Something Special Happened in Texas

The reason the sky is bigger here is because there aren’t any trees. The reason folks here eat grits is because they ain’t got no taste. Cowboys mostly stink and it’s hot, oh God, is it hot…. Texas is a mosaic of cultures, which overlap in several parts of the state, with the darker layers on the bottom. The cultures are black, Chicano, Southern, freak, suburban and shitkicker. (Shitkicker is dominant.) They are all rotten for women. — Molly Ivins

I have a ghost in my computer. This poltergeist spontaneously shuts my laptop down whenever there’s anything important happening. On Tuesday I finally broke down and took it into the shop for an exorcism, so as Wendy Davis filibustered SB5 in the Texas Senate, I could only follow what was happening via the Twitter app on my phone.

Refresh refresh refresh refresh.

There was something right about the way I experienced this event, huddled on the couch with my dog and cat–neither of whom could tell if the sounds I was making were of pleasure or pain–hunched over the tiny screen of my iPhone 3.

You see, I grew up in Texas. I went to a public school in Dallas where football was everybody’s favorite pastime except mine. I was in the marching band, and yes, the uniforms were exactly as ugly as you imagine, polyester and hot as hell–and we got made fun of for them exactly as much as you think. I performed in school plays and I was at the top of my class. I did not have big boobs. I did not wear makeup. For a while I didn’t even shave my legs. I did not speak with an accent. I did not fit in.

I don’t think I even heard the word feminism until college. I most certainly was a feminist–baby, I was born that way–but I didn’t know that there was a word to describe my sense that something just wasn’t right for women in Texas. I knew that if I would just get a better bra, wear makeup, and pretend not to be smart, I would fit right in, on the outside at least. But I also knew that I shouldn’t have to use padding and pushups, shouldn’t need cake makeup for my 16-year-old skin to look “pretty,” and I most definitely should not have to pretend that I was not smart.

My family lives in Texas and even though I only go back to visit, Texas still lives in me. Texas is like that–the incredibly loud and enthusiastic house guest whom you love but who just won’t leave. So I follow the news out of Texas as if it were still my Lone Star State.

So as Senator Davis held her filibuster, I held my breath. I shouted out loud. I tried to convince my dog that my tears were of joy. And it made sense to me that my efforts to follow what was happening were limited by a phone that is practically an antique. It has never been easy to be feminist in Texas.

To hear the voices of the women in Austin raised together in protest–well, as we like to say, it warmed the cockles of my heart. I had always known that there had to be other Texas feminists somewhere, but unless you are a hardcore activist, even being aware of oppression in Texas can be very lonely. In the communities in which I grew up, abortion was generally not discussed: Not at the dinner table, not at parties, not at the football game, and definitely not at school. (Conservative Christians, on the other hand, discuss it constantly but inaccurately.)

I wanted to be there, in Texas, in Austin, in the capitol, in the rotunda I remember so well from visits with my youth group. I wanted to call everyone I know in Texas and tell them to go. I wanted to sprout wings and fly away home.

Too many women in Texas are taught to keep silent unless they’re laughing at a man’s joke. They are taught that their opinion doesn’t matter, that nobody is listening, that nobody agrees with them, that little ol’ they can’t possibly do anything to effect politics in a blood red state. But that changed on Tuesday. Texas women had something to say and they made themselves heard.

From this day forth, let no Texan woman be silenced. Let no Texan woman believe that her voice doesn’t matter. Let no Texan woman think that she has to pretend to be stupid just to fit in.  We know what we need to keep us healthy and free. And we’re gonna git it.

It used to be hard to be feminist in Texas. Not anymore. Be loud, ya’ll. Be fierce. We got your back.

6 responses to “Something Special Happened in Texas”

  1. Hol Bol,

    As you know, I am a Texan, I married a Texan, and we still live in The Great State of Texas. Yes it’s hot as hell in the summer, and on that we agree. But your assessment of Texas women couldn’t be further from the truth. I won’t say that I know a lot of Texas women (even though I do), so as not to give the wrong idea…. but, I happen to be married to one who will speak her mind at the drop of a hat….even the cowboy hat that she wears all the time (cause, of course, we all do,) and she is one of the most intelligent women I have ever known. You are smart, Hol, I will give you that, but to think that the realm of all knowledge and thinking is held by the liberal left is a bit, well, naive. The true measure of wisdom is not the amount of word the one speaks or writes on a blog, but the quality of ones actions and relationships. Sometime, knowing when not to “speak your mind” show far more intelligence.

    Based on your assessment, I suppose all the Texas women who support this ban are either ignorant on the matter, puppets of their shitkicker husbands, or they are conservative Christians who couldn’t possibly understand the science of matter nor speak “accurately” about it. They might actually believe that a 20-week old fetus is something more than a mass of tissue, but the real reason most people support this bill is too oppress women, to keep them in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant. Because that is what all Texas men really want. Right?

