Why Should Feminists Stay in the Lone Star State? To Mess With Texas


AlterNet wasn’t wrong when they called Texas the second worst state in the country for women. No, they pretty much nailed it. Our mostly white, male conservative legislators are happy to let our Medicaid Women’s Health Program expire because they believe Planned Parenthood forces abortion on every woman who walks through clinic doors. Amid a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall that has threatened to cripple what little existed of Texas’ social programs, our governor, Rick Perry, declared it an “emergency” that abortion is legal and accessible here. Soon, Texas will require women who want an abortion to undergo an invasive vaginal ultrasound at least 24 hours before their procedure and tell a doctor they do not want to see an image of the fetus or hear its possibly available heartbeat, but they’ll still have to listen to a description of the fetus. And rape culture? No shortage here.

Rick Perry and his legislator buddies refuse to tap into the state’s “Rainy Day” fund to help keep women healthy and children educated properly because the needs of women and children in Texas are secondary to political posturing and big business. Texas has more uninsured people–notably, more uninsured women and children–than any other state. Of course, that’s not a problem for Texas legislators who believe crisis pregnancy centers provide pap smears. And then there’s the array of ways in which the state treats LGBTQ Texans like second-class citizens: here, conservatives hate gay people so much they almost, through a legal technicality, outlawed all marriage in an effort to keep gays out of the institution.

These are not fringe elements of conservative whack-a-doodle politics in Texas. They are business as usual. They are the norm. They are status quo. We may once have had Ann Richards, but those days are past. Today, we are a state run by old privileged white guys for old privileged white guys. Great Tex-Mex, excellent musical traditions and beautiful weather ain’t gonna fix it, y’all.

What is going to fix it are smart, feminist people staying here in Texas and doing the hard work of grassroots activism, writing and talking and campaigning instead of hopping the first flight to a cold city with a Democratic congressperson and a Sunday night erotic reading series at an adorable indie coffee shop.

Believe you me, I have tried to leave. More than once.

The first time, I was 18 years old and headed for college at New York University, anxious to get out of the cookie-cutter suburb of Fort Worth where I grew up. But at NYU, I struggled to love the city that I had longed to live in my entire life. I found myself too often defending Texas against people who saw the state, and its people, as punchlines. Still, I thought, I couldn’t be right to miss Texas. Maybe studying abroad in London would help–maybe the problem was that I wasn’t far enough away from Texas. To my dismay, studying abroad only made me less enchanted with New York. I didn’t miss anything about NYC, and I was desperate for a decent taco.

Disenchanted with the city, I graduated a year early from NYU. I left the man I was sure I wanted to spend my life with because I didn’t want to follow him to Washington, D.C. I took the first job I was offered post-graduation at a newspaper in Dallas. I thought I’d capitulated to Texas life, but I was wrong. I tried to leave one more time.

It was during graduate school in cultural anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, where I was writing a thesis on female stand-up comics. I went back to New York City to conduct fieldwork, thinking perhaps it was my awkward youth that had made my first try there such a failure. I interviewed comedians and went to summer concerts and hooked up with incredibly hot bearded men in my six-floor walk-up apartment. I even brought my cats. By anyone’s account, I was doing it right as a liberal, feminist twenty-something activist in the big city. But god, I just wanted to get back to Texas.

I say all this because I want you to understand that I’m not trying to play the martyr here. I am not trying to show off the feminist cross I am forced to carry uphill both ways in 115-degree summers, all the while crying jalapeno tears because I touched my eyes after I made salsa.

I know why liberal, feminist or otherwise progressive and left-leaning people leave this place, and I don’t blame them. Anyone who lives here whose wellbeing is harmed by constantly feeling in conflict with others or discriminated against absolutely deserves to live a life of peace and comfort.

I know it can be bad. My conservative, Republican family never fails to make fun of my feminist bumper sticker. I¹ve been practically laughed out of the offices of legislators I¹ve lobbied for pro- choice causes. I know how Texans take it personally when anyone dares criticize their state. It’s fucking ridiculous that there exist cake pans shaped like Texas. And it’s always nice to remember that it’s still technically illegal to have anal sex in Texas if you’re gay.

I asked many of my Texan feminist friends why they don’t leave for friendlier political climes, and many spoke of the intangible Texanness that natives of this state experience and that I feel in my heart. I don’t expect outsiders to understand it. Maybe it happens in other states, I’m not sure. I’ve got the Texas blinders. It’s incredibly hard to separate oneself from one’s Texan identity, maybe because we all grow up eating cakes from stupid Texas-shaped cake pans. I don’t know.

