I Believe in Wendy

Texas governor Rick Perry may have called another special session to pass the anti-abortion legislation Senator Wendy Davis successfully blocked last week, Stand with Texas womenbut that’s no reason to stop celebrating the senator’s filibuster.  She didn’t just show us that one woman could make a difference from within, even when the insider rules are ridiculous. (No leaning? No brace-touching?) She showed us how one woman making a difference from within is always already much more than “just one woman” without conceding an ounce of her own authority.

It was a living, breathing performance of a decidedly feminist construction of power.

Senator Davis did all the speaking because that was what the law required.  But while she was up there, she read the words of women who had sent her their abortion stories to fulfill her procedural obligation to stay on topic. She filibustered for 11 hours, but when the lieutenant governor went ahead and called the vote anyway, women in the gallery started chanting, making it impossible for him to get the votes on record. In both cases, Davis became, almost literally, in a whole French theorist sense, a woman who was not one. She was many.

I can’t think of a better way to use a rule that was quite obviously designed to keep any but the strongest-bladdered, hardiest-lunged individuals from speaking.

I don’t think it was an accident that Governor Perry decided to talk about Senator Davis’ personal history at the National Right to Life convention the next day. Or rather, I do, at least in the sense that I don’t think it required much calculation on his part. There’s no need when the sexism is ingrained. Senator Wendy Davis, leader of the “angry mob” the lieutenant governor groused may be a nuisance, but she’s a nuisance who has to be reckoned with. Wendy Davis the poor single mother, daughter of single woman herself, is categorically deficient by virtue of having a vagina. Of course his remarks went over like gangbusters at the Right to Life conference. Women have served as object lessons for that lot since Eve gummed up the works in Eden.

The good news for the rest of us is that Wendy Davis is still speaking, and she understands what assumptions are dressed up in Perry’s seemingly complimentary narrative. Turns out Davis is long past being shamed by her femininity or hoodwinked into giving credence to antiquated notions of nice little ladyhood. In fact, Davis’ response to Perry’s comments uses his own macho swaggering ideal of personal freedom against him by casting it as a virtue that transcends gender.

“It demonstrated that they just don’t understand how very personal these issues are,” she explains. “My story, my personal story, is my story. I have the ability to make choices and I had opportunities that I was able to take advantage of in my life. Other women of course should be able to define their own destinies and this idea that the heavy hand of government should somehow come in and tell her how to do that is deeply resented in [a] state like Texas. It’s deeply resented everywhere, but if you know anything about Texas, we hold very strongly to our traditions and our values where personal liberties are concerned.”

I don’t doubt that Perry has a brilliant staffer who will come up with an effective rebuttal. I don’t even doubt that that staffer is a woman. But during this week where we celebrate our nation’s independence, I’m grooving on Senator Davis’ message. “Anti-choice isn’t just anti-American, America, it’s anti-Texan!”


5 Reasons to Worry About Choice

Feminism1For all their talk about re-branding, the GOP is as anti-choice and anti-woman as ever. How bad are they? Let me count the ways.

1) On Tuesday, Republican House members introduced a bill to ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy. It’s the most restrictive abortion measure to come before the House in years.

2) The Republican sponsor of this bill,  Trent Franks, said the reason the original bill made no exception for rape was because the incidence of pregnancy after rape was “very low.”

3)  On Monday, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said abortion should be banned as early as 15 weeks after conception because he has seen male fetuses masturbate at that stage. Yes, you read that right. Yes, he is a doctor. No word on whether he thinks those male fetuses should be taught anything about masturbation when they’re out of the womb. Or whether he realizes that masturbation, especially in this particular instance, is a non-procreative sex act.

4) In New York, one of the first states to legalize abortion and the unofficial badass feminist capital of the world, the 10-part Women’s Equality Act is being derailed by two “independent” Democrats who caucus with Republicans. They want to introduce a bill that excludes any abortion legislation to give their anti-choice buddies political cover. Governor Cuomo fears they’ll succeed. The session ends Thursday. *Update: The NY State Assembly passed the full 10 points of the Women’s Equality Agenda on Thursday! Today’s the LAST day for the Dems holding the bill hostage to bring it to the floor in the Senate. The women of New York deserve a vote. Call today, and make sure they bring all 10 points to the floor for a vote! (518) 455-2800, then tell a friend!

