You’ve probably heard what’s been going on down in Texas. With any political battle around abortion, there are always a dozen sides to one story. Needless to say, the media isn’t consistently getting the story right.
As a young Austinite, this fight– both at the capital and in the media – is personal. We’ve been fighting for a voice in our government these past couple weeks, and it pisses me off we have to fight for it in the media too. Here are 3 of the media errors that have been getting under my skin the most:
While Rachel Maddow has been a friend to the pro-choice, democratic side of this fight, she’s bestowed magical powers on the protestors, activists, and organizers in Austin. According to Maddow the “Texas style magic” is nearly effortless, saying “…now you can turn out several thousand outraged blue voters without much effort at all.” This referring to the rally held at the Texas state capital on Monday – the start of the second special session called by Gov. Perry. An estimated 5,000 pro-choice activists showed their support sporting burnt orange t-shirts and an array for protest signs. Since when is organizing a protest and rally where 5,000 plus people show up, with less than a weeks’ notice, deemed effortless? The actual organizing was a grassroots movement that required tireless work, support and encouragement of uncountable individuals within the state and across the country. People shared rides, donated couches and food, even money. The “effortless” rally was the result of the dogged efforts of local and national organizations and individuals, hundreds and thousands of Facebook posts and way too many tweets and hash tags to count. There was nothing effortless about this, and saying so, really takes away from the impact; 5,000 people just don’t show up individually because they could. For Maddow to claim this as “magical” negates the work done by organizers, making it seem impossible to recreate for others who might not think they have the support of 5,000 activists.
2. Wendy Davis, lone wolf?
Like many others, I didn’t know who Wendy Davis was before last week. Nevertheless I tuned into the live feed for much of her filibuster and was impressed. But she is not the whole story. Much of the focus in the media, especially since the filibuster last week, has been focused on Davis; her efforts, her career, her past…her shoes? While it is fantastic to have democratic female leadership in the senate, I find a more compelling story in the hundreds and thousands of activists and protesters. Throughout the past couple weeks I’ve heard countless stories of human kindness, inspiring stories of bravery from the many that testified, and watched while these women and men continued to fight every day despite knowing they were at a disadvantage. Hundreds of these protestors showed up at the capital days before Davis’ filibuster even though we knew Republicans had the majority. Jessica Valenti writes for The Nation , “Texas feminists knew the GOP had the votes, and they fought anyway.” Valenti’s article highlighting these things and Wendy Davis at the same time wasn’t the only one that did so, but it was all-too-rare. Wendy Davis did not “win” this fight for Texas women alone. Texas women (and men!) played a major role in it too.
3. Details, details
I’m fearful that a lot of people are getting distracted by what we’re fighting for here. While the new Amazon reviews of Wendy Davis’ shoes are yes, hilarious, I’ve seen way too many articles about them. And they’re not the only detail that’s distracting us from the big picture. Too few media outlets are relating what’s going on in the Texas legislature with what is also going on in both North Carolina and Ohio when it comes to abortion restriction and legislation. If you braved the Maddow clip from above – and watched the whole thing – you’ve got an idea on what’s going on here, but I didn’t until I saw that specific clip. What’s happening in Texas, and practically my back yard, is amazing. I’m stunned, awed, and humbled by it every day, but we’re not the only ones who need thousands of protesters and sneaker- wielding- Senators. And I’m frustrated that our fight hasn’t brought more attention to the other legislation being passed around the country. We thought Texas republicans were sneaky with Senate Bill 5? Ohio republicans have successfully passed the most sweeping restrictive abortion legislation in the country, and they did it inside the state’s new budget.
Folks were upset last week when national media coverage had yet to pick up this battle in Texas, and I shared that frustration. But now that it’s big news, I hope the media focuses on what we’re fighting for, and what’s at stake if we lose.