Allison in Austin told me: “because being a Texan matters so very much to me, I feel strongly that working towards making “being a Texan” a good thing, an easier thing, a fairer thing, is important work for me.”

Marla, in Dallas: “Because we have a right and an obligation to effect change in the place we call home.”

Some feminists were more practical: Texas is a cheap place to live, and it’s hard for many people to live far from their families and long-time friends. Some feminists I talked to are in graduate school and tied down by academic responsibilities. My friend Rachel says she stays for the bourbon. But by far, my favorite reason was from Emily in Dallas, who gave as her reason, simply, “SPITE.”

I know that I love Texas too much, and I love Texans too much, to pack my bags and leave this state to be stripped down into something unrecognizable by people whose hearts are filled with hate and ignorance and contempt for equality. Yes, our elected representatives have, along with those in many other parts of the country (Indiana!), spent recent years doing all they can to make life worse for women. But I wonder if that’s largely a reflection of a Texas that doesn’t know, or perhaps has forgotten, what feminism looks like and can do for it.

If feminist Texans leave, who will be left here to fight? I refuse to believe that Texas is a lost feminist cause.

I’m not the feminist savior of Texas, but if I don’t leave, and if my feminist friends don’t leave, maybe we can bring more people to our side. Maybe we’ll get to change the minds of people who might otherwise have spent their lives hearing anti-feminist, anti-choice voices on the radio, in the legislature, on the television, in the streets, at the restaurant, behind the bar. Maybe if we don’t leave, we can change the conversation instead of scoffing and tsking from outside while anti-feminist, anti-woman laws and social practices leave a legacy of lasting, visceral harm on real, live Texans.

If you’re a Texan, and you’re a feminist and you can stay, please stay. I’ll get you a cold Lone Star. Let’s us stay here on the porch and talk about stirring some shit up, y’all.

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  • jaciem

    I’ve been here forty years, woman and girl, and will remain for the foreseeable future.

     

    There is no need to threaten me with Lone Star *shudder*.

     

    I’ll take a Shiner Bock, though. *g*

  • beenthere72

    Hey Andrea,

     

    Did you happen to catch What Would You Do? on Friday night?

     

    http://abc.go.com/watch/what-would-you-do/SH5555951/VD55128139/what-would-you-do-520

     

    Especially see the segment on the Pregnant Teen’s Dilemma segment – I’m unable to open it here, but here they are broken out by segment:

     

    http://abcnews.go.com/WhatWouldYouDo/

     

     

  • pennygirlpearl

    Way out on the edge of the caprock of Texas, in the 2nd most conservative city in the United States (where dirt and wind are plentiful), I was glad to find your post.  Thank you for saying what my small group of feminist friends and I have been saying and asking for a long time now.  We’ve been wondering why we are still here and wondering what is it going to take to get us out of here. 

    As a Texan, I’ve lived in, visited, and dropped by almost every part of this state for the past 40 years. Throughout these years I have found myself living in diverse communities with regard to race, ethnicity, religion, class, etc. Now, I find myself settled in a place where 73 percent of the population is of the white race, there are more churches per capita and everything from weather to politics exists in the extreme.  It has really been since I’ve lived out here, in the extreme, that I’ve found the most need to speak out and stand up. There are few moments, but usually they are very validating moments, when I am the person at the cause of another’s shift in perspective for equality (Gender, Race, Class, Gender Identity, etc.).  Those are the moments that make me think, this is why I am still here.  I just wish they happened in larger number and empower others to act up more for equality…I’m working on that.

    So, I answer the question “why are you still here (in Texas)?” usually as follows; a place is what you make of it and I’m not sure I’d be making my artwork, coordinating my advocacy, and activism with the same commitment if I didn’t live in the extreme.

    Thanks again for your post.  

    Cheers to you (with Margarita and a shot of Tequila in hand) and to keeping on, keeping on.

     

  • forced-birth-rape

    ~ Pro-womens rights women should stay in Texas to fight for the poor women and little girls who cannot get out. ~

  • z3ncat

    I’m a fairly recent transplantee to Texas; my partner was born here, moved to NJ to be with me, and then we both moved (back) to the DFW mid-cities area to be closer to his family as his mother deals with health problems (and because OMFSM is it so much more affordable to live here!).  I was born & grew up in NJ, where until the current governor I always felt like women’s reproductive rights were just the status quo: of course women should have access to preventative care, and of course a woman should have the right to obtain a legal medical procedure without having to jump through hoops.  So my outrage at the recent legislation is excaserbated by the fact that I, or any other woman, should NOT have to make a choice between my reproductive rights and affordable cost of living – or between reproductive rights and living near family/friends.

