Intersectionality — it’s a term tossed around in academic circles, feminist discussions, etc…however, this past few weeks has led me to see and feel my intersecting identities in a very intense way. As a woman not of, but in Texas I have been dismayed by the legislature’s attacks on women’s health, yet buoyed by the sisterhood shared in the protests, rallies, and marches. As a black mother with two young sons, I feel betrayed by our system of justice that allows a young black boy to be murdered with no penalty to his assailant– a man who carried a gun and followed him without any indication that he was suspicious, except for the color of his skin. As a political scientist, I have been fascinated with the development of a potential movement, the way that politicians on both sides of the aisle have tried to capitalize on a hotly contested issue, and the potential fallout for future elections. At times I haven’t know whether to laugh, cry, or start writing. In the end, I will do all three at various times.
I have read so many articles and commentaries about the situation for women in Texas, about Trayvon Martin and the trial that set his murderer free — in general, I’m a political junkie. In his commentary this past week, Charles M. Blow talks about how the system failed Trayvon and us — but the political system over the last few years has also failed women, particularly poor, rural women in Texas. The system has made the private political in a way that damages us all. I am black. I am a woman. I am a mother. I am an academic. I care about access to healthcare. I care about choice. I care about my sons. I care about the direction this country is taking. Yes, we must have all of these discussions about race, about gender equality, about overall inequalities…but as a political scientist I know it all comes down to power. I feel the main way to generate change is at the ballot box.
So I will work on registering voters, encouraging friends to be politically aware, and if they have the time, involved. I will continue examining my own role as a citizen of a country in turmoil. I will continue to talk to my boys about the world that we live in and how they may be perceived because of the color of their skin. But most of all, I will try my best to keep these words from the Roosevelt memorial in my heart:
On November 6, 2012, my friend Dean Lofton and I decided we’d had enough of the war on women and we wanted to start a group that would encourage women of all political persuasions to get involved in politics. Thus “Austin Women for Political Action” was born on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Austin-Women-for-Political-Action/114614922031858?ref=hl). Little did we know that this would become the summer of women’s discontent in Austin. The legislature avoided issues related to abortion (although not women’s health) during the regular session, but then came the special session. The stories of the first special session have been well documented by people like Jessica Luther in this article: http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/13/07/use-your-voice/277481/ Wendy Davis’ filibuster helped to mobilize a group of women, including many in our own organization, that had stood on the sidelines while the Texas legislature passed laws during the last session, like the one requiring sonograms before an abortion. Many of these women had never been involved in a political protest or rally before. I was in Europe for a conference that fateful day, but I followed the events as closely as I could and many of my friends were tweeting and posting the latest details on facebook, so in many ways I felt like I was a part of the action. Those who participated were encouraged to wear orange, and the rallying cry began as “Stand with Wendy” and has morphed into “Stand With Texas Women” (#SWTW on twitter).
I returned to Austin last Thursday and got caught up on the latest, including the fact that Governor Perry had called a second special session. I was able to join the large protest at the capitol on Monday, July 1st. It’s very likely that the abortion bill will pass but the most exciting part of all of this has been the energy that has been created. This is about much more than a law that will limit abortions. It’s about women’s access to healthcare, which has already been limited by Texas’ decision to turn down federal funds. This will impact women across large parts of Texas. It’s also about the democratic process, and allowing women’s voices to be heard. Referred to as an “unruly mob” this is much more than that. In what can only be described as a nearly spontaneous outpouring of frustration, Texas women have finally said “we’ve had enough!” Here are a few images from Monday’s rally: