Sexism toward Wendy Davis revives war on women

After leading a high-profile filibuster, skyrocketing to Democratic stardom and raising over $12 million, State Senator Wendy Davis and her gubernatorial campaign now face a major challenge — recovering from discrepancies in her biography. Since The Dallas Morning News released a damaging exposé about her early life, Davis has been subjected to intense criticism from conservatives and some has taken a disgustingly sexist turn. RedState editor Erick Erickson, who often refers to Davis as “Abortion Barbie,” tweeted that she “had a Sugar Daddy Ken” and “is so cute when she is lying.” Tea Party activist Todd Kincannon, who has since deleted his Twitter account, called Davis a “hooker,” a “whore” and suggested that she “[paid] off [her] loans in exchange for sex.” Others accused Davis of being a negligent mother.

While sexist attacks seemingly come with the territory of being a female politician, regardless of liberal or conservative leanings, the transgressions against Davis are particularly disconcerting. Within these prominent pundits’ misogynistic insults is the troubling irony that the Republican Party is still reeling from the aftermath of the war on women rhetoric, a narrative that the GOP is desperately trying to recover from. Despite Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’ insistence that the war on women is fictitious and Senator Rand Paul’s contention that the Democrats have actually waged the battle, few can argue against the polling figures. In the 2012 presidential election, President Barack Obama swept 55 percent of the female vote, whereas Gov. Mitt Romney only carried 43 percent.

As the GOP works to combat the war on women narrative, conservatives must remember that maintaining respectful rhetoric is critical to successfully shedding the anti-woman image. Abortion, birth control and family structure are all polarizing subjects that are certain to generate strong opinions, as they should. Still, there is a stark difference between being passionate and being spiteful — an important distinction when female outreach is needed to stay electorally competitive. While selecting Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers to deliver the State of the Union response may be an indication of progress, her promotion will mean little if the GOP does not address the crux of the matter — the tone of its message.

Ultimately, Republicans must acknowledge that they are their greatest liability, not the Democrats. Had Erickson and Kincannon criticized Davis’ policy instead of sexually degrading her, the backlash would have likely remained on Davis’ controversy rather than shifting toward them. Regardless of whether a voter is pro-choice or pro-life, few can deny that dubbing a woman “Abortion Barbie” is alienating and derogatory. As long as its representatives continue to choose sexist language over respectful discourse, the GOP will continue to be held hostage by the fight for gender equality.

Christina Coleburn is a deputy opinion editor. Email her at ccoleburn@nyunews.com.

*This article was originally published under the title, “Republicans sexist toward Wendy Davis.” 

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31 Responses to “Sexism toward Wendy Davis revives war on women”

  1. John Francis Fox on February 3rd, 2014 9:44 am

    Ms. Coleburn made some very good points when she wrote about the sexism that has been detected against Sen. Wendy Davis. However, the female politician who has faced the most sexist attacks is Sarah Palin. Bill Maher called her the “c” word and he called her mentally challenged son a “retard.” Also, Whitney Cummings called her son “that retarded thing that came out of Sarah Palin’s vagina.” And David Letterman made a “joke” about her preteen daughter getting impregnated at some athletic event. When Letterman was criticized for his hateful remark, he said that he didn’t know it was her preteen daughter. He thought it was her teenaged daughter. Aren’t these attacks just as misogynist- if not more so- than the attacks that have been made against Sen. Davis? .

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    John Francis Fox Reply:

    I’m afraid that I wrote “detected” instead of “directed” in my remark. I’m sorry for the error.

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    Mark Jessup Reply:

    Oh Sarah Palin doesn’t count here, she’s a CONSERVATIVE which makes her fair game for any and all members of the left-liberal unintelligentsia. So where were the howls of outrage from NOW and other feminist groups when Sarah Palin and her daughters were made the objects of ridicule and sexist abuse?

    CRICKETS chirping. And no surprise at all.

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  2. Erik Joseph on February 3rd, 2014 1:22 pm

    Well, although it’s certainly not fair or decent when people say stuff like that, this in itself certainly isn’t going to make get up and vote for her. It’s not because I don’t feel bad for her on account of the sexist abuse that she’s gotten but rather for the simple fact that I don’t vote for someone out of pity. Nor does this abusive treatment in any way exonerate her manifold distortions and omissions. Truth be told, every time I hear Wendy Davis’s name spoken, it just makes me miss Ann Richards all the more. Boy, oh boy, the Texas Democratic Party sure has gone downhill in the past twenty years. Are we seriously to believe that this woman is really the best that they could dig up? I know we Texas Democrats are something of an endangered species nowadays but, Christ, there’s gotta be someone out there better than her!

