Like every other politic nerd I’ve been following what’s happening in Texas pretty closely. For those that don’t know, Texas’ legislator is trying to pass one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country; a ban on abortions past 20 weeks. There was a pretty clear party split here and Republicans were optimistic that they’d be able to pass this bill no problem. They expected some arguing here and there but the mostly male members of the GOP are used to their voices being heard over everyone else’s. That is, until Wendy Davis stepped up. She was not having it. She proudly stood there for an 11 hour filibuster and bravely took a stand for women’s rights in Texas. Or at least that’s the story that’s being sold. And I mean, it’s a good one. Articles read with titles like “From Teen Mom to Harvard Law to Famous Filibuster.” If that’s not sellable, I don’t know what is. We all like when the underdog wins. It’s even better when the underdog kicks patriarchy in the teeth and makes it sit and listen to her speak for 11 hours. Especially when it’s a white woman doing the kicking.
But left out of this story are the other women legislators (women of color) who have supported Davis and championed women’s rights in Texas on their own. One such woman is Leticia Van De Putte. She is also a Texas State Senator who has been working just as hard as Davis to defeat Texas’ abortion bill. But unlike Davis, De Putte was not championed once the battle (not the war) was won . This is despite the extreme sacrifices she’s made in order to have her voice be heard. De Putte lost her father in an accident last week, but still attended and helped finish out yesterday’s filibuster. And when the good ole boys went on the attack, De Putte went toe to toe with them in defense of Davis. She called out her male colleagues for silencing their female peers and asked “at what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” The chamber erupted in cheers. But as this quote travels around the internet, it is placed next to a picture of Wendy Davis with #STANDWITHWENDY stamped at the bottom. Why silence De Putte? Why are two women who do very similar work not receiving the same attention and praise?
Long answer short is that women of color have continuously been silenced by mainstream feminist movements. We are expected to defend, protect, and fight together as women but only white women get the credit. This is especially hurtful as De Putte has worked to fight against a law that would disproportionally impact black and brown women. So even in the moments where she, as a woc, is fighting to protect other woc, her contributions are minimized and ignored.
This is not to dismiss the work Davis has put in. But honestly, the voices of woc simply are not valued the same way the voices of white women are. This makes is hard and frustrating when working with white women on issues that impact us all. So although part of me champions Davis, a larger part of me champions De Putte. She is a woman of color who continues to fight even though her contributions are minimalized. If you ask me, that makes her the real hero.