Local Democratic leader Lize Burr wrote a personal essay that she shared on Facebook this past week about a disconcerting pattern of Republican men trying to make it sound like Democratic women are mentally unstable.
It fits into a broader social pattern of attempting to undermine and denigrate women’s thoughts, ideas, and feelings by calling us “crazy.” And right now it’s being used to justify Republicans’ passing of policies that directly harm women, and when women speak up, to try and prevent anyone from listening.
Her essay is worth a read, and today, we’re pleased to reprint her essay here in full with her permission.
Me Thinks Thou Dost Protest Too Much, Republican Men of Texas
By Lize Burr
Sen. Deuell’s response to Rep. Dukes’ statement of fact that there is no causal relationship between abortion and mental illness, including alcoholism, addiction and suicidal ideation (which just so happens to be the official position of the American Medical Association) is that her past opinions and behavior suggest mental illness caused by abortion? Are you kidding me? Dr. Deuell, I am sure that you feel entitled to question Rep. Dukes’ opinion. But questioning her mental health? Wow. That’s impressive even for this through-the-looking-glass campaign cycle we’re in where apparently invincible candidates are too vulnerable to appear in public or risk speaking to editorial boards.
So here’s my take: There is a whisper campaign going on among Republican men to make it appear Democratic women are mentally unstable.
It’s there when the Abbott campaign claims Wendy Davis had a “meltdown” during the debate last Friday. It’s there in Sen. Deuell’s comments about Rep. Dukes. It’s there in the “protect women” rhetoric that the forced-pregnancy crowd uses constantly. Protect women from what, you may ask. From the dangers of a scary made-up mental illness that women will suffer from if they have an abortion. A mental illness that does not exist, according to the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association. (Which is not to say that their post-abortion mental health issues are not real, just that they were not caused by an abortion, so have made up a medical condition for which there is no actual scientific evidence and that serves to frighten and shame more women into a similar state of mind.)
What’s the deal? Why would such a powerful party and inevitable campaigns make these kinds of comments? Why the need to discredit these Democratic women leaders by questioning their mental health? As far as I understood it, the state of women in the Republican Party of Texas is great. No women on their statewide ticket? No problem! Two men emceeing their special new women’s outreach division upcoming events in Dallas and Houston? Sounds like a plan! (Hey, why did they even go to the trouble to launch that whole thing, given that Texas women love and benefit from Republican leadership and policies so much already?)
Me thinks thou dost protest too much, Republican men of Texas.
Why are they doing this? Why bother? I can come up with two reasons. One, it’s reflexive for them because they actually think that Democratic women are unstable or mentally unsound. Don’t discount this one. There’s a fair Occam’s razor argument to be made in its favor. Two, they are making these statements because that’s the best ammo they can come up.
As I bet you can guess, I’m going with both.
So what’s scaring the Republican Party of Texas? Why are they making insinuations about respected female elected officials’ mental health? Does their research show something they don’t want us to know? Do they actually have to discount Democratic women leaders to keep their grip on power in Texas?
Honestly, you don’t need to look at their internal memos to know what’s happening. Anyone who’s been working in Texas politics for more than two years can see that Texas women are waking up after the 20 years of Republican rule. It started in March 2012 when women across Texas learned that the Virginia sonogram bill, with its attendant national freakout (remember Sandra Fluke?), was already a LAW in Texas. And it’s just gone on from there. To the cuts to the Women’s Health Program. And vetoing Texas Equal Pay. And realizing how many single moms can’t afford health insurance in Texas. And then on to the special sessions and the medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion care. And the clinic closures. And the lack of access to contraception in communities across Texas because those clinics closed. And the working moms who now never see a doctor. Never get a cancer screening.
It’s gotten to the point where it’s hard not to see, if you’re awake and following Texas politics.
So, here’s comes the Republican Party of Texas with their reassuring messaging to women (and let’s face it, they’re mainly speaking to older, white conservative women): Our policies are good for you. Our worldview is good for you. Our economic policy is good for you. Our cuts to education are good for you. Our cuts to healthcare are good for you. Our crony politics are good for you. Remember, we’re the ones with your mental health in mind. We’re here to protect you from all the bad things that could happen. We’re not going to upset you. We’re not going to worry you. We’re going to tell you that everything is going to be just fine if you just get with the program and keep doing what you’re doing.
Which frankly is NOT VOTING, thank you, 62% of Texas women. Thanks for helping us out by being the state with the lowest level of female participation in the last midterm election. Let’s keep up the good work! Let’s get back to being 51st in the nation for percentage of eligible women who actually vote (since we slipped there in 2012 and crept up to 48th).
Because nothing helps the RPT more than Texas women not voting.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real goal of the RPT’s outreach efforts to women. That’s the reason to say the Democratic women are crazy. That’s why Republican men do not treat them with respect. Because they want to make most Texas women feel bad about politics, bad about women’s power and bad about voting. It’s not voter expansion, it’s voter limitation. It’s simple, powerful and deeply cynical.
When it comes to Texas politics, nothing works like an old stereotype. It’s so easy to slip into. So comfy. Like a familiar bedtime story that helps everyone just get back to sleep. There, there, Texas. Close your eyes. That scary lady telling you that we’re not good for you, that we don’t really respect you, she’s just crazy. And you don’t have to listen to anything she’s saying.