After Texas Senate Bill 5—a highly opposed and brutally restrictive abortion bill—finally passed in July, Governor Rick Perry spoke about the protestors: "The louder they scream, the more we know that we are getting something done." Oh, you got something done alright, sir. You set the stage for the best thing to come out of Texas since Ann Richards and Birthday Cake Blue Bell Ice Cream: you gave us Wendy Davis and the world needs Wendy Davis.
When Texas State Senator Davis began her June 25 filibuster against SB 5, most in the country had never heard of this strong woman in bright running shoes. There she stood, wearing a lovely suit and a back brace, speaking for over 11 hours on the ramifications of the proposed bill. Many of us crowded around our televisions that warm summer afternoon and evening, listening in awe as she read heartbreaking tales of women in need from the senate floor.
According to sources, she was even outfitted with a catheter for the event. If you've ever had the joy of wearing a catheter, you know that no matter how properly it's been inserted, it's not a pleasant sensation. My God, the woman fearlessly shoved a flexible tube into her urethra, strapped a bag of piss to her body, and stood on the senate floor for 11 hours to stand up for the rights of women and families.
Of course, its death didn't last long because a lot of dudes in Texas have a lot of opinions about guns, wombs, healthcare, and Jesus. But thanks to Vine, Twitter, YouTube, and sneakers, the word got out anyway: there's a new hero in Texas and she ain't nobody to mess with.
The incredibly tough Davis was raised by a single mother, had her own daughter at 19, lived in a trailer park, attended community college, transferred to TCU on a full scholarship, worked days and nights to provide for her child, and she was finally accepted into Harvard Law School. She is the embodiment of the right wing's bootstrap yankin' wet dream and yet they can't understand how she could turn against them.
On June 27, Perry attacked Davis:
"Even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She was the daughter of a single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate. It's just unfortunate that she hasn't learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters."
"Rick Perry's statement is without dignity and tarnishes the high office he holds. They are small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view. Our governor should reflect our Texas values. Sadly, Gov. Perry fails that test."
The governor can't understand, you see, that Davis has learned that every life matters, that her actions help protect those women who are alive and who must make heart-wrenching choices in order to ensure they'll stay that way. Dead women and their devastated families have a hard time pulling up any straps.
Davis is a hero because, like many, she's dedicated her career to public service. But she's also a hero because she's put herself out there, opened herself up to attack, and made it clear that in a red-as-fuck state, she's willing to take whatever punches she must endure in the hopes of achieving a more fair and just community. When men and women like Davis speak up and receive positive support, it makes it a little bit easier for young women like Daisy Coleman to come forward, tell their awful and silenced tales, and ask for help.
Davis is a hero because she's playing a major role in normalizing these uncomfortable and necessary conversations, conversations once buried deeply under football fields, oil wells, and megachurches. She's a hero because these conversations are making a difference and every time a new story gets told, more and more people are listening.
Will Wendy Davis become the governor of Texas in 2014? Probably not, but far less qualified people have been given the job, so there's always hope that Texas will begin to turn a beautiful shade of purple. But no matter what happens, she's still keep fighting the good fight. So at least we've got that going for us.
[Image via AP]
More Gawker heroes: Ken Layne on Pope Francis, Hamilton Nolan on Subway Brie Man, Cord Jefferson on Vanessa Van Dyke, Rich Juzwiak on Kanye West, Camille Dodero on Antoinette Tuff, J.K. Trotter on Erik Wemple, Adam Weinstein on Alice Munro, Taylor Berman on Anthony Graves, Beejoli Shah on Shia LeBoeuf, Caity Weaver on Beyoncé Selfie Perfect Teen, Sam Biddle on Josh Tetrick, Lacey Donohue on Wendy Davis, Tom Scocca on Ai Weiwei, Max Read on @Dril, and John Cook on Rob Ford.