Disorderly Notes From the Revolution

If you’re looking for a seamless account of Wendy Davis’s filibuster in the Texas Senate on Tuesday, you need a younger blogger who’s had more sleep than I’ve had. That said, here are some assorted reflections:

1) The pro-choice supporters wore orange. They were young, old, and in-between, male and female. They gathered in the gallery of the Senate in the Texas state capitol. When the gallery overflowed, they waited in lines that curved around the capitol rotunda, up and down staircases. Many of them waited for hours. They refused to go home.

2) Wendy Davis, the filibustering senator from Fort Worth, was even more remarkable than you’ve heard. Watching her, you knew a political star was being born. She remained standing for more than 12 hours in her now-fabled pink tennis shoes. She also remained poised, polite, calm, and eloquent the entire time, which is more than anybody could say for the Republicans.

The only time Davis exhibited much emotion was when she read heartrending stories from her supporters. When she told the story of the woman whose much-wanted baby had turned out to be fatally defective, who found herself planning for a burial plot, instead of a baby bed, her voice cracked with pain. Around me, everyone in the gallery was crying. Where were the alleged pro-lifers now, the people who insisted they cared so much for the pre-born? I wondered. They were nowhere to be found.

3) Actually, I lied: Davis showed some real ire and emotion when she expressed what an outrage it was for women to have the most intimate details of their lives and bodies governed by legislative bodies mostly composed of men.

4) Recently, I met with a group of younger women to talk about Sheryl Sandberg’s book about feminist success, Lean In. We all liked the book and its relentless encouragement of women to push themselves forward, even — or especially — when it wasn’t comfortable.

“We all know how bad we feel when we should have spoken up, but didn’t,” I commented at one point.

I can’t count the number of times in my life when I blew it and stayed silent. How wonderful to be part of a day when we all spoke up and we were many and loud.

5) I’d read, like all of you, the accounts of the power of social media, which I found interesting in theory. To see it in action, though, and to be part of it, was an entirely different experience.

Almost everyone at the Capitol was armed with a smartphone, laptop, or both. Any words that were spoken there and any actions that were taken were recorded and disseminated to the world.

That changes everything.

When the Senate Republicans claimed they had voted by midnight, there was proof they had not. When a young man was overcome by several troopers, cell phones were whipped out and held high.

6) Don’t let anybody tell you young women aren’t interested in protecting their reproductive rights. They were there. And plenty of men were there, too.

7) Something very interesting occurred when the state troopers began to forcibly clear out the gallery close to midnight. They ignored a section of people dressed in blue, which was, for some reason, the color of the forced-birth contingent.

A man in orange protested. Why were we being ejected and they weren’t?

Another man, dressed in a blue suit, with a thick coif of black hair, gestured to the state troopers. He pointed at the demure blue people. “They can stay,” he ordered the troopers. “They haven’t been disruptive.”

After a general uproar from the orange, the blue people were eventually led out. The man in blue disappeared into  the Senate offices, escorted by a couple of troopers.

Who was he? Any guesses?

8) The state troopers, who were mostly men, were a bit flummoxed when it came to hauling women out of the gallery. With the men in the gallery, they were able to be rougher.

That’s Texas chivalry for you. They take away women’s rights when we blink too long — but they try not to manhandle us in front of the cameras.

9) Oh, sure, the battle isn’t over. Rick Perry can call another special session and they can still pass the law. Of course they can. They’re Republicans. They not only think they can turn back last night’s clock, they think they can turn back the millennium.

10) But even a temporary victory is sweet — especially when we’re able to celebrate today’s Supreme Court rulings with our gay friends. For people who believe in equality and civil rights and the power of love, it’s been a monumental 24 hours. Let’s savor it while we can.

(Copyright 2013 by Ruth Pennebaker)

29 comments… add one
  • I’m so glad you were there for that historic night. Voices must be raised!

  • Brilliantly said. Thank you for standing up and being heard, and being part of this social media revolution. — John

  • Babs Haller

    Standing O! Your final words gave me chills!

