Fake Wendy Davis scandal is genuinely sexist

Wendy Davis Announces Her Canidacy For Texas Governor
Image via Huffington Post

You know you’re doing something right (as in good) when the right (as in bad) wing starts a not-very-clever hashtag about you. And ironically, the #MoreFakeThanWendyDavis hashtag is a self-parody. Because what’s really fake is the claim that Wendy Davis lied about her past. Not that the truth ever gets in the way of a good smear and/or hashtag campaign.

So, according to the headline of an article in the Dallas Morning News on Monday that is overflowing with quotes from anonymous people, Wendy Davis “touts life story in race for governor, key facts blurred.” The article itself undermines that claim, reading, “The basic elements of the narrative are true.” So what facts are blurred? Well, according to this earth-shattering exposé, Davis was 21, NOT 19, when she was divorced. FOR SHAME! The hit piece claims:

It is her biography — a divorced teenage mother living in a trailer who earned her way to Harvard and political achievement — that her team is using to attract voters and boost fundraising…Davis was 21, not 19, when she was divorced. She lived only a few months in the family mobile home while separated from her husband before moving into an apartment with her daughter.

It turns out, as Davis explained,

“The truth is that at age 19, I was a teenage mother living alone with my daughter in a trailer and struggling to keep us afloat on my way to a divorce.  And I knew then that I was going to have to work my way up and out of that life if I was going to give my daughter a better life and a better future and that’s what I’ve done. I am proud of where I came from and I am proud of what I’ve been able to achieve through hard work and perseverance. And I guarantee you that anyone who tries to say otherwise hasn’t walked a day in my shoes.”

This is hardly scandalous or news-worthy. And yet, a fake scandal was born. And then, a hashtag was spawned and trended on Twitter. Davis has said, “My language should be tighter….I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.” But what’s really going on here?

As Aviva Shen at Think Progress points out, the attacks on Wendy Davis’ life story “follow a classic sexist playbook.”

The Dallas Morning News profile and subsequent media reactions have played up her marital and familial problems to poke holes in this story. While these personal details would be hardly a blip on a male candidate’s record, they are now being used to paint the state senator as a classic sexist archetype: the ruthlessly ambitious woman who sacrifices her children and uses her sexual wiles to manipulate men.

Shen outlines three sexist tropes the media is using to smear Davis: “She didn’t really struggle because she only lived in a trailer for a few months as a single mom….She manipulated her husband into paying her tuition….She abandoned her children in order to pursue a career.” Sound familiar?

I’m confident that Davis will persevere. Shoddy journalism and hashtag-ing is nothing compared to filibustering and standing on your feet for 13 hours.

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