5) The Texas Senate approved a measure that would tighten restrictions on abortion clinics, late on Tuesday night. Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst tweeted his excitement about shutting down the clinics down. *Update: Pro-choice Texans are storming the capital! While the bill’s supporters were rushing to get the vote in before the last day of the special session (called especially to pass this bill), . Over 700 Texans traveled to Austin on Thursday to testify against the anti-abortion measure before it could come to a vote in the House — and their “people’s filibuster” successfully prevented the legislation from advancing.





Obama is Re-Elected, “Rape” Candidates are Defeated

The interminable election season is finally over! After all the money, mud-slinging, and hyperbole, Barack Obama has won a second term, Democrats have won control of the Senate, and Republicans have won control of the House. So, really, not that much has changed on the surface, though undoubtedly the pundits and experts will be analyzing the results and trends for years to come.

For now, let’s just bask in the good news: voters in Maryland and Maine approved same-sex marriage; Wisconsin voters elected the first openly gay politician, Tammy Baldwin, to the Senate; and a slew of candidates that made idiotic comments about rape and abortion were defeated!


Welcome to New York, Sandy!

As New York hunkers down for Hurricane Sandy, I want to let her know how we treat women up here–even powerful, independent women who don’t cross their legs, redirect their gale force winds off-shore, or otherwise behave like the little ladies so popular with our male Republican candidates these days.

1) We respect a woman’s right to control her reproductive destiny: New York legalized abortion before Roe vs. Wade became the law of the land.

2) While many of the country’s legislators are dreaming up new ways to demean women, we have New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins introducing the Reproductive Health Act, with eighteen co-sponsors. Its purpose: to provide a fundamental right to choose contraception and the right of a female to determine the course of a pregnancy; to authorize abortion prior to viability; and to decriminalize abortion.  [Read more...]

Does Romney Have A(nother) New Stance on Abortion?

It should come as no surprise that Mitt Romney has once again changed his mind – and his stated position – on an election issue. Earlier this week, the formerly pro-choice, now anti-choice presidential candidate told the editorial board of the Des Moines Register that “[t]here’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” Romney did say, in the same interview, that he would reinstate the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits U.S. foreign aid being used for abortions.

Romney’s latest statement marks a significant change from the Republican politician’s earlier stances on abortion. During his unsuccessful 1994 Senate run against Ted Kennedy, Romney said he supported abortion rights; likewise, in his successful 2002 campaign for governor of Massachusetts, Romney flat-out said that he “will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.” Halfway through his term as governor, however, Romney flipped on the issue, and throughout this presidential campaign he has presented himself as strongly anti-choice, only supporting abortions in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the woman.

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A Declaration of Love to the US, From a European Who Would Vote for Obama

I live in France, and I regularly witness anti-American sentiments. But I believe that the U.S. is worthy of admiration. I feel close to this country, as if it were a zeyde who would tell me, “I started with nothing not so long ago and look where I am today. Go, go on.” This Yiddish grandfather could tell me how people learnt from each other and, with all their dreams and joys, all their differences and fights, built a vast place and entered into the history as best as one can.

If I could vote in the U.S. presidential election, I would vote for Barack Obama. To me, he embodies the ethnic, religious, and cultural mix of so many other Americans. Obama also embodies tolerance; he has the courage and the merit to speak about a woman’s right to choose, even while 50% of the U.S. population identifies as anti-choice. I was moved the first time I saw a picture of Obama praying; I am not a Christian, but I am a believer who is the result of an interracial and interreligious (Muslim-Jewish) marriage. So I am personally touched by the (success) story of President Obama.