     

    I’m not going anywhere any time soon, for a variety of reasons (though I cried when my MoMA membership expired), & I intend to make my outrage known to each & every lawmaker who represents me now & in the future.  And until Texas stops being the next-to-worst state in which to be a woman, I’ll enjoy my dreams of a no-holds-barred cagefight between Perry & Christie.

  • therealistmom

    Isn’t he CYOOOOUT?? HE found other losers just like him to play with on those websites. I’m so sorry about your penis denis but that’s not feminism’s fault.

  • fannie

    I really enjoyed this article – you captured a lot of how I feel about Texas and gave me some food for thought. I love the land, the wildlife, the food and the way the Mexican influences and European influences have combined to create unique things like Tejano music. I like a lot of the people here – just not most of the people in power and the laws that get more absurd every year.

    It can be lonely to identify as a feminist in Texas – even in the semi-liberal oasis that is Austin… so I really don’t speak out as much as I ought to. Only my close friends know where I stand because I know it’s safe to be myself with them. I’m feeling inspired to reach out to some other people who care about these issues and raise some hell. I think there are more of us out there that we realize.

  • beenthere72

    I also was born and grew up in NJ, had an abortion via a private OBGYN when I was 18 in Englewood back in 1991 and always thought that women’s reproductive rights were status quo until that a-hole came into office.  

     

    Fight for your right… in Texas!

  • jodi-jacobson

    Any comments deleted are deleted by the editors. We do not tolerate trolls and others not contributing to productive discussion by failing to make a cogent point.

  • breecan2

    I’ve been begging my husband to consider moving.

     

    It’s just so lonely here.

     

    In the middle of some tiny country little town where everyone went to kindergarten together.  I have some friends and aquaintances thanks to t-ball and MOPs but my facebook friends seem to be dropping off like flies lately thanks to my frequent posts on Planned Parenthood & the Dixie Chicks.

     

    And now I have a daughter.  What sort of horrible things is she liable to pick up from this dreadful place.

     

     

  • arectaris

    When you consider that the percentage of people who self-identify as feminists to be somewhere in the low teens, I don’t think it’s accurate to have a picture which says “The feminists are taking over”.

  • habbibte

    Andrea you have expressed all of my bittersweet Texas feelings. Should I stay or should I go?

    BTW I like MGD, and your bar tab is getting expensive 8))!

     

     

  • habbibte

    Andrea you have expressed all of my bittersweet Texas feelings. Should I stay or should I go?

    BTW I like MGD, and your bar tab is getting expensive 8))!

     

     

  • emjb

    maybe if we all created a commune together or something? Otherwise, between the lingering fear of being poisoned by fracking everywhere and dumbasses who think it’s communist to teach children how to read, I really don’t know how long I can hold out.

  • beenthere72

    Is hopefull thinking not allowed in graphical presentation?    She is talking about Texas here, we all know it’s not a bastion of feminism, or democracy for that matter.  

  • arectaris

    And I was talking about the U.S. in general, which would include Texas.

  • prochoiceferret

    And I was talking about the U.S. in general, which would include Texas.

     

    Feminists from the early twentieth century sure have taken over. Their takeover is so complete that even people who don’t self-identify as feminists believe in what they fought for. After all, only the douchiest of anti-woman douchebags think that women shouldn’t have the right to higher education, to vote, to work outside the home, and to financial independence.

     

    Feminists from mid-century onward are still at work. Give ‘em a few more decades. Feministing is hard work, after all.

  • crowepps

    Can you start a Facebook group, and slowly fill it up with a membership of other smart, liberal women who are resisting the group mind? While it’s not the same as face-to-face friends, it sure is better than nothing!  Maybe do the same thing to find face-to-face friends through Craig’s list?  America doesn’t need more sites for dating — it needs a place where a woman can go look for FRIENDS and find somebody who will laugh at their jokes and enjoy the same books and movies and treat their kids the same way when they all get together.

  • arekushieru

    When you consider that the newer waves of feminism are more likely to be the ones who will take over than the older waves, I think it’s pretty accurate.

