Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Inconvenient Truth in Wendy Davis Story

On the one hand, it's hardly news.

A female politician fudged her age, exaggerated her misfortune in a mobile home, and insinuated that she make it all the way through Harvard Law School without help from anybody else.

Taken at face value, the truth about Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is far less compelling.  She has been exposed by a reality-check report in the Dallas Morning News as just another typical politician.  Distorting facts, misrepresenting life experiences, and claiming credit for things other people did.


However, we also learned that Davis, as a young waitress working at her father's dinner theater, selected an older customer of his to pursue.  She learned he was an affluent lawyer, so she asked her father to fix them up.  Turns out, it was this affluent older lawyer who helped pay for her college courses at Texas Christian University, here in Fort Worth, and then at Harvard Law.  Soon after the couple sent in their final payment to Harvard for her degree, she left the guy.  He would file for divorce based on her infidelity, but they settled for a more benign claim of "insupportability," ostensibly to protect both of their reputations.  And he got custody of their daughter.

So far, who's the hero in this story, if there is one?  Certainly not the woman who left her two daughters with the man who paid for most of her education.  Some might call her a vamp, were it not for the fact that as a lawyer, Davis could sue the pants off them for libel and slander.  Still, it's obvious she's attractive, manipulative, and extraordinarily ambitious, all in a combination that reeks of irresponsibility, misplaced affections, and greed.

Nevertheless, that's hardly news for a politician, is it?  If this had been a man's story, editors at the Morning News would have been asking their reporter, "so, what else ya got?"

Well, the thing is, Davis has built her campaign for Texas governor around the narrative of a poor, divorced 19-year-old mother living in a mobile home and fighting all of life's hard knocks by herself to achieve a flashy degree from Harvard Law.  All without men.  All as a woman with only her star to guide her.  When she captured national attention during a pro-life vote botched by flippant Texas Senate Republicans last summer, when she was merely just another senator from Fort Worth, this narrative of individualized, idealized womanhood elevated her status beyond simply that of a bleached blonde networker who knew how to get attention.

Except now, with the Morning News piece, when people use pejorative terms like "manipulative" and "bleached blonde" when describing her, it's hard for Davis to reclaim that bit about her own suffering.  We've got the older husband's "flattery" at first being asked for a date by somebody like Davis.  We've got the attorney husband who admits to being used so she could establish herself not only in the legal profession, but Fort Worth's political scene.  A political scene, by the way, in which she used to be a Republican.

She's as cool and calculating as any good-looking, get-ahead man.  Yet that's not really a compliment.  If the battle is equal rights for women, Davis's story seems to show that, at least for a fifty-year-old female legislator now running for governor of Texas, she still needed a man.

Or at least, she thought she did.  Hey, at least it's not illegal, like those lavish gifts the former governor of Virginia and his wife, Robert and Maureen McDonnell, are accused of accepting during his tenure.

So maybe that's why being pro-abortion is Davis' political schtick.  It sounds really good to say that you're working for giving to other women better choices than the ones you had when you were trying to make something of yourself.  It doesn't make for good politics - especially in a state as conservative as Texas - to admit that you gave your youngest daughter to the husband who filed for divorce from you over infidelity.  Or that he would tell the media something about motherhood not being convenient for you, what with your burgeoning law career and all.  The obvious connection to be made is that abortion would have been the easy out for Davis, especially since she needed to vamp a rich, older lawyer to progress more effectively in what she wanted to accomplish for herself.  And sure enough, in some of her campaign material released since the Morning News report, Davis has tried to shift the blame from herself to a media she claims is dragging her family drama into the light of day.

But in reality, Davis had the same chances any other woman has - at least, any other attractive woman.  Get a sugar daddy to bankroll most of your education, and dump him - and your girls - when the time is right.  Gold-digging is not generally considered a feminist virtue, since it usually can only be successfully waged if the woman digging for gold is as good-looking as Davis.  Better to cloak it all with something far more sensational and provocative.  Something like abortion.

For Davis, all the pieces seemed to fit.  Well, the ones she was able to doctor or ignore, anyway.

Today is the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade that marked the beginning of a fateful chapter in abortion's legality here in the United States.  Feminists have spent the past 41 years telling us that the pro-life movement lacks credibility because of all the narcissistic men who have no idea what it's like to be a woman faced with the inconvenience of children.

Then we learn things about people like Wendy Davis, and the question of credibility shifts to the type of narcissism her second ex-husband described to the Morning News, and that Davis herself has not denied.

He claimed that as they finalized their divorce, she opted to pay child support instead of assume custody of their daughter, then in the 9th grade.  "While I’ve been a good mother," he recalled her as rationalizing, "it’s not a good time for me right now.’”

How many male politicians have refused to let the inconveniences and complications of being a husband and father get in the way of their career ambitions?  For every one of these guys, perhaps the credibility claim by pro-choicers has some merit.  However, when the same refusal comes from somebody like Davis, doesn't it seem as though the double-standard feminists accuse pro-life men of having is still... a double-standard?

Or maybe even worse - since the mother that is supposed to know what's best for herself can still willingly hand off her post-birth daughter because "it's not a good time" to be a mom?

Davis defends her mothering skills, pointing out that both of her daughters appear in one of her campaign videos.  And we should all hope that whatever drama Davis has inflicted upon their lives, they've each been able to reconcile and move beyond it.

Of course, the one difference between Davis' story and the stories she wants to abort between hundreds of thousands of other children and their birth mothers is that her daughters are alive to forgive her in person.

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