Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Filibusters and Feminism

After the dramatic, if confusing, end of last night's legislative session in Texas, I felt the need to talk a little about filibusters and feminism.  Senator Wendy Davis' ten hour filibuster of SB85, a bill that would have effectively destroyed Texas women's ability to obtain an abortion by requiring abortion facilities to be certified as surgical facilities, was - for me - absolutely inspiring.

Of course, other people felt differently.  When I posted my support of Sen. Davis on Facebook, a friend of mine responded that, while he supported the cause, he sees filibusters as dirty politics.  For the most part, I don't actually disagree with him.  Nowadays the procedural filibuster is used far too frequently to obstruct the will of the majority on a pretty regular basis.  Procedural filibusters are, in the words of my maternal Grandmother, horse pucky.  This is basically someone saying "I'm filibustering" and then buggering off for a latte.  The procedural filibuster is indeed horse pucky and I absolutely think that the rules for filibusters should be reformed so that people can't use this tactic.  It is dirty and it is obstructionist.

However, there is such a thing as a real actual filibuster.  I'm going to say something that I thought I would never say and that is that I think Texas has got the rules for a filibuster down.  No bathroom breaks, no water, no leaning, and stay on topic are four solid rules for keeping a filibuster in line.  If those were the rules for filibusters then I could support them absolutely.  As it happens, filibusters get used frivolously pretty much all the time.

I can absolutely see why people dislike filibusters and why I am likely alone in my opinion, happily I am freely allowed to have my opinion.  What I cannot disagree with is this sentiment:
"I cannot take her seriously in that outfit and wearing those shoes!!! With something so important, why would you want to look like you don't give a shit? 13 hours yeah,...but she's not cross-training in there! I've had plenty of days in blisteringly painful, appropriate or not footware, and that wasn't for such an important issue!"
This is the opinion of a male friend of mine.  In case you're unaware of the outfit to which he is referring, let me give you a picture.

Originially posted by Moveon.org
What do you think about Senator Davis' outfit?  Trick question, I don't care and neither should you.  Focusing on a person's outfit rather than their message is something that happens to men almost never.  It's something that happens to women all the time.  Sometimes it comes from a nice place.  The last time I was on Plain Speaking (the Blair County Dems' Public Access program), someone told me that I looked so pretty and I was so smart.  Now, I'm super glad that I sounded intelligent and I'm even glad that I looked okay on camera, but did it really matter that I looked pretty?  It really didn't.  Here again, I'm not mad at hearing that I looked good, I'm just saying it didn't really matter.

As a woman, I know that there is a pressure to look a certain way and wear clothes that flatter my body and make-up that looks good with my coloring.  The vast majority of women have felt this kind of sexism.  The story becomes what we were wearing, not what we were saying.  I guess what I'm saying is that if you have more to say about what a woman was wearing than what she was saying is that your priorities are off.  Most especially in a situation like this when a woman like Sen. Wendy Davis is making last stand to defend the rights of the women of Texas, if your mind is drawn more to what she's wearing than what she's saying then I am personally disappointed.

With that, I will adjourn to wait for the DOMA/Prop 8 decisions, on which I hope I will not be disappointed.