Wendy Davis Pulls Feminism From the Fringes to the Mainstream

In what was possibly the first example of a political feminist meme, Wendy Davis and her team managed to turn what might have been a fairly unnoticed special legislative session into a full-blown feminist social media extravaganza.
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I have never been to Texas. I do not plan on going to Texas anytime soon. My uncertain future plans do not necessarily include Texas. However, on Tuesday night, I stood alongside thousands of Texans.

The spectacle of Tuesday night's special legislative session was the social media event that American feminists needed. Where traditional media failed, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Tumblr thrived. In what was possibly the first example of a political feminist meme, State Senator Davis -- who announced her intent to filibuster Senate Bill 5 on Twitter -- and her team managed to turn what might have been a fairly unnoticed special legislative session into a full-blown feminist social media extravaganza. Though most major news networks failed to show a live feed of the session, anyone could watch a live feed on YouTube, where 180,000+ people tuned in as the clock neared midnight. As Senator Davis wowed viewers with her passion, determination, and grace -- before Republicans tried to cut her short on a technicality -- her staff received testimonials through posts spread through Facebook and Tumblr; and throughout the filibuster, a countless number of people showed their support on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr with #StandWithWendy.

What was beautiful about Tuesday night was not just that the women of Texas and those who care for them no longer have to fear for their right to choose; rather, it's that people joined together to support a cause that may not ever affect them. Though abortion is frequently pushed aside as solely a "women's issue," it was heartwarming to see protests against the Senate Bill from women and men, white and of color, Texans and non-Texans, young and old alike.

It made me think about another event, earlier this week, when the Supreme Court struck down section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a pivotal section designed to prevent voting discrimination in areas that were frequently afflicted by unjust voting discrimination. In the 5-to-4 ruling, an entirely male and predominantly white (save for the always confusing Clarence Thomas) body ruled that this section no longer applies to contemporary America. In short, they argued that Obama's America is "post-racial" and thus voting discrimination cannot possibly exist. These men of Supreme Court perfectly demonstrated the idea that, "If it doesn't happen to me, then it doesn't happen to anyone." By occupying the identity of the privileged white cisgendered male heterosexual, these men falsely posited that their experience is universal. These men have never had to fear that their voices would not matter, would not be heard. In striking down section 4(b), Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito failed in the most essential civic duty of any political leader, whether they are members of SCOTUS or the Texas Senate: To ensure that no one who raises his or her voice will go unheard.

Though the VRA debacle proved to be a travesty of justice, Senator Davis' filibuster showed that disparate voices can join together to support people who have been ignored and dismissed for too long.

Although the vast majority of Americans are not feminists, this undeniably feminist event captured the attention and imaginations of hundreds of thousands of people Tuesday night.

What was at stake wasn't just the passing of a bill that would impose some of the nation's strictest abortion laws; rather, it was the idea that if the bill passed, then Texas women would once again have their ability to stand up for their own rights and lives ripped out from underneath their feet. When countless protestors stood alongside Senator Davis -- in the courthouse and on the Internet -- we were not just saying, "This bill is a mistake," but also, "My voice will not go unheard."

I have never been to Texas, but on Tuesday night I stood alongside thousands of Texans. And I will be proud to stand beside them and raise my voice with them again.

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