    For you Davis defenders out there, its not the dates being off by a bit that is making this thing look so bad. It’s the fact that her entire story seems to be just one big omission. Apparently for most of her children’s youth, Wendy was not a single mother but in fact had a husband who not only took most of the responsibility for rearing the children but also kicked in a pretty big contribution towards Wendy’s college tuition. But you wouldn’t know this if you just went by what Wendy tells you, because Wendy pretty much went full on Stalin and airbrushed the hell out of him in her official “compelling narrative of a single mother’s do-it-herself triumph over adversity” biography.

    One more thing, Davis supporters, please stop bringing up the “when male politicians “use and lose” their wives no one gets in a hissy over it so why are you all piling on Wendy for doing it?” nonsense. I’ll tell you why. It’s because most of the men who pull that crap aren’t dumb enough to try to weave it into their campaign narratives. In fact they do all that they can to try to hide it, which at least is a tacit admission on their part that they know what they did was wrong, whereas Wendy is trying to turn it into her selling point. It’s not the way that she “used and losed” her hubby that really grinds my gears (though it does grind my gears more than a little, as it does when men do it), but the fact that she shamelessly and arrogantly tries to convince us all to shower her in praise for pulling it off. What, does she take us all for morons or something?

    Well, I’ve dutifully gotten off my butt and voted Democratic in every Texas Gubernatorial election since I turned eighteen (and still regret the fact that I simply wasn’t old enough to vote for Ann Richards in ’94). But not this time. If she’s our nominee then I’m afraid that I’m just going to have to sit this one out.

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    Jimothy Jones Reply:

    I’ll be voting for her simply because I am terrified of the idiocy that the religious right is capable of. I honestly could say that I could see Greg Abbot jumping on board to fine individuals for missing sunday and wednesday church services. If you think this is far fetched, you obviously do not spend enough time around tea partiers or have a confirmation bias.

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    Mark Jessup Reply:

    Oh for godsakes, grow-TF up, Greg Abbott (at LEAST spell his damn name right!) is the Attorney General of Texas, he is not even close to “fine individuals for missing sunday and weds church services”. You must have a degree in Advanced Hyperbole. Give your head a shake.

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    wilmalegsgroh Reply:

    Jimothy, what is even scarier is spending time with the likes of you!

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  3. Robbins Mitchell on February 3rd, 2014 4:43 pm

    Wendy’s little “life narrative” is a lot like her adulterous baby murdering pu$$y….it just doesn’t pass the smell test

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  4. Mark Jessup on February 3rd, 2014 4:48 pm

    Wendy Davis is a proven liar and prevaricator. She is also highly ignorant of her premiere issue, which is aborting unborn children. ‘The Cowardice of Wendy Davis’ by Jonah Goldberg in National Review fully establishes both Davis’ proclivity to twist, bend and mutilate the truth, her ignorance regarding abortion, AND her arrogance towards her own gender.

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  5. Bob on February 3rd, 2014 4:49 pm

    Yes, it IS sexist. And yes, it IS racist. That’s called politics. The Left doesn’t have any problem going after right-leaning (or ‘right-wing’ if that resonates better with you) politicians with all manner of outrageous, audacious claims, but when it happens to them, ‘Oh, no! That’s not fair,’ they whine. ‘That’s racist,’ they moan.

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    wilmalegsgroh Reply:

    No, not politics but propaganda. Poorly put together propaganda. She is one of the weakest candidates to represent Texas as I have EVER seen!

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  6. Obama_Dogeater on February 3rd, 2014 4:52 pm

    How typical of a liberal woman to defend a fellow LYING liberal woman. Girls’ Club indeed. You have zero credibility, Christina.

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  7. mark abrams on February 3rd, 2014 4:52 pm

    Wendy has the wrong skin color to call racism when caught in lies, so we have to settle for sexism again although both are getting old and meaningless. Wendy did lie, she had a sugar daddy pay for her law school and divorced him the day he paid off her loan. Wendy did walk away from her children, first to attend law school then during her divorce. These are facts, they arent flattering . And people who mention them dont hate women, they just think women in general are better people than Wendy Davis is .

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  8. Idsandy on February 3rd, 2014 4:53 pm

    This sexism claim is so bogus! I’m a retired female growing up at the start of feminism and this claim is so damn stupid, I can’t believe anyone would fall for it! Want to see sexism, look at what was said about Sarah Palin – that’s sexism! Let’s at least be honest, it’s your political leaning.

