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)