  • lulu

    I am from NYC a very cosnervative mob wife enclave and 3 years ago left guidoville for the ultra liberal hipster haven of austin.  It was beautiful wonderful vibe, but when I was trying to make it at jobs I saw Texas ugliness everywhere.  At will state bs, anti-union hysteria, , Rick Perry calling for seccession, christianity in public schools, sexual harrassment, women being fired for being pregnant and the everpresent mean girl mentality everywhere while the men stood back and let the women tear each other apart.  Thats Texas.  It will be a long time before Texas catches up to the rest of the country and I am sorry but I feel 100% safer to be away from it.  Texas is basically designed to protect only heterosexual evangelical baptists making over $250,000 a year.

  • juls

    I’m new here, and just read your post–THANKS!  I’m from a red area of a blue state, but I firmly believe that we should all be fighting the fight wherever we are, and that it’s ok to love where we are even if we don’t love everything about it.  Your post nailed that!  Good on you!

  • loretta-ross

    I’m from Temple and San Antonio and presently live in Atlanta, but hope to return to Texas when I retire. Do you know how many Texas feminists head up national pro-choice organizations? I don’t want to “out” anyone but our roots in Texas gave us a strong sense of love, family, pride, determination, and outright cussed-ness. This feeds our strength today. We meet often in the movement and talk about how great it was to come from Texas. We mourn the backwardness of today’s Texas legislature because at one time it was leading the country in educational standards, civil rights legislation (remember LBJ and Lady Bird?), and welcoming Mexican immigrants. In fact, Texas originated the phrase “Mexicans didn’t cross the border, the border crossed them” because having been raised on 10 years of Texas history in school, I know in my DNA about my homestate’s intense and personal relationship with Mexico that these legislative woman-haters have perversely corrupted. The Chicano movement was born in the barrios of Texas and I’m proud that I’m from a city like San Antonio where the majority of people are Brown or Black. I remember when we had the best schools, greatest roads, best highways, most beautiful flowers along those highways, the best parks, etc. It was a privilege to grow up in Texas and my son and grandson live there now. So fight on sisters, and I’ll be back in a few years to help out!

  • hephacet

    I’m wondering if this person has a hatred for white people, specifically white males.  She makes comments like “we are a state run by old privileged white guys for old privileged white guys” and “Our mostly white, male conservative legislators are happy to let our Medicaid Women’s Health Program expire…” 

    I wonder if a comment like “our mostly black legislators in the city of Washington DC want to do X Y and Z” or “our mostly Jewish legislators in New York City..” would fly?  Why is downgrading of whites, particularly white men, so acceptable?  And would anyone who makes such comments have any leg to stand on to try to criticize groups who defend white people, male or not?  I don’t think so.  Racism exists, whether it is anti-black or anti-white.  And no, I don’t care if the author is white.  Self-loathing comes in all forms….

  • prochoiceferret

    Why is downgrading of whites, particularly white men, so acceptable?  And would anyone who makes such comments have any leg to stand on to try to criticize groups who defend white people, male or not?  I don’t think so.  Racism exists, whether it is anti-black or anti-white.

     

    Racism against White people is terrible, isn’t it? Like, it’s even worse than racism against Black people! White people really need a Martin Luther King Jr.-type to lead them to true freedom. The only question is, which White person would be best suited to the role? Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh?

  • hephacet

    You seem to have a crush on me because you’re responding to all my posts!  If you respond ot one more of my posts I’m going to become convinced that you want to have a cup of coffee with me (or stalking me, one or the other).

    I have no idea what you are trying to say.  Are you saying that because Rush LImbaugh exists, it is therefore ok to display racial hatred against whites?  Is it therefore acceptable to you?  It seems like that is what you are saying. 

  • prochoiceferret

    You seem to have a crush on me because you’re responding to all my posts!

     

    That’s what mice usually think when a cat’s going after them. Coincidentally, crushing is involved there too!

     

    I have no idea what you are trying to say.  Are you saying that because Rush LImbaugh exists, it is therefore ok to display racial hatred against whites?  Is it therefore acceptable to you?  It seems like that is what you are saying.

     

    No, though that non-sequitur makes somewhat more sense than thinking that to point out the fact that White males still hold most of the positions of power and wealth in this country somehow constitutes “anti-white” racism.

  • hephacet

    Are you male or female?  Because if you’re male, I would be uncomfortable with the fact that you are responding to all of my posts specifically, and not anyone else’s.  If you’re female and you want to keep responding to my posts specifically, send a picture!

