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The Texas Legislature’s Sexist Little Secret

Tales from "the last of the good ol' boys clubs."
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The Texas Legislature's Sexist Little Secret
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In January, I returned to my home state to cover the Texas Legislature. After a seven-year absence, I was eager to spend the next 140 days writing for this magazine about the theatrics—and occasional clownery—of the Legislature’s 2013 regular session. I had no idea what I was getting into.

It didn’t take me long to realize that as a woman, and especially a young woman, I’d be treated differently than my male colleagues. Within weeks, I’d already heard a few horrifying stories. Like the time a former Observer staffer, on her first day in the Capitol, was invited by a state senator back to his office for personal “tutoring.” Or, last session, when Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton interrupted Marisa Marquez during a House floor debate to ask if her breasts were real or fake.

Thankfully I never experienced anything so sexually explicit. Instead, I encountered a string of subtle but demeaning comments. One of the first interviews I conducted for the Observer, in February, was with a male senator about an anti-abortion bill. I was asking questions about whether the bill would reduce access to abortion. At the end of the interview, as soon as I turned off my recorder, he said, “How old are you, sweetheart? You look so young.”

Another day, near the end of the regular session, I was at the Capitol (doing interviews for this story, coincidentally) when a House page stopped me on my way out of the chamber. “I’ve never seen you in here before,” he said. “Who do you work for?” I answered the question, assuming that he wanted to see my press badge. “Well, uh, this may seem forward,” he stammered, “but I’m not sure if I’ll ever see you again—could I maybe take you out to lunch or dinner some time?” He looked about 16, red-faced and innocent. I politely declined. When I walked over to the Senate chamber, a staffer stopped me. “Wow,” he said. “You look really beautiful today.” My face turned red. I thanked him and walked to a seat at the press table. It was the third time that day the staffer had mentioned my appearance, and I was beginning to feel that what I looked like mattered more than my work—at least to the men in the building. At a certain point, after enough of these run-ins—which included male staffers from both chambers, some of whom I knew to be married, hitting on me, making comments about my physical appearance, touching my arm—it finally occurred to me that, when I was at work, I was often fending off advances like I was in a bar.

What surprised me was how many women who work in the Capitol—legislators, staffers, lobbyists, other reporters—felt the same way. Everyone, it seemed, had a story or anecdote about being objectified or patronized.

Sen. Wendy Davis
Patrick Michels
Sen. Wendy Davis

Even the most powerful women in the Legislature experience it. When I started interviewing women lawmakers, they all—Republican and Democrat, House and Senate, rural and urban—said that being a woman in the statehouse is more difficult than being a man. Some told of senators ogling women on the Senate floor or watching porn on iPads and on state-owned computers, of legislators hitting on female staffers or using them to help them meet women, and of hundreds of little comments in public and private that women had to brush off to go about their day. Some said they often felt marginalized and not listened to—that the sexism in the Legislature made their jobs harder and, at times, produced public policy hostile to women.

Yet, despite their strong feelings, women in the Capitol rarely talk about, except in the most private discussions, the misogyny they see all the time. It’s just the way the Legislature has always been.

In a state where women serve as mayors, sheriffs and CEOs, the Texas statehouse remains anachronistically male-dominated. Women comprise more than half of the state’s population, yet only about 20 percent of the Legislature—just 37 of the 181 members of both chambers. Women in leadership positions are even more scarce. There have been two female governors of Texas, zero female lieutenant governors and zero speakers of the House. That means neither chamber has ever been led by a woman.

That history makes what happened on June 25—when Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered a restrictive anti-abortion bill for 11 hours—so remarkable. When the mostly male GOP majority cut her off and tried to pass the bill minutes before a midnight deadline, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte had had enough: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” The largely female crowd in the gallery erupted and, over the next 15 minutes, shouted the Senate into paralysis. It was a rare moment when women seized control of the Capitol, and the first time I’d heard a woman lawmaker in this state publicly admit she felt sidelined.

But the moment was fleeting. Three