    I support this bill, and so does my wife. We firmly believe, based on science, reason, and personal experience that a 20-week old fetus is a human life, and taking that life under all but the most dire of circumstances is wrong. It has nothing to do with oppressing women, but everything to do with the protection of innocent life.

    But, hey ……I am a Texas man, what the hell do I kno….. ah, look at that, I got shit on my boots…..

    • Scott, I would be happy to discuss this with you if you will agree up front to consider the facts. If not, then we do not have enough common ground on which to have a reasonable conversation.

      For example, are you under the impression, as Perry said yesterday, that abortions are the second most common procedure in the country? They are not.

      Did you believe it when Rep. Jodie Laudenberg–a bill sponsor–said that rape kits keep women from getting pregnant? They don’t.

      Do you subscribe to the beliefs of Crisis Pregnancy Centers that tell women that abortions cause breast cancer, depression, and decreased fertility? All lies.

      Do you know how many women have abortions and why? Do you know what the different kinds of abortions are and how they work?

      Do you know what percentage of abortions are performed in the final trimester? Do you know why?

      Are you aware that it is scientifically impossible for a fetus to feel “pain” until 24 weeks and impossible for a fetus to survive outside the woman until 24 weeks at the earliest?

      Do you subscribe to the lie promulgated by national prominent pro-lifers that women who get raped have a way of not getting pregnant? Totally false.

      Have you looked at the statistics on how many abortions happen in countries where it is illegal vs legal?

      These are just a few of the facts you would have to be willing to consider for us to be able to have a conversation about this issue. I understand your religious views, but we don’t legislate religious views in this country. The facts are the facts, and if you’re not willing to “believe” them, there’s nothing to talk about.

      If you would like me to send you some information on the reality of abortion, including the ways that pro-choice policies save lives, I will be happy to do that. But you cannot dismiss them as a lamestream media conspiracy – that is just a refusal engage with reality.

      Let me know.

  2. Mr. Keith,

    I was born and raised in Texas. I appreciate the spirit of the writer’s blog and you speaking out for your beliefs. I think everyone has a right to their beliefs. But I personally find the ongoing dialogue about this important matter to be so out of focus as a whole.

    The anti-choice side continues to portray pro-choice women as people who only see a fetus as a mass of tissue. That is ignorance. I have never met a women who had an abortion lightly. There are SO many factors that go into every single woman’s decision (including the input of their husband or partner).

    There is this ongoing myth that pro-choice women are just out to kill babies.

    Here is the truth:

    It is a FACT that when abortions are made readily and safely available to women of all financials backgrounds that there are less abortions. Therefore, pro choice IS pro life.

    Why is that?

    Well, I’m sure an expert can get into a very dry explanation about it, but here it is simply.

    When you remove the shame and stigma of this incredibly personal matter, women seek out treatment and are educated and able to make educated decisions about their choice.

    This has never been about allowing women to kill babies. Women don’t want to kill babies. Women are the nurturers of the home and always will be. But this argument about killing babies becomes a fight for women’s rights because if you take away safe and legal care, guess what? Women get abortions anyway. And now you get more of them. And the women die. Because they have nowhere to go, no one who can tell them all their options.

    Why do they get abortions? Maybe they have other children and they are underemployed and not only can’t afford another mouth to feed or the pre natal care. So don’t have sex you say. Men have sex all the time. They don’t get pregnant. A woman can protect herself to her best ability and guess what? She can still get pregnant. (my mother got pregnant with me hile on birth control) If she goes for help, someone is going to give her some options. But if she is restricted or can’t afford to go to another state for treatment, her husband might drive her to someone’s garage where she terminates her pregnancy. But she’s not doing it because she wants to kill a baby. She’s doing it because she wants to save the babies she already has. She’s putting the living before the yet to be born.

    I know no women who would abort a fetus at 20 weeks. That’s gonna be a woman who has found something is seriously wrong with the fetus. That child is probably wanted and now she is faced with “can I take care of this child?” You are right when you say that child deserves a chance.

    I would be pro life is pro lifers were actually pro life. But consistently the same group that opposes abortion and supports these bills that limits a woman’s access to healthcare don’t support helping the poor or universal healthcare or expanding medicare for all.

    The facts are out there. Just google. The restrictive laws just passed in Ohio are going to cost the state MILLIONS of dollars. Because who is going to take care of the special needs children, all their health issues, the growing burden of under privileged families who will not be able to afford to care for their entire family now.

    The pro life view is unChristian if is aligned with the conservative fiscal ideology. You unleash tremendous hardship on women who ultimately are the majority caregivers in society.

    And that’s a fact.

    Also, are you for the freedom to carry gun? Why is it that this country allows every man and woman the option to own and gun and make their own decision not to kill with it?

    Because this is a hypocritical male driven society. That’s why.

    I believe every child deserves an opportunity to a rich and blessed life. But by golly, I will fight for a woman’s right to take care of herself and her family. Let her have access to the care and information she needs so she can do what’s right for the life she currently has.

