If you haven’t already witnessed the outrage on the news, Twitter (#tampongate), or Rachel Maddow’s blog, let me fill you in quickly on the actions of the Texas DPS this past Friday at the Texas Capitol. Upon entering the Senate Gallery to observe the hearing on House Bill 2, Texas Department of Public Service Officers, who serve as security for the Capitol building, were searching the bags of those entering. By itself, this isn’t that big of a deal. Liquids and food are not allowed in the gallery because it is historic and they want to protect it. What is not understandable is what else DPS Officers were confiscating upon entrance: tampons and maxi-pads. Yes. Security officers were taking and disposing of feminine hygiene products upon entry of the Senate Gallery. This meant that women currently menstruating, about 20% of women at any given time, and women soon expecting to be menstruating, another 10% of women, were DENIED access to the Senate Gallery unless they were willing to sacrifice their personal hygiene.
Through the debate the last six weeks over the attempt by Texas’ religious conservatives to impose their personal religious convictions on Texas by restricting access to abortion services, I have avoided any reference to this being a ‘war on women’, as has so often been proclaimed, because I understood how it could simply be an ideological disagreement. That is, until this moment. This is when I realized I was wrong. It was suddenly made clear that Texas is waging a war on women.
The incident on Friday was either an outright attack on women or criminal disregard for the rights of women in order to protect the pride of the all-male leadership in Texas. But let’s be clear, either way it is evidence of a war against women. From the mounting evidence, including Perry’s recent veto of a bill that would guarantee equal pay for women, it is becoming more obvious that what is going on in Texas is purposeful.
To cynically use the normal and natural processes of the female body as a tool to keep as many women as possible from participating in and observing their own government shows not only the contempt in which the leaders of Texas hold women, but also the fear they have of them. One would be hard pressed to find another example of the disdain and hatred that can be expressed toward women in the last few years without turning to the ever-present, barbaric teachings of Leviticus, which religious conservatives claim still to follow.
It is an amazing testament to the spirit of the women of Texas fighting for their rights that the Senate Gallery was still filled with women, despite this attack on them. As a male Texan, watching this story unfold broke my heart, and inflated my already growing disappointment in our state. However, the courage and strength displayed by the women at the Capitol filled me with hope at the same time.
Reports from those at the Capitol on Friday claim Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) put a stop to the confiscations. We are not sure how this happened or what was said, but we are thankful for his actions.
In an attempt to cover-up their obvious guilt, the Texas DPS has released two separate stories to justify their actions. First, the DPS claimed they intercepted information that a protest was planned to throw feminine hygiene products from the gallery. Even if this were true, which is hard to believe considering there has been no evidence brought forward of such a protest being planned, there is a line that one cannot cross as an officer of the law. We do not sacrifice the Constitution of the United States, with the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments guaranteeing equal treatment under the law for all citizens, to ensure that David Dewhurst isn’t embarrassed. Even if one thousand maxi-pads had been thrown from the gallery, the results would have been minimal (picking them up) compared to the unconstitutional attack on women the DPS undertook.
Later on in the day the DPS added to their story and claimed that they had confiscated “bottles of urine” and “jars of feces” that some attempted to bring into the Senate Gallery (once again, no evidence of this being true has come forward; including no Twitter images of feces or urine confiscation and no knowledge of feces or urine confiscation by the DPS officers doing the searches), throwing into the middle that this is why they were confiscating tampons and maxi-pads. Adding another false reason to an already false reason does not add up to a reason to violate constitutionally guaranteed rights.
In the end there is absolutely no excuse for the actions of the DPS and Texas leadership. This was either a cynical and outright attack on the women of Texas or a brilliant demonstration of the criminal lack of concern or compassion for Texas women and their rights. Either way, the attack is equally as damaging to women and our State. If the DPS and the leaders of Texas cannot see the truth of this then they need to take a step back from their positions of power, which they are currently using as a tool of abuse, and seriously examine the unchecked privilege in which they operate.
The DPS should be ashamed and the leaders of Texas should be ashamed. That is if they are capable of feeling shame for such actions. It is growing increasingly obvious, however, that they are not. After Friday, this war against women does not seem to be an accident. It does not seem to be a simple misunderstanding over differing ideologies. This specific attack against women seems to have been a targeted and obvious attempt to remove women from the political process and possibly revealing the desire by the all-male leadership in Texas to return Texas to the days when men had exclusive access to power and an exclusive voice in public policy.
We, as Texans, need to take the necessary actions to not only guarantee the rights of women in Texas, and their access to the political process, but to ensure that we have more women who are willing to stand up to this abuse of privilege in positions of power in our State.