Cabe column: Wendy Davis sees Hillary hatred as sexism
When it’s revealed that the Republican presidential candidate, who already has a track record for misogyny, said he grabs women by the crotch whenever he feels like it, a feminist like myself needs a little validation and rejuvenation.
Luckily for me, former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis happened to be in Carbondale the day after that awful recording leaked. Even luckier, I got to hear her speak when she kicked off a voter registration and canvassing event at Carbondale’s Democratic Party headquarters, and then I got to speak to her one-on-one for about 20 minutes.
For those of you who may not remember, Davis earned national attention in 2013 when she filibustered a Texas bill that placed extreme restrictions on abortion clinics. She stood speaking for 11 hours in her iconic pink tennis shoes, drawing in such a huge crowd that the entire, giant Texas Capitol was filled with her supporters.
Despite her best efforts, the bill passed about a week later, and more than half of Texas’ clinics that offered abortions closed, leaving only 19 in the state. While the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law this past June, the damage has been done for so many.
While there may be people out there who still believe Texas made the right call, most Americans still believe in a woman’s right to an abortion, even if they wouldn’t opt for one themselves, and anyone who thinks a woman doesn’t have a right to reproductive planning resources must be off his or her rocker.
However, attributing the kinds of decisions that Texas made to deep-seated misogyny is where most people start to tune me out. This is America, after all, and sexism is over. Right?
For evidence to the contrary, we need look no further than the presidential election. Donald Trump’s supporters hate Hillary Clinton because she was cheated on, but they don’t hate Trump for cheating. They hate Hillary for her husband’s rape and sexual assault allegations, but they don’t hate Trump for his own. They hate Hillary for defending her husband in one of the most trying times in their relationship and, probably, her entire life, but they don’t hate Trump for defending his “grab her by the pussy” comments (or countless other glorifications of misogyny) as just “locker room talk.”
Not only do Trump supporters hate Hillary for what they see as her slip-ups in dealing with her husband’s infidelity, but they completely ignore her qualifications and her lifelong dedication to public service.
And that was one of my favorite points with Wendy Davis. So often, we get caught up in how important it is not to elect Trump, she said, and we completely ignore why Hillary is actually a great candidate. We don’t hear enough about what she’s done for America.
In the ’70s, Hillary co-founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, one of the state’s first child advocacy groups. Anyone who’s appreciated the services of River Bridge, either from afar or from personal experience, should appreciate the work Hillary did for children in Arkansas.
When she was first lady, Hillary fought for the Obamacare idea before Obama became a household name. Some may not see that as a good thing, but I believe her efforts to provide insurance for all Americans are admirable, especially when she was told the entire time that it wasn’t “her place” to get involved with policy.
When universal health care didn’t happen, Hillary was instrumental in creating CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides coverage to 8 million kids in America today.
During her time as a U.S. senator and secretary of state, Hillary continued fighting for families, women and girls, focusing on improving the lives of girls internationally and at home.
And all this time, what has Donald Trump done for America? How has he improved life for families in the U.S.? By having three of them? By refusing to pay contractors for their work, even as he profits from it? By saying awful things about women and minorities on the record and off?
So what is it that makes Trump’s supporters hate Hillary and love Donald? Why is it that Hillary is being held to much higher standards than former male presidential candidates? After all, all politicians lie. They’re all self-serving. Some are objectively far, far worse than Hillary.
When I asked Wendy Davis why Hillary faces such vitriolic scrutiny, she chuckled and said, “Because she’s a woman.”
And it was so refreshing to hear that simple truth stated bluntly by an intelligent female politician. She told me about her own dealings with the boys’ club that is government, and she told me about how inspiring Hillary was to her when she was first lady; she was educated, experienced in public service in her own right and determined to get involved rather than stand by as a ceremonial figure.
Many will fight against this idea that Hillary is so hated simply because she’s a woman because we know on a conscious level now that sexism is wrong. We know we’re not supposed to feel threatened by women in powerful positions. But we do — even other women do. And we’re seeing the manifestation of that implicit bias against powerful women in this election cycle.
Before you accuse me of “playing the victim,” I’m not arguing that this implicit bias is enough to stop the majority of women from succeeding. I think anyone who saw the debate Sunday knows a woman can still beat a man to the top. It just makes the climb a little harder.
The first step to solving a problem is admitting it, and America has a problem with sexism. Everything from the fight to defund public women’s health clinics (which are prevented, by law, from using federal tax money for abortion services) to holding our presidential candidates to wildly different character standards proves it. I hope soon we can collectively swallow our pride and start addressing these issues, just as Wendy Davis has done with such poise and intelligence.
And great shoes.
Jessica Cabe is with her. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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