My quick two cents on Congressman Brian Babin’s (R-Dickopolis) warning to all the nice women of Texas CD-36, our newest congressional district back behind the Piney Curtain. Here’s what the good doctor (well, dentist) had to say:
“I think sometimes a lady needs to be told when she’s being nasty.”
Now, I know all you proud, nasty women are running with this comment, seeing as it is Nasty Women Get Shit Done Week in the United States. (Canadians observe it in September.)
But for all y’all not lucky enough to live in the Lone Star State, I want to make sure you understand why the one term congressman from East Texas felt the need to let the ladies know that when it comes to their behavior, he’s the expert.
Rep. Brian Babin wants the good women of his district, and throughout our state, to remember that Texas men are always watching them.
And that Texas men will surely let them know when they step over the line.
Make no mistake about it: this is gaslighting of the highest order. It’s a dog whistle heard by white women, Southern white women in particular. Babin prefaced his threat with a mock indication of respect for women, “I’m a genteel Southerner,” to alert Southern women that they had better pay attention. It also sets up this up as a conflict between manners and the need to monitor and control the behavior of women–if the women just had good manners, there would be no need for Babin to go against his code of “gentility.” It’s our fault that we even made him acknowledge our nastiness. Talk about gaslighting. I’d call this hall of fame.
Over the past couple days, I’ve been thinking about the role that conformity* plays in Texas politics. It’s beyond pervasive. It’s overarching. And it’s not just politics–it’s life in Texas. That’s what made Friday Nights Light so great–it told the truth about conformity in Texas, and the enormous price paid by people who don’t. Yes, Coach Taylor and Tami prevailed in the end, because they were good, but they also had to leave Texas to be happy. Get with the program, or get out.
This has been a wild week for Texas politics. Not surprisingly, the multiple polls that showed the presidential race tightening were met by general disbelief among Texas Republicans and the punditry at large. Yes, there are good reasons to think that the race will ultimately be a more typical Texas election. (The high number of undecideds–16% in one poll–is significant, as is the moment the polls were in the field. However, these polls jolted the Texas powers that be because they showed a moment when voters were not conforming. That’s rare moment in Texas politics. And, for Texas women, a dangerous one.
*When I say “conformity,” I really mean white conformity. White conformity is an essential component of Texas Republican dominance. I’d venture to say it’s the foundation the entire enterprise rests upon. What’s important to understand is that white conformity predates Republican domination. It was the foundation of the Democrats’ dominance from the 1870s through the 1980s. The only time white conformity lost an election in Texas was in 1990 when Ann Richards won her race for governor against Texas’ proto-Trump Clayton Williams. I highly recommend Peggy Fikac’s recent article about the parallels between the two races.