This Single Mom Isn’t Buying What Wendy Davis Is Selling

Photo courtesy of runneralan2004

Photo courtesy of runneralan2004

Over the weekend, a Twitter friend asked me what I thought of the “Wendy Davis single mom thing”. While I don’t live in Texas, I am quite familiar with Wendy Davis as is much of the country. Davis, a Texas state senator currently running for governor, captured the national spotlight over the summer as she led a lengthy filibuster opposing a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers and mandate that a doctor who performs abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Many predicted that her newfound fame would lead to higher aspirations, which proved true when Davis threw her hat into the Texas gubernatorial ring.

As I said, I was familiar with Davis; I had followed the live stream of the filibuster closely at the time, and I knew she was running for governor. However I hadn’t heard about the ‘single mom thing’. Apparently, in her campaign Davis has carved out a narrative that depicts her as a fighter and survivor who pulled herself up from living in a trailer as a divorced teen mother to becoming a Harvard Law School graduate and Texas senator. Which, generally, is great: everybody loves an underdog success story and as a single mom myself I am encouraged when others do well. Unfortunately, the story wasn’t altogether true, as the Dallas Morning News pointed out last week. Though she has spent periods of time as a single mom, Davis was married while attending Harvard Law School, leaving her children back in Texas with her husband while she pursued higher education. Further, ex-husband Jeff Davis points out that he paid off the loans needed for her Ivy League education–noting that Davis left him the day after he made that final loan payment–and that he was given custody of the children after the divorce, in part because Davis wanted the freedom and flexibility necessary to climb the ranks of the Texas political scene. There is nothing wrong with any of this, which makes it unclear why Davis crafted a different version of her life story to share with the public. While she is undoubtedly a strong, successful woman with a list of impressive achievements, Davis herself admits, “My language should be tighter”, which is about as close to an admission of deception as you will generally get from a politician running for office.

While I am not thrilled that she lied–one can use flowery language, but ultimately if you tell a story which is untrue, you lied–that is not why I am not a member of “Team Wendy”. While I salute her right to filibuster and respect the fact that she was able to keep at it for eleven hours, I do not agree with her position on abortion. I disagree with her on some issues that matter to me, so I do not support her. It’s that simple. Of course, that’s not sensational, so Politico had to come up with that “single mom thing”.

 

I don’t “Stand With Wendy,” but it’s not because she’s a single mom.

This past weekend, Politico ran a story calling Davis the “most judged woman in America”. Just below the “most judged woman” headline was the tagline: Wendy Davis did make a mistake. She thought that we were ready for a single mother. This struck a nerve with me immediately. As a single mom I bristle at the thought that my opposition to Davis’ candidacy would be dismissed as discrimination against what I am myself. Like Davis, I am not the single mom as seen on television. My children’s father has always provided for them and we have never lacked for anything in large part thanks to his support. Though some are upset at the way she spun her story, I have no problem with her type of single motherhood; the only requirement of single mom status is being single, and being a mom. Period. Intense poverty and hardship not required. What bothers me is the idea that rejecting her is now packaged as prejudice against an entire subset of the population: single moms. To quote Joe Biden, With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey.

On a larger scale, this scenario plays out frequently, with different catch phrases traded for single mother.   I am so over politicians using their "labels" as deflective shields/excuses. Plenty of Wendy Davis supporters have attacked her challenger, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott. Has Politico announced that his detractors aren’t ready for a man in a wheelchair? Are his opponents biased against disabled people? Certainly not; nor am I biased against Davis for being a single mother.   If I disagree with you as a candidate, it is not because you are black, or gay, or southern, or a woman, or a single mom, or too old, or too young, or too wealthy, or not wealthy enough, or because of your last name. If I dislike or disagree with your actions or your platform then you can either choose to clarify something and maybe I will change my mind, or you can accept that not everyone is going to like you in politics. I just think using a cop-out like "oh it's because I am xyz" is lazy. It prevents one from doing any introspection and it paints people as victims. I don't know anyone who really wants a leader with a victim mentality, so let’s drop this tactic in political campaigns.