Texas senator Wendy Davis made headlines last summer when she conducted an 11 hour long filibuster in an effort to block a bill enforcing more strict abortion regulations. It didn’t take too long for her to gain notoriety, and subsequently come under fire for everything conservatives could think of.
Let’s begin with Abortion Barbie. This clever nickname was bestowed upon her by journalist Erik Erickson in a tweet in response to the filibuster. Though he came under fire for it (from the “leftist media” by his accounts), he was unapologetic, instead suggesting MSNBC give her a pair of tampon earrings.
More recently, Dallas Morning News political writer Wayne Slater sought to correct some of the fallacies in Wendy Davis’ autobiography. In the article, he proposes that Wendy Davis’ trailer park livin’, young single mother backstory is just a façade that Wendy uses. Quoting an anonymous source, Slater suggests that “She’s not going to let family or raising children or anything else to get in her way,” effectively saying that Wendy Davis put her political aspirations over her children.
The onslaught of responses after the article was published included calling Wendy a liar and a bad mother, suggesting (or outright saying) that she was an inadequate mother. What bothered me most about the bad mother comments was the general insinuation that being an ambitious woman and being a good mother are mutually exclusive pursuits.
These systematic attacks against women alarm me because they tend to shift the focus from her actual platform. After all, studies have shown that sexist insults can have a negative impact on the campaigns of female candidates.
Unless that’s the point. If keeping strong women out of major offices is the goal, then shifting the focus towards their personal lives would be the way to do it. If the phrase “ambitious woman” can be placed synonymously with “bad mother,” then you’re job is halfway done with conservatives. If you can do a job of making single mothers feel bad, then you can effectively tarnish Davis’ credibility with a lot of other groups as well.
In my opinion, I believe intimidation plays a major role in the motives of the anti-Wendy campaign. Wendy has become a strong contender in the race for Texas governor and therefore poses a real threat to the current administration. She is targeting an often ignored, but strong in numbers, demographic and she really resonates with their everyday lives. This is so contrary to ultra-red, gun-toting politics familiar to the Lone Star State. So the natural approach would be to target the main selling point of Davis’ campaign: her integrity. The only problem with that is that it’s so obvious and, I believe, won’t work in the long run.