Red State Women is a Texan organization created with one purpose: to organize Republican women in Texas while pushing back against the idea of a Republican-led war on women. According to their opening-day press release: “The group will focus on issues relevant to all Texas women, such as education, healthcare and a strong economy that continues to create our premier job market.”
Moving past the glaring omissions in their mission statement (a $5.4 billion cut to education rings a bell), let’s get to the newest addition to Red State Women’s organizing strategy: their new Female Fact(her) campaign.
According to Red State Women, “The Female Fact[her]: is the direct influence women have on our society, our economy, and our political landscape. These fact[hers]make up the DNA of Texas women.” This “DNA” takes the form of various statistics grouped together by subject heading, and noticeably free of any historical legislative context.
Under Healthcare we find a few interesting statistics: that 170,000 more women have access to preventative healthcare due to “increased funding,” and that the number of facilities participating in the Texas Women’s Health Program has increased since 2011 to 3,000. What these irresponsibly context-free statistics fail to communicate is why those increases needed to happen in the first place.
In an attempt to kick Planned Parenthood out of the then-federally funded Women’s Health Program, Texas Republicans decided it was better to lose 90% of the program’s funding than back down. That same session, the legislature cut family planning funding by $73 million. The increase in women served isn’t a surplus – it was the legislature trying desperately to fill a deficit of their own creation.
And those 3,000 clinics? An increase in the number of providers was expected after the state kicked one of the largest providers – Planned Parenthood – out of the program. This “increase” in providers is nothing more than public health services attempting to fill an unnecessary and burdensome void.
Moving along to the section on education: Red State Women wants you to know that ladies across the board are earning degrees: “Women earn more undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees than men. Women are earning more degrees and at higher levels than men across the board.” While that is true, the Female Fact(Her) negates to mention this more depressing flipside to that reality: at every level of education, women still make less than their male counterparts.
The only mention of public education comes in a statistic about the teaching profession. According to the Female Fact(Her), “82% of elementary and middle school teachers are female.” While this is all well and good, what the Female Fact(Her) fails to mention is that some of the women once employed in middle and elementary schools are still without jobs after the legislature chose to cut $5.4 billion from public education in 2011, a cut they have yet to make up.
When it comes to the political process, the Female Fact(Her) acknowledges that women are “very influential,” and offers multiple statistics to prove that women are being heard in Texas. While it goes into great detail to list the female appointees under our current governor, it completely ignores the current representation at the state legislature – or the makeup of the 2014 Republican ballot.
For an organization whose focus is to capitalize on Republican women’s power in the 2014 elections, this might seem like a pretty glaring omission, but it fits into the general theme of the Female Fact(Her) campaign. According to Red State Women, ladies in Texas are just fine, thank you. Except they aren’t.
Despite consistently turning out in larger numbers than their male counterparts at the ballot box – and beating the national average for turnout among female voters – Texas women fall far behind when it comes to representation in elected office. There have been only two women governors in the history of Texas, and the current Republican statewide ticket features one – that’s right, one – woman on a ticket of 50 men.
Perhaps that’s OK with Red State Women and the creators of the Female Fact(Her), but it isn’t OK with me. I am not satisfied to be a part of the majority of the electorate in my state, while only holding 21% of the seats in the state legislature. I don’t just want to be celebrated for my vote – I want to see myself represented in the bodies that govern me.
I don’t just want to match the learning capacity of my male counterparts in the university system, I want my earning capacity in the labor force to match theirs, too. I will not mistake an incremental climb back to previous funding levels for women’s health and public education for a legislative achievement. A list of mismatched statistics (with fewer specific sources than the ones linked to in this blog post) cannot fool me. I am the female factor. I know the importance and power of women’s presence in the economy, in the political system, in the classroom and the boardroom. And that’s why I vote Democrat.