    To what you wrote– the writer did not simply “point out that white males hold positions of power”, she referred to members of a specific race in a disparaging manner.  This is what is known as ‘Hate speech”, and like I said before, any such speech directed at other races would have been immediately condemned, and rightly so.  Like I said, ANY statement beginning with “this city is run by a bunch of rich Jews, for Jews”, or “this city is run by old blacks, for blacks” even if it were true that Jews or blacks held most positions of power (which they do in many cities and towns), would be regarded as hate speech.  You know that.  Don’t act dumb, don’t be disingenuous about it. 

  • hephacet

    I’m curious what the crime rate is in this “extreme” town you’re living in.  I’m willing to bet it’s rather low.  And it sounds like  a nice place to raise a family.  And I’ve never even been to Texas.

  • hephacet

    Texas is not a bastion of democracy?  I’ve never been to Texas, but perhaps you can educate me about it.  Are you saying that people who are elected to office in Texas were not actually voted in?  And, what would be an example of a bastion of democracy to you?  Illinois perhaps?  Or New Jersey?  Or Washington DC even.  Or the United States itself, is it really a bastion of democracy?  I’m just curious and am in need of an education regarding Texas.

  • hephacet

    Yikes, who in the world says it’s communist to teach children to read?  I want to see that quote, so I can ridicule whoever said it to the max!!

  • hephacet

    All that, and you feel it isn’t racist even to the teensiest degree to use the term “guidoville”…?  Is that anywher near “Heineytown”, or “little China”?  You don’t see the irony?

  • hephacet

    A few points:

    1)  Yes, I remember LBJ.  Is he the same LBJ who increased our involvement in Vietnam and eventually fouled it all up?  Is that the same LBJ you’re thinking of or a different LBJ?

    2)  You said that you’re “proud that the majority of people are brown or black” in your city.  Should I assume, using logic, that you would therefore be ashamed, if your city were majority white?  You do come across that way.  What if I said I was proud that the majority of my city was majority white?  Would you have a problem with that?  Just something to think about.

    3)  I’m hispanic, and I’ve never been to Texas nor do I know much about it.  We have no problem with Mexican immigrants, or immigrants from anywhere, as long as they are LEGAL immigrants.  My family had to jump through all the hoops to come here legally.  Those who break the law and enter illegally make us look bad (because many people tend to lump all hispanics together– legals with illegals),  and one should always be ahsamed of breaking the law.

  • hephacet

    1)  Let me guess, you are a “feminist”, yet you need to “beg” your husband to do things..?

     

    2) I’m more concerned about what horrible things she is learning from *you*, not the place.  Perhaps your husband has more sense?  Would your daughter benefit from being raised by him alone, and not you?  Just something to think about.

  • hephacet

    If you have to go to Facebook to find friends, and have to go online to find people who will laugh at your jokes, you have issues far beyond feminism…..

  • beenthere72

    Vermont would be a great example, followed by my own state of Massachusetts.   Both great states that want to make sure that its residents get adequate healthcare and are not attempting to limit my rights to my own reproductive health and choices.  

  • hephacet

    I see, thank you for answering.  I’m just curious, who is paying for “residents getting adequate healthcare”?  Is it free?  are the doctors and hospitals treating people simply out of the goodness of their hearts?  I don’t think so, I think this is being paid for by taxes… and according to what I’ve read, Mass has the 10th highest state tax rate in the country.  It also has one of the highest rates of people LEAVING the state.  From what I’ve read, the cost of living in Mass (and probably most of New England) is extremely high.  I don’t live int he North, and I can barely afford living here, as it is.  I don’t think moving to Mass would be in the economic cards.  Also, to be honest, the people up in that area don’t come accross as the nicest people in the world, not to mention all the crime.  I’ve never really liked Northern cities (that is, the northeast) or the nasty attitudes that go along with it… I don’t know much about Vermont, but I have visited New Hampshire and it seems really nice, and very clean.  And much lower tax rates, etc.  And it is experiencing an IN flow of people, rather than outflow, so that might be a possibility…  people tend to vote with their feet, and if that’s the case, Mass is losing.

  • goatini

    Finding like-minded people, women particularly, to chat with and meet up with, would have been nice. I hung around with some music and art types and was able to be myself with them, but most of the people I met in business and in the community asked “And what church do you go to?” within the first 5 minutes of meeting a new person.

  • goatini

    and having lived in Texas, I know exactly what she is talking about. And you don’t.

  • rebellious-grrl

    Let me guess, you’re a loser MRA troll that is here wasting our time. Go away and get a life.