"At what point must a female Senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?" Texas Senator Van De Putte standing next to Senator Wendy Davis (Sen. Van De Putte showed up late up to be present towards the end of the filibuster after having attended her own father's funeral that day.)
As a native Texan, and as a woman, I am sure I am not alone in being able to identify with Senator Van de Putte's question. You feel the presence of the good ole boy power structure from the moment you land at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. You feel it in offices, boardrooms, the dinner table, at church, and even in what appears to be the more benevolently patriarchal left-leaning circles at times. Part of the problem was not simply the men in Texas, part of the problem was also women allowing men to get away with it, instructing younger women to "let the men think they were making the decisions" while manipulating things behind the scenes. Whenever there was a lack of solidarity between women in Texas, men could abuse it in their favor.
But it looks like those days are numbered. What brought tears to my eyes as I read the comments, watched the videos of the women and men at the capitol in Austin, and especially read the Facebook posting s of my younger female cousins in Austin, was the solidarity between everyone who knew what this filibuster meant, not just for Texas, but for women everywhere.
This was the beginning of our "Texas Spring." I am not kidding. Things have been sliding backwards in Texas for some time now, while many also knew that times were changing and real progress could be just around the corner. It was as if the good ole boys were so frightened by the way the new Texas looked and sounded, that they were going to do whatever they had to do to try and stop change from happening. What Rick Perry and the GOP did by not only calling a special session to close virtually every abortion clinic in Texas, but also changing the date on the votes that took place after midnight, was a disgraceful slap in the face of all citizens everywhere. And they did not get away with it.
I recall when the local Texas Republican politicians started heading to DC two decades after Johnson was in the White House, I thought to myself, "Now they are taking what they did in Texas nation-wide." Tort reform, right-wing fundamentalist religious propaganda, the lack of support for public schools, public transportation, clean technology was simply too much. But this will be reversed. We will see a new Texas emerging in the years ahead. Texans will not be held hostage by FOX News watching folks who believe that Muslims are going to take over America. The real threat is from the fundamentalist Christians and reactionary groups which threaten democracy, women's rights and health, clean air and water, and education just to name a few of the extremely important areas which have been harmed by too much Good Ole Boy for too damn long.
It was not unusual to hear the following kinds of comments while growing up in Texas, "I am a woman and I live in Texas, what do you want me to do about it?" or "In Texas, sometimes you have to pay the judges." In other words, corruption and abuse of women's rights has been par for the course. When they were instructed by the GOP leadership to change the voting date from the 26th to the 25th of June and screen shots began circulating on the internet of the before and after screen shots, the reality women and citizens in Texas were left with was not only unethical but a disgraceful slap in the face of all Texans. Luckily sanity prevailed, and the vote was rendered invalid. But the good ole boys will be back for a second round. But this time the entire world will be watching.
Much has and will change because of what Wendy Davis did, filibustering at the Texas capitol Wednesday. She made me proud to be a Texan. I am also so proud of the many women who sent in their stories to Wendy Davis to read out during her eleven hours of what can only be called a historic filibuster.
Women in Texas, both Republican and Democrat, were behind Wendy Davis. There are also many republican women in Texas who would vote for a female U.S. President if one runs for office. The Good Ole Boy culture of privilege and the macho use of fear and control tactics are hopefully seeing its final days in the Lone Star State. What many people may not realize is that Texas women are some of the most independent thinking and toughest people out there. Sort of like Sicilian women, who have to deal with the mafia and macho, women in Texas for the most part have grown up fighting against a patriarchal structure, which is well entrenched.
But we have our female heroes, including one former Texas governor, Ann Richards, who is surely smiling up in heaven right now. Add to that tough women such as Barbara Jordan, former Houston mayor, Kathy Whitmire and present-day Houston mayor, Annise Parker, he first openly gay mayor of such a large city in the U.S.
The filibuster, and action by Texas citizens who filled to overflowing the capitol and who loudly expressed their anger, was not captured live by mainstream media. It was an event I watched via Facebook postings and photos of my younger female cousins in Austin, one of who was at the capitol, and via Twitter and cell phones live feeds and videos.
It was then that I realized this was our "Texas Spring" but being led almost entirely by women and those who support true equality.
Many say that Texas will vote blue in the next presidential election. It feels like the kinds of issues being debated in recent years are going to help set the stage for exactly that.
Wendy Davis has not only been outspoken about women's right to abortion and women's health, she also made her voice heard speaking out against fracking in the Barnett Shale region of Texas, to help citizens fight for clean water and against contamination by the chemicals used in the process of extracting natural gas. As anyone in Texas knows, when you take on oil and gas you get into serious good ole boy territory and it can become deadly. As one Republican campaign manager told me when I responded to his comment that "Democrats were cheats" with "Yes, but Republicans in Texas will kill people"...his answer to me was a very direct, "Yes, yes they will." And if anyone thinks this to be untrue, then remember a certain grassy knoll in Texas.
Molotov cocktails were thrown at Senator Wendy Davis' office last year. I hope that she has serious security protecting her at the moment. She not only will run for governor, but she may be forced to, as her election happened in part because the district where she was elected, could be be "redistricted" because "... the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that helped her secure her seat in the Legislature."
We need to make sure that the good ole boys know that we are all watching every move they make. These are the kind of people who respond to truth with fear tactics, abuse of power, a corrupt judicial system, violence, and when they cannot win, simply refuse to answer. Silence can often be worse than direct confrontation. That is why the voices of the raucous crowd of women and men who filled the capitol in support of Senator Wendy Davis are so very important. Because they will not be silenced.