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  9. JoeThePimpernel on February 3rd, 2014 5:02 pm

    Was it sexism when Barack Ubama had Jack Ryan’s SEALED divorce records made public so he could clear the field of competition?

    If Jack Ryan’s SEALED divorce records were fair game, why is Wendy Davis’ public divorce record off-limits?

    Because she’s Abortion Barbie?

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  10. Jeremy Meister on February 3rd, 2014 5:04 pm

    Um, Wendy Davis left her kids with her second husband. ***HER OLDEST WASN’T EVEN BIOLOGICALLY HIS***

    Wendy Davis lied. Openly.

    Wendy Davis made abortion a big issue.

    Isn’t it interesting that Feminists support the Democrats? What with Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades and the party screwing Hillary out of the Democrat nomination in 2008?

    Where is the Feminists condescending lectures about what is said about Sarah Palin or Bristol Palin?

    I know you don’t care and that’s the point.

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  11. wilmalegsgroh on February 3rd, 2014 5:15 pm

    Way to place the gender card Christine! Guess it is set in stone that any female running for political office can’t have anyone pointing out discrepancies in their propaganda. Oh, unless it is a conservative female. Although I agree that Davis’ marriage and education or how she raised her daughters are not that important when considering the depth of skills required to be a governor of the 15th largest economy in the world, it does speak volumes to how the liberals have come to her rescue and claim sexism at the drop of a hat. Wendy, nor you, speak for me or ever will. You want a war on women? Bring it. As a woman, I will fight you, Wendy, Hillary, Nancy, Sheila, Elizabeth, Sandra, Barbara, Whoopi, Jane, and all the other liberal feminazi tribe to the bitter end. You better become armed with something of substance, cuz I fight hard!

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  12. northern_sentinel on February 3rd, 2014 5:15 pm

    Could someone please post the link to Christina’s article criticizing the sexist attacks on Sarah Palin as reviving the “War on Women™”.

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  13. BarryBarry on February 3rd, 2014 5:25 pm

    That’s some Chutzpah Christina Coleburn has.

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  14. Christina Coleburn on February 3rd, 2014 5:56 pm

    Hi, everyone:

    Thank you for contributing to the discussion. I have read several complaints about the omission of details surrounding the sexist treatment of other female politicians. I will be the first to say that misogyny against any woman who wants to serve her country in public office is unacceptable, regardless of her political affiliation. I tried to convey this sentiment in the second paragraph, however briefly. Of course, Wendy Davis is not the first or last women to be called sexist insults. Women on both the left and right have been subjected to treatment that is unjust (including Sarah Palin, Michelle Malkin, etc.) My intention was not to snub conservative women. I firmly believe that any sexist attack is unacceptable, whether a politician/pundit leans right or left.

    What I was arguing for in this piece is for commentators put sexism aside and focus on policy. Furthermore, the reason Wendy Davis was the only woman explicitly mentioned was to more succinctly discuss the “War on Women” claims, which have plagued the GOP. I imagine many here would disagree with the assessment, but it is difficult to deny that many in the general public associate the GOP with having a “women problem,” more so than the Democrats. As such, I focused on some of the reasons why I felt the GOP’s “woman problem” persisted. And, for the record, I have my disagreements with Davis (including aspects of her abortion policy). Still, regardless of this difference in policy (which I believe is fair game to critique her on), I (and others, like Greta Van Susteren) feel it is wrong to crudely call her “a hooker.”

    The point of this article was to discuss discourse, not fan partisan flames, snub conservative women or debate whether abortion should be legal. I agree that right-leaning women face sexism, and it should definitely be addressed. I just did not think that this piece was the appropriate medium (given the focus on the “War on Women”/GOP claims) to do the topic justice.

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    northern_sentinel Reply:

    By focusing solely on Davis, you are as just as responsible as anyone else for cementing the notion, “that many in the general public associate the GOP with having a “women problem,” more so than the Democrats”

    You and your article are part of the problem.

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    Idsandy Reply:

    You would have more credibility is you weren’t so obviously leaning left. The point I’d like to make is that the Democrats are much more vicious against Republican women than the other way. And as far as the bogus War on Women by the GOP, nothing compares to the Clinton days. Study that! Look up Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers. Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, etc. The left, and especially the media, completely left these women to fend for themselves. It was vicious and dirty and I’ll never forget it. So forgive me if I’m not buying your claim that the GOP has a War on Women. That is such a complete LIE!!!!
    The only problem that the GOP has is LATE TERM ABORTIONS and the tax payer funding contraceptives in Obamacare even if the taxpayer is post menopausal. This is not a War on Women – give me a break!