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Apparently, Todd Akin Has Long Been Confused About Lady Parts

Sometimes, a politician makes a remark for which the only appropriate response is stunned silence. And so it is, again, with good ol’ “legitimate rape” Todd Akin. Videos have surfaced of the Republican Senate candidate giving a speech on the House floor warning about, among other things, doctors who perform abortions on women that aren’t pregnant:

“One of the good pieces of news why we’re winning this war is because there are not enough heartless doctors being graduated from medical schools. There’s a real shortage of abortionists. Who wants to be at the very bottom of the food chain of the medical profession? And what sort of places do these bottom-of-the-food-chain doctors work in? Places that are really a pit. You find that along with the culture of death go all kinds of other law-breaking: not following good sanitary procedure, giving abortions to women who are not actually pregnant, cheating on taxes, all these kinds of things, misuse of anesthetics so that people die or almost die. All of these things are common practice, and all of that information is available for America.”

Oh, Todd Akin. I really wonder how your mind works.



Oh, Brother! Jane Romney Speaks

Jane Romney could have lived out the rest of her brother Mitt’s presidential campaign in relative anonymity—at least among me and my uppity abortion rights-demanding, birth control-loving friends. But then like many a big sister before her, Jane had to go and open up her mouth and get all newsworthy …

Mitt Romney would never make abortions illegal as president, Jane Romney said when National Journal asked her about the subject after a “Women for Mitt” event.” He’s not going to be touching any of that,” she said. “It’s not his focus.”

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Why Women Shouldn’t Trust Ann (or Mitt) Romney

Last night, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s wife of 43 years, Ann Romney, addressed delegates at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. The speech, which CNN’s David Gergen compared to then-Sen. Barack Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, sought to humanize Mitt Romney, who has struggled with likeability ratings throughout the Republican Primary.

Plenty of pundits echoed Gergen’s gushing praise of Ann Romney’s speech. In fact, most of the conservative commentary that I read seemed to wish, deep down, that it was Ann and not Mitt Romney at the top of their ticket – I mean, if she didn’t have ovaries and the rest of that whole “woman” thing going on.

I didn’t listen to Ann Romney’s speech live, mainly because I care about my health and sanity. I find the GOP’s trotting out of conservative women to line up for Mitt Romney offensive and patronizing, but I suppose it’s better than having Republidudes lined up to mansplain to all us ladies about what is best for us.
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Free To Bully You and Me

I almost feel sorry for Darrell Issa, the California Congressman no one heard of before last Thursday’s meeting of the House Oversight Committee.

Not sorry enough to resist piling on the flaming ashes of his dignity. Not sorry enough to stop fighting his party’s ludicrous waste of my tax dollars agenda. (If the GOP has taught me anything, it’s that my money is mine in perpetuity—before, after and especially during the time any of it goes to visit Uncle Sammy.) And certainly not sorry enough to forgive the far right for inventing my least favorite Republican party game: Stick the Nose (and the ultrasound wand) in the Vagina.

But still … I feel for the man.

After more than a decade in office, Issa finally gets the juice to order himself up his very own Norma Desmond moment—a starring role in televised hearings that people without press passes will actually watch. Who knew he was nowhere near ready for his close-up?

These days even the lowliest intern in Washington knows that politics is all about optics. And however much the backlash over the all-male first panel seems like evidence to the contrary, so do Issa’s staffers. Someone saw to it that Issa had a female staff member sitting next to him, sure to appear on camera every time he leaned in to the mike. (If heads roll over this, why do I feel like hers will be the first to go?) Someone also made sure that the all-male line-up was neither all-white nor all-Christian. So care was taken. No one is pleading ignorance aforethought–no matter how much it seems like the wise thing to do.

The unfortunate truth is that the optics were exactly what the Issa camp ordered–a multicultural, multidenominational parade of patriarchal power, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the frat pack chatted up Coke bottles and pubic hair with Anita Hill.

What surprises me is that the Issa camp doesn’t seem to have seen the power–or expected that others would. I suppose to their minds–and eyes, apparently–the clergy were simply victims of an intrusive, religious freedom-denying state. (The panel’s title, remember, was the unsubtle “Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”)

The problem for us and them is that they did it with a straight face.

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