Roleplay. Don’t force gender roles upon others.

Roleplay. Don’t force gender roles upon others.

perspectives

w.Meyyappan.YuWalkercolumnphoto“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who was as much of a whore as Wendy Davis. And I’ve met some epic whores in my travels,” reads a tweet from Todd Kincannon, Tea Party activist and former head of the South Carolina Republican Party. His other tweets, which denounce Davis as a “coke whore” and describe her “abortion fetish,” are among those in a recent wave of attacks on the Texas state senator, who ascended to the national political stage  and spotlight last June when she filibustered a restrictive abortion bill for 11 hours.

Ironically, Davis is emblematic of a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps success story typically championed by many American conservatives: By the age of 21, she was a newly divorced mother working multiple jobs and living for a period of time in a mobile home in order to put herself through college and eventually Harvard Law School. But Davis, regarded as a hero of the feminist movement for her attempts to fight for female body autonomy in Texas, has instead come under fire for leaving her daughters with then-husband Jeff Davis while attending school at Harvard, an act looked upon as abandonment by many of her opponents. “Wendy Davis: My story of attending Harvard Law on my husband’s dime while he took care of the kids is a story every woman can relate to,” tweeted John Nolte, a columnist for Breitbart.com.

Even if these attacks are unfair, so what? After all, Davis is one woman running for office in a place 1,000 miles away from our Indiana city. But the truth is, whether we like it or not, the treatment of Davis in American politics has frightening implications for all of us, even for me, a 16-year-old across the country from her and in a situation worlds apart from hers.

Feminism, as I have always understood it, is the concept that men and women should have the same opportunities. In the case of a role reversal, I can’t imagine that Jeff Davis would be so heavily criticized for “abandoning” his children to the care of his wife in order to study law at Harvard.

What is evident here is an affirmation of traditional gender roles: Men are to go to school and secure a good job, while women are to bear and raise children. It is insulting to call a woman “tremendously ambitious,” as a colleague said anonymously of Davis, but ambition in a man is regarded as natural and honorable.

As a junior in high school, I cannot yet say with confidence what I plan to do in the future. I don’t know where I want to go to school or what kind of family I want to have, but I do know for sure that I do not want strangers to condemn me for not fitting their model of what a woman should be.

 

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Kyle Walker at [email protected]

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