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    Robbins Mitchell Reply:

    Texas politics isn’t a hopscotch game for little girls and never has been….plenty of women got elected here without using trading on their gender…Anne Richards,Kathy Whitmire,Barbara Jordan,Kay Bailey Hutchison….the list is long….and Wendy Davis doesn’t hold a candle to any of them

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    Erik Joseph Reply:

    The difference was that all of those politicians were smart and knew how to take the abuse and throw it right back at those who said it in a way that made everyone laugh. And everyone came to like and respect them for that fact. Taking the abuse and knowing how to throw it back is how one wins in TX politics. Wendy, on the other hand, is trying to play the national game of “how dare you” and “I’m offended”, and that just won’t get one very far in TX politics. It makes you sound like a whiner and no one here wants to vote for a whiner.

    If Wendy had half a brain she would learn from these gals, dump the “compelling biography” nonsense, as it causes a lot of trouble (as Davis herself has learned) and no one for that matter much likes hearing that stuff in Texas, and learn to play politics the TX way and not the Washington way.

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    Erik Joseph Reply:

    “The point of this article was to discuss discourse, not fan partisan flames, snub conservative women or debate whether abortion should be legal.”

    Well, if you are going to use this controversy in order to ride your own hobbyhorse, then don’t be surprised when other people show up and use it to ride theirs.

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  15. L_W on February 3rd, 2014 6:02 pm

    Oh please. Yes there is sexism towards female politicians (look at all the personal attacks on Palin for example) but Davis deliberately mislead viewers and voters about her personal history. The Maria Shriver piece on ABC painted a completely different picture of her than is the truth.
    No, there is nothing wrong with spouses helping out spouses … it’s done every day and has been for eons, and both ways. But the issue for Davis is her lying by omission to mislead people into thinking she did something all on your her own with no help from anyone.
    Davis needed to be more honest with viewers and potential voters.

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  16. sigzero on February 3rd, 2014 6:33 pm

    Nice try to play the sexism card. Wendy Davis is outright liar. That is why she is being attacked.

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  17. justlittlolme on February 3rd, 2014 7:15 pm

    When your candidate has shot herself in the foot and her meme that ‘the other guy was behind it all’ falls flat, screech ‘SEXISM!’ at the top over your lungs to try to cover the stench of a Texas-sized EPIC FAIL…..right? LOL!

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    northern_sentinel Reply:

    Could you imagine Chris Christie getting all bent out of shape over being called ‘Christie Cream”?
    Not as easy to screech ‘FATISM!”, I guess

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    John Francis Fox Reply:

    If Robbins Mitchell wanted to prove that there is a war on women, he succeeded by using the sexist phrase “adulterous baby-murdering p—y” when referring to Wendy Davis. I am pro-life on abortion too, but we should always avoid resorting to adolescent name-calling (especially when it’s of a misogynist nature). If Mr. Mitchell continues to act this way, he’ll probably have to change his name to Bill Maher. But, if he would like to avoid becoming more like Maher, he should read some literature from Feminists Choosing Life (an organization to which Sarah Palin belongs) FCL will help him to realize that you can support the eradication of sexism and still support legal protection for unborn children. ;

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  18. Pharmer1 on February 3rd, 2014 10:35 pm

    If a politician is so extreme that she’ll catheterize herself in order to stand and deliver a filibuster defense of late term abortion, she can expect criticism. Abortion Barbie is a rather mild term for such a person. Wendy portrayed herself as a struggling single mom, after being put through undergrad and law school by ex-husband number 2. She also left both her daughter by ex-husband number 1 and daughter by ex-husband number 2 in the latter man’s care while she was at Harvard, before leaving both girls with him after the divorce.
    The left is still not finished ripping into Palin after her 2008 vice presidential run. I’d like to see Christina Coleburn’s article objecting to the comments of Martin Bashir regarding the proper punishment of right wing females who think that we should not enslave future generations to a debt which they had no part in creating.

    The Radiance Foundation and various other civil rights groups are reminding us of the racist eugenic nature of abortion (which Wendy holds very dear to her heart). The Donohue-Levitt hypothesis claims that abortion (which extinguishes the lives of Black Americans at about 4 times the Rate of Whites) has been a successful measure of CRIME control. Margaret Sanger might have been proud of the success of her efforts to keep minority populations in check on this basis. The leftists who forward this type of agenda get a pass on everything from sexual abuse of women and children to openly supporting infanticide.

    Happy Black History Month to the lefties who are making a mockery of it.

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