Womansplaining Rick Perry to the Mansplainers

Perrycorndog

Anti-abortion rights bloggers just canNOT understand what was so awful about Rick Perry telling Wendy Davis she hadn’t learned from her own experience of single motherhood.

First of all, here is what Rick Perry said (emphasis mine):

“Who are we to say that children born into the worst of circumstances can’t grow to live successful lives? In fact, even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She was the daughter of a single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate. It is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.”

As Rachel Maddow remarked, Perry didn’t even refer to Davis by her name, and isn’t it nice for Davis to know that she “managed” to graduate from Harvard Law School?

For pity’s sake, it was a COMPLIMENT!! (Emphasis is mine.)

Doing exactly what her most fanatical supporters have done: highlighted her history from the sticks to single-motherhood to the state senate in order to show how Davis herself thinks it’s perfectly ok for young women who are in the same single-and-pregnant positions both she and her mom were in to choose to abort their unborn children rather than keep them and give them the chance at being successful in life … an opportunity Davis’ mother gave to her, and Davis herself gave to her two children.  What’s “wrong” with this to Davis, other “feminists” and their willfully ignorant allies is not that Perry brought up her family history in and of itself  - as, again, they have done – but that he did so to prove a beautiful pro-life point about every unborn child deserving the opportunity at life militant abortion proponents like Davis want you to ignore.

As usual, the Southern Belle Born in the Wrong Era doesn’t have a clue what was “‘wrong’ about this” to Davis and her supporters. Actually, it WAS offensive for Perry to bring up Davis’s personal history “in and of itself.” It’s HER history, not his. He has no right to try to score political points with his own supporters by using Wendy Davis’s personal experiences. That’s for HER to talk about, not him. And yeah, there’s a big difference between Davis’s friends and supporters mentioning how she was a single mother at 19 and put herself through Harvard Law School, and Rick Perry doing that.

And no, Davis and all the other women and men who stood with her both physically and in spirit are not mad at Perry because he “proved a beautiful pro-life point” off of Sen. Davis’s personal life. He didn’t “prove” any point at all, except that he is disrespectful and rude. Perry asked, “Who are we to say that children born into the worst of circumstances can’t grow to live successful lives?” Well, who is Rick Perry to tell Wendy Davis what her own life experiences should mean to her? Who is he to mansplain what being a single mother at 19 “proved,” or that the “lessons” she learned were the wrong ones, or what she should have learned from her own experiences? How dare he? Those are HER experiences, not his. SHE owns them, not him. Well, I guess that’s the answer. He’s a man, so he knows better what’s good for women than women themselves do.

Jena McGregor at the Washington Post puts it really well:

Here’s the problem — make that problems – with that statement. Many will hear the condescending words “she hasn’t learned from her own example” and hear him shaming teenage mothers, even if that may not have been Perry’s intent. His attempt to applaud what she’s achieved in her life while in the same breath chiding her for not learning from it — all while refusing to say her name — comes off as the political equivalent of “bless her heart.” Most of all, bringing up Davis‘s teenage pregnancy gets way too personal. Davis’s life experience may be compelling, but it’s her story and reflects her choices, and shouldn’t be fodder for Perry.

Hot Air’s Allahpundit points to Jonathan Chait and Dave Weigel to support his conclusion that the “fauxtrage” is “so incoherent … that Jonathan Chait and Dave Weigel felt conscientiously obliged to defend Perry on it.”

I beg to differ. Plainly, being a male liberal (or kinda sorta liberal-libertarian) on abortion rights does not, sad to say, mean that the pro-choice part overpowers the testosterone-induced need to mansplain women’s lives to them.

Jonathan Chait doesn’t even get the reason for the outrage right, much less the part about why we shouldn’t be outraged:

The immediate liberal reaction is that Perry was “attack[ing] her motives and her experiences,” or “dismissing her as an unwed, teen mother.” But Perry is not attacking Davis here. Perry is pointing to her life as a success. His comments are tantamount to a liberal arguing that Ted Cruz’s family history shows why we need more immigration.

Now, to be sure, Davis would respond that giving birth was her choice, and ought to remain her choice. I agree. …

Uh, no, Jonathan, that’s not how Davis would respond to what Perry said. I say that because she did respond, and that’s not how she responded. Here’s how she responded:

“Rick Perry’s statement is without dignity and tarnishes the high office he holds. They are small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view. Our governor should reflect our Texas values. Sadly, Gov. Perry fails that test.”

Please don’t tell us how Wendy Davis “would respond” to what Rick Perry said when you can just look up how she did respond, and what you said wasn’t it, Jonathan.

*******

Late last night, when I was writing the above, I was feeling so irritated by Chait’s patient “explanation” to Davis’s supporters — and ultimately to Davis herself — of what Perry was doing and why we are wrong to take offense, that I decided to get some sleep. Now, it’s the next morning and I’m still just as irritated, at  the mansplaining — and it’s no less irritating coming from a “liberal, pro-choice man” than it is coming from an anti-choice anti-feminist neanderthal caveman like Rick Perry.

Look at this:

But Perry is not attacking Davis here. Perry is pointing to her life as a success. His comments are tantamount to a liberal arguing that Ted Cruz’s family history shows why we need more immigration.

No, Perry is NOT “pointing to her life as a success.” He is not complimenting her. Chait’s analogy is entirely inapt. A generalized, anodyne statement from some random liberal that “Ted Cruz’s family history shows why we need more immigration” is in no way similar to the Republican governor of Texas telling Wendy Davis her own life and what the meaning of her own life is and why she has learned the wrong lessons from her own life — to an audience of pro-lifers at the National Right to Life Convention, no less! Chait ignores Perry’s “It is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example…” and completely misses how incredibly, insultingly, offensively patronizing and condescending that is, for Rick Perry to explain to Wendy Davis the “correct” meaning of her own personal life experiences! Jesus.  Go back and re-read everything I wrote from the start of this post.

And Dave Weigel can just rinse and repeat, as he too feels he has to defend Rick Perry against the “crime of Mansplaining.”

Cue the controversy. Davis has condemned Perry, as has half of Twitter, for the crime of Mansplaining. It’s actually pretty clear what Perry meant—he was riffing, by the way, not using prepared remarks—and that he thought he was paying a high compliment. But he revealed much more than he meant to.

First, what he meant. Wendy Davis was indeed a single mother at age 19, something she’s told voters as she’s campaigned for election and re-election. She went to community college and eventually worked her way to Harvard Law. All true, very inspiring. Perry’s not attacking her lifestyle, not in his mind.

“It’s actually pretty clear what he meant.” Yes, it is, so how come Dave Weigel doesn’t have a clue what that meaning was? “He was riffing, not using prepared remarks.” And this is dispositive of his beneficence, how? “He thought he was paying her a high compliment.” Um, yeah, rather obviously. So?

  • Baby_Raptor

    (Flyby from Feministe reporting in.)

    I respect you and every other person whose had the strength to report on and dissect this mess. I can barely read about it; it’s just too triggering. So, thanks, from someone who can’t help much.

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