A week ago, Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis announced that she outraised Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, her likely Republican opponent. Davis brought in more than $12.2 million from July through December, while Abbott raised $11.5 million during the same period.
Immediately following this bad news for Republicans, an article taking apart Wendy Davis’ bio appeared in the Dallas Morning News. It seems that in trying to relate to the people (as her policies do), Ms Davis has failed to share the good luck she’s also had, and even though Republicans don’t relate to the people and their policies harm them, they’re quite gleeful that Ms Davis didn’t spend quite as much time in a trailer between the ages of 19-21 as she led you to believe, because this will somehow change the fact that her policies are pro-individual freedom and pro-98% of the people.
Apparently, when she was 19, Wendy Davis wasn’t a divorced working single mother living in a mobile home. Yes, contrary to her own words, the actual divorce didn’t come until she was 21 and she only lived in the trailer for a short time. Then she lived with her mother and then she got her own place. She was still a single mother, but as you know, this is not difficult at all at the age of 21.
At 24, she married Jeff Davis, a lawyer who the Dallas Morning News says “helped pay for her two years of college” and even cashed in his 401(K) and took loans out to help finance her Harvard degree (while they were married). This, we are told by the DMN, will lead to people questioning how much of her success was her own doing: “Some will question how much of her success was her own doing, and how bad her circumstances were to start.”
OH MY GOD. Wendy Davis is a sinner who expected family resources to be spent on her career. And if she wasn’t in that trailer from age 19, and wasn’t perfectly, neatly divorced by then (as all divorces go apparently), then she is a liar who never really struggled.
See, things weren’t hard for Wendy, even though she grew up helping to support her single mother, and was later a single mother working two jobs while living in an apartment, because she got married at 24 and this man “paid” for her degree (much like a woman works to put her husband through medical school, and this is championed as supporting her man). Never mind that she contributed to the finances after she graduated, as she explained to the DMN, “I was a vibrant part of contributing to our family finances from the time I graduated to the time we separated in 2003.”
Martial assets are used to support all members of a family unit, and because everyone contributes (even if it is to work for the future, and therefor can’t be counted in dollars, like the man going to medical school), we don’t say that so-and-so paid for x like a prostitute or accuse them of stealing said education.
But the right is now acting as if Wendy Davis stole those pink tennis shoes too, because she apparently stole this Harvard education from this poor man.
If this article and their reaction to it is Republicans’ idea of helping themselves, they are more clueless than previously determined. As the daughter of a single working mom, I found the original article to be unintentionally condescending, reeking of privilege while attacking someone over poverty cred, and cluelessly patriarchal in its attitude toward joint resources and career women. Very 1950s. I found the sly references to her child bearing history very telling. I was expecting the scarlet letter for Ms. Davis for having had two children with two different men, though naturally this is expected if one is a man (then you are allowed to abandon your first family, in search of the perfect photo op).
The author wrote of Ms. Davis’ second husband:
He paid for her last two years at Texas Christian University and her time at Harvard Law School, and kept their two daughters while she was in Boston
If Ms. Davis were a man who went to Harvard, no one would be writing that the woman “kept” their daughters while he was at Harvard. Where else were they to go but stay at home? Pet boarding? Was it somehow not hard for Ms Davis to be a single mother because when she wasn’t anymore, her husband “kept” the children while she was at school? Or are we just to get what an “ambitious” sinner Ms Davis is for abandoning her family. Check.
Judging from the rather vicious attacks trending against Wendy Davis this morning on Twitter stemming from the DMN article, we are reminded that conservatives view working women with contempt. Ben Shapiro of Breitbart was appalled that Ms Davis wasn’t willing to tank a career just because she had children.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) January 20, 2014
Obviously same standards do not apply to men, DUH – they are not expected to chuck career when they have children because they are naturally designed to make money, but if woman dares to rely on this money, she is a very bad person who is stealing from man.
John Nolte of Breitbart can’t understand why Wendy Davis not spending quite as much time in a trailer as she said is not the exact same thing as Chris Christie putting lives at risk by shutting down lanes on a bridge over a personal vendetta, and he curses you liberal media:
Interesting: As MSM destroys Christie, New Media is taking down Wendy Davis over fake bio — story MSM is ignoring. Whole new world.
— John Nolte (@NolteNC) January 20, 2014
The Daily Caller asked, “Who is the real Wendy Davis? http://ow.ly/sLdrI” Because fundamentally, struggling for 10 years instead of 12 is just a completely different animal, and if the folks at Daily Caller know anything, it’s the struggle of the single mother. Oh, I kid. We all know that single mothers are ruining America (thanks Mitt!).
The Conservative twitterati thinks Ms Davis probably stole those tennis sneakers, if her ex didn’t pay for them (woman as kept object even when she has a career is so appealing!):
• Sean Agnew @seanagnew: “I wouldnt be surprised if her ex husband paid for them. RT @Neal_Dewing: I wouldn’t be surprised if Wendy Davis stole those sneakers.”
There were the usual references to “Abortion Barbie” as well, because it’s much better to deny food to children once they are born, and then shame their single mothers over the exact number of hours spent in a trailer than it is to support a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions. Clearly women get pregnant on their own and should pay for it.
Also outrageous to the right is the fact that Mr. Davis got custody of the youngest child and Ms Davis paid child support (she notes of her own volition). Wait, what? What is outrageous about this scenario? Aren’t these the same people who cheered deadbeat dad and Tea Party hero Joe Walsh (former R-IL) as he told Sandra Fluke to get a job?
Paying child support is the act of a responsible adult. Or is the real point that Ms Davis is a super bad woman because she did not have custody of the youngest child? Yes, that is the point of the attack. Women are naturally supposed to take care of the children for free, not entitled to any joint resources to further their prospects, and if they do not take care of the children, they are suspect at best. Even if they pay child support, they are no good, while men who balk at paying child support (hi, Newt Gingrich) can run for President.
If I were a Republican, I’d be outraged that conservatives are attacking Ms. Davis’ children.
But the real point here, the thing that should be discussed, is that being a single mother is hard whether you are in a trailer or not. Being a single parent is tough work. Sometimes a person is operating as a single parent even though they are technically still married. Sometimes a spouse is unreliable, or the parents are separated.
Newsflash: Living in an apartment doesn’t magically make being a single parent easy and the only people who would present it thusly are people who are clueless about what it takes to be a responsible parent. They are the people who think children are a woman’s job and that a man “keeps” the children for her, if she dares to study at Harvard. (Mr. Davis seems like a great father, and this is wonderful to see but it should be normal, not worthy of right wing Sainthood — though I can see with their leaders’ histories why they would find it so unusual for a man to be an active parent.)
Even more relevant than how tough things were or were not for 19-year-old Ms Davis is whether or not her policies today support others who are going through tough times.
For Ms. Davis’ part, she has vowed to be more precise in her language, which is as it should be. But forgive me if I am more appalled by the vicious attacks from a party that pretends it’s Pro life and then removes social safety nets from single parents and demonizes single mothers and women in general, leaving vulnerable children to starve.
Expect these ugly personal attacks to continue, as Ms Davis threatens the good old boys running the state of Texas. They will cluelessly focus on all aspects of Ms Davis’ womanhood. She will be branded with a big scarlet “W” for working while being a mom. Next up, how many hours did she really spend wiping bums? Was it 340 hours like she said, or 240 because she was off at
Update 5:08 PM est: Wendy Davis releases a statement and a bio of her early years that show many of the original accusations, including the not living as a single mother at 19, to be inaccurate.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.