  • Kathy Checkley

    Nice blog post. Savoring… hoping we’ll have at least a few days post-filibustering afterglow…

  • Thanks for reporting on this here. It must have been so exiting to be present. I followed your tweets yesterday, too. Meanwhile our local television went on and on about whether some million-dollar Patriots football player would be arrested today. (He was.)

  • Fabulous account of some of the happenings. I caught up the last hour and a half or so after being out, and I went to bed in tears because I thought it had passed.

  • Cynthia

    I have said it before, but thanks again for being there and sharing it with all of us who couldn’t. I watched the video feed (when my PC wasn’t buffering) and laughed and cried along with you. I’ve never been so proud of all of you.

  • Wow, I missed this as it was going on, but it must have been incredible to be there.

  • Linda Unger

    so emotional, such a deserved outcome

  • Cindy D.

    Last night, I hung on your every post and picture – switching between the feed and my facebook acount. It was a good 24 hours to be a native Texas woman. I don’t often say that. In between celebrating with my gay friends and my feminist peeps, I’ve been on the phone with the vet. While I was watching Wendy, my lab retriever, Claire, ate a package of needles and thread. We’ve accounted for 5 of the six needles. I’ll be watching a lot of shit for the next few days but at least it won’t be about women’s right to choose.

  • Thank you so much for speaking up and sharing with all of us that there are women young and old in Texas that are willing to fight and be heard over such an important issue! May the rest of us around the country be as willing (and have the same kind of leadership as Wendy Davis) as this issue continues to be an area of concern in the future. ~Kathy

  • Lawrence Jackson

    Thanks for your terrific coverage of this important event and for all your good work!

  • Chris

    I am on a trip to NM but was watching all the TV coverage at home last night. I was anticipating all day that when we arrived at our hotel, I would get a report from you & I did! Thanks for giving first-hand details and for being there.

  • Ruth, I am so proud of you for being there!

  • Steve

    Re: Cindy D–It was good night to be a Texan of either sex (I’m old school; words have gender, but people have sex). And, while Cindy is “watching a lot of shit the next few days,” I experienced it in real time at the height of the chaos, when doggie diarrhea afflicted my dachshund, Sierra. Although not amused at having to clean up the unbelievable mess on the floor, I was amused at the appropriateness of her reaction to the mess I was watching on the senate floor.

  • Thanks so much for representing all of us who could be there in spirit only. Hope to see you and other Right To Choose people for Round 2 on Monday, July 1 for the next “Special Session” at the State Capitol.

  • Barb Fox

    Thank you for your amazing first-hand account of the filibuster. It does my heart good to see the outpouring of women in support of of their own rights. This is the start of something very, very good… 🙂

  • “I can’t count the number of times in my life when I blew it and stayed silent.”

    Now, I can’t believe that!

    Great reporting~

  • Thank you, thank you, for being there to represent women. And thank you for your social media updates – I loved having that perspective.

  • Jackie Cantor

    Ruth, a thousand thanks for this post. I may be a native New Yorker, but on Tuesday, I was a Texan through and through. God Bless Wendy Davis, and her supporters. and you.

  • AWESOME that you were there and part of all of this.
    THANK YOU for helping me to stay informed.
    My FAVORITE quote of the day:
    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”- Mahatma Gandhi

  • How exciting for you to be on the scene. A new twist on war correspondent. Thanks for all the info (from FB and here).

  • merr

    What a time this must have been – unforgettable!

  • Carolyn

    Great account! In Australia we are watching your struggles for women’s right to choose and for marriage equality with great interest.

  • Great blow-by-blow account, Ruth. Must’ve been so exciting to be part of the process, even though it had to be exasperating at times.

  • How empowering it must have been to witness and be a part of this history-making filibuster.

  • It must have been a powerful experience to be there in person.

  • It’s been amazing to watch from afar. With you all in spirit from Michigan!

  • Brette Pruitt

    The right-wing male’s vehemence against abortion is rooted more in misogyny than concern for the unborn.

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