    I am pro life.

    • Anna,

      Thanks for your response. Let me first say that my “mass of tissue” comment was not meant as a condemnation of all abortion proponents, but was more to illustrate the extremes both side will sometime go to make their point. I firmly believe the vast majority of women who have abortions do so with a heavy heart feeling like they have no other options. They do not want to kill their babies, but they just feel trapped. I feel for these women, but the fact is they do have other options. Options that preserve life not take. We have friends current on the waiting list to adopt a child, any child, special needs or healthy. These waiting lists are long and parents are waiting to bring unwanted kids into their homes. We have other friends who adopted the child of a teenage girl who knew she was not in a position to raise the child but made the decision to carry it to term instead of abort. Now our kids have a great friend. I am not saying it’s easy to be a pregnant teenage girl, or to be a struggling mother having difficulty caring for the children she already has, but in the balance you have struggles and difficulties however great they may be, weighed against the life of a child. The balance has to tip to the side of life.

      “It is a FACT that when abortions are made readily and safely available to women of all financials backgrounds that there are less abortion”

      Sorry, but statistics do not show this at all. New York State, for instance, has some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the nation yet the rate of abortions per 1000 women is nearly double the national state average. The easier it is for women to get abortions, the more babies are aborted. Fact.

      “I know no women who would abort a fetus at 20 weeks.”

      I am glad you do not know any of these women, but some do abort after 20 weeks. Thankfully these abortions are rare, but they do happen. The bill in Texas would restrict abortion after 20-weeks.

      “I would be pro life is pro lifers were actually pro life. But consistently the same group that opposes abortion and supports these bills that limits a woman’s access to healthcare don’t support helping the poor or universal healthcare or expanding medicare for all.”

      If by “the same group” you mean conservative Christians, I have to take issue with your comment. Statistically, middle class conservative Christians give far more of their annual income to charities of all kinds than other groups. Faith based groups build and refurbish houses in poor communities out of love for the people. Organizations like Samaritans Purse and others work to enrich the lives of the poor around the world. Our family is supporting a young girl in Tanzania Africa, making sure she has the resources to provide for her family and go to school. Yes we can argue about the merits of universal health insurance, but notice the names on the hospitals providing treatment to people all over this nation and around the world. Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, and other faith based hospitals are a testament to the belief that life is sacred and medical care is essential for society.

      I am glad you’re pro-life …… I will send you a T-shirt. :o)

      • Scott, with all due respect, unless you have talked to a huge sampling of women who’ve had abortions, YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW THEY FEEL. You are guessing based on the info you get from right-wing sources. When you say “they have options,” again, you have no idea what you are talking about. Adoption is not an option for women who will be murdered by their husbands if they find out they’re pregnant. Not to mention the fact that FORCING a woman by law to carry a child IN HER BODY for 10 months is already TOO MUCH FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO ASK. It’s her body, it’s her life.

        Imagine if you had something growing inside of you and you wanted to get it out and the government said, no, no matter how you feel, what you think, how it got there, or what consequences there are for you in carrying it–including deadly high blood pressure, loss of organ function, infertility, death, getting beaten until both you and the thing die, and being kicked out of your home to live on the streets–we are going to force you to let that thing grow inside of you for 10 months. No way in hell men would put up with that.

        You refuse to read the information that is out there about the reality of this, all you are doing is assuming that you know what every woman in the world thinks, wants, and feels, and that you have the right to prescribe it for them. It’s infuriating. You are not God.

        As to the statistics on where it’s legal and where it’s not, you have to look nationally. You can’t tell anything by state because women from New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania all come to New York for abortions. Whether abortion is legally available in the country as a whole, without restrictions, is the statistic that matters.

        What Anna means when she says that pro-life people aren’t pro-life is that when you cut Head Start, cut welfare, close clinics, eliminate access to birth control, and force women to die for your religious beliefs, you are anti-life. You are killing people. Not just babies, though babies, too, but also children and women. You are killing them. Not legal abortion. You.

        Again, there are facts out there about this. There are women who tell their stories and you could read them rather than determining based on your imagination and info you get from pro-life friends what they want, why they do it, and how they feel about it.

    • Remember, too, that when I say you can and should read hundreds of stories by women who have had abortions, I don’t mean just the ones where the woman decided afterwards that she’d made a mistake and became pro-life. Those are a tiny, tiny minority, and I am very sorry for them that they carry around so much shame and guilt. I hope that they will look for help from psychologists rather than political rallies–making someone a movement celebrity because of her shame is not a great way to help her get past shame. These women have nothing to be ashamed of. But it is their choice to change their minds and I respect their beliefs about their bodies–I’m not going to tell those women that the choices they make about their bodies are wrong, ie never to have another abortion, but they shouldn’t do that to others, either. For us it’s about choice. If you want babies, by all means have babies. If not, don’t. It’s not up to anybody else.

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