Feminism: Filibuster Retrospective (Part 4)

Previous Post: Filibuster Retrospective Part 3

This is a continuation of the filibuster retrospective post I started here. I was forced to break the post up into multiple postings because of the huge number of tweets involved (which was making the page LOAD-ANGRY on some browsers). This post starts at the 6:00 pm mark during the filibuster and covers the second sustained Point of Order (POO).

Tweets after the jump.

Without being overly "divisive", I do want to point out that for pretty much the entire filibuster, until the proverbial eleventh hour, Wendy Davis and Texans received almost no attention from either the quote-unquote liberal mainstream, the federal Democratic leadership, or national feminist leadership, including many of the popular white feminists located in major northern urban U.S. cities. This is not necessarily surprising -- the mentality in the U.S. that southern states are predominantly back-woods, sparsely-populated, and largely-Republican is a common (though false) trope that has deep roots -- but it is a problem that needs to be underlined and addressed.

I'm not suggesting that everyone should jump on a criticism bandwagon or anything, but I do think we need to have a discussion about our leaders in the media, in politics, and in the blogosphere. It shouldn't require the media event of the year -- 120,000+ people tuning into a jaggy YouTube livestream of a state senate floor at midnight CST -- for our national leaders to take notice when Republicans try to reduce the women of my state to a serf class. This is supposed to be the sort of thing that our leaders should care about. (Certainly, pardon me, more so than whatever fucking plane Edward Snowden is rumored to be located on. If you were tweeting about Snowden during the filibuster, I unfollowed you. SORRY.)

Something really special about the Davis / Watson question and answer session was how much they revealed about the impact the bill would have on the lives of women and people with uteri in Texas, even including how much the bill would have affected Wendy Davis herself when she was younger. Wendy Davis revealed that she had experienced an ectopic pregnancy, which could not be treated under SB5.

I have pointed out in a previous post just how disability-unfriendly this filibuster process is/was. Standing for thirteen hours, without any food or drink, is something that only a specific sort of able body can accomplish. And it was the disableism of the filibuster rules that landed the second Point of Order on Senator Davis: the senate body ruled that she had received "assistance" from another senator when Senator Rodney Ellis helped her put on a back brace.

Now, I wear a back brace. They are fiddly things to put on, especially under long dress jackets like the one Wendy Davis was wearing. They're heavier than they look (because, you know, they BRACE you), and the velcro likes to stick to things because velcro is onery like that. I have no doubt that Senator Davis could have put the back brace on without help, and I have no doubt that Senator Ellis was trying to be kind to someone he respects. But the Republicans leaped on the chance because in a hearing about controlling women's bodies, it was VERY VERY IMPORTANT to control a lady senator's body.

Also: It is not incidental that Senator Davis is a white woman and Senator Ellis is a black man. And so we end up with a trifecta of problems: Republicans controlling a woman's body; Republicans policing a woman and forcing her to stand alone without aid; and Republicans demanding that black men not touch women's bodies, even when that touching is consensual.

While the POO was being discussed, Senator Zaffirini -- a pro-life Catholic Democrat who voted against SB5 because it is bad for women and who was an ally to Davis throughout the night -- reasonably argued that the rules state a senator must be seated while a POO is being determined, and argued (firstly) that Senator Davis should be allowed to sit down, and (secondly) that the rules didn't apply to Davis in the first place because they were written with male pronouns: "HE shall remain standing, HE shall not lean on HIS desk". Dewhurst overruled Zaffirini without explanation.

Dewhurst chose not to rule on the back brace Point of Order and instead passed it to the members for debate and a vote. Of course, there was a (legitimate, as it turned out) concern that the Republican members would rule the POO to be valid despite the fact that it was utter bullshit. But the Democratic allies on the floor valiantly argued that (a) never before had the "rules" been applied so literally, and (b) applying the rule in this manner in this case would (theoretically) seriously damage the filibuster tool for future use.

Senator Ellis in particular pointed out the sheer hypocrisy of the objection, stating for the record that when he was present at the longest one-man Texas filibuster on record -- Bill Meier who held the floor for 43 hours against a worker's compensation bill because Big Business -- he (Ellis) witnessed members of the senate forming a wall of human bodies for privacy while another member held a wastebasket for Senator Meier to piss into.

And that is how the second POO was sustained: because a black man helped a white woman don a disability device, and a senate composed overwhelmingly by white men voted that this was massively inappropriate.


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