her weapon of choice: Words. Davis filibustered for ten hours without food, without sitting or leaning and without bathroom breaks until proceedings shut down after her third (and extremely questionable) infraction. That's when things got really interesting. The response to Davis' removal was swift and thunderous with protesters in the Senate Chamber chanting "Let her speak! Let her speak!" If it had not been clear in the nine hours and handful of minutes prior, it was certainly crystalized in this moment that Wendy Davis was doing more than her job as an elected official, she was stepping into political and social history to deliver some powerful lessons that all women can benefit from grasping.
1. "I Will Not Yield"
As lawmakers attempted to throw Davis off her game and usher her off the floor, she countered with this loud refrain. I, for one, cannot wait to buy my "I Will Not Yield" tee-shirt. Perseverance pays off. But in this case, there was more than just a matter of physical stamina in play, there was the matter of Davis sticking to her principles and core beliefs that this bill would harm her constituents. It takes a lot of courage and integrity to own your values, especially when the easy route (to pass the buck, to obfuscate, to flip-flop when it's convenient for your self-interests) is always within reach.
2. "Let Her Speak!"
Chants to let Davis continue speaking ricocheted off the walls of the chamber to drown out the voices of those attempting to call the session back to order. In a word: Awesome. For more than a century, women have continued to rediscover and reanimate the power of their own voices. When women dare to speak up, to speak out, and to use speech in creative and inspiring ways, they prove that their capacity to enact meaningful change is limitless.
If there was ever a time to be grateful for the many tentacled creature known as Twitter, it was Tuesday night. Part of the reason that Davis' demonstration caught the attention of the world was thanks to social media. The hashtag "standwithwendy" seared my feed and enabled news sources, independent journalists and a slew of the concerned public to share information and, more importantly, lend support. Any kid who's seen even one episode of "Sesame Street" will tell you that collaboration is key. Davis asked for help (no shame in that) and she got it in spades and, for the moment, the country is better because of those who wanted to work with her instead of against her.
Davis did not invent the political yak-a-thon known as the filibuster, but she was not afraid to use it. There are times when bold measures must be taken, when unorthodox approaches to problem-solving trump the well-trod path of convention. And this can be unnerving, to say the least. Women should not be afraid to challenge themselves or the status quo by turning traditional methods upside down to innovate and, most likely, inspire.
5. Pink Shoes to Fill
Much has already been made about Wendy Davis' choice and color of footwear, with many critics teeth-gnashing and eye-rolling their way through their weekly 400-word columns about the media missing the point, again, by focusing on a frivolous detail that subtly undermines Davis' accomplishment. But shoes are important. As Forrest Gump opined, "You can learn a lot about a person from their shoes. Where they're going, where they've been." For Davis, what was the logical choice of footwear to have for her daunting task has become, to lots of women, symbolic shoes to fill. Davis' efforts will hopefully motivate other young women to enter a career in politics, to devote themselves to service in order to make a positive impact on the world. Live your authenticity so that you may walk your path with pride and integrity because, like Davis, you never know who might someday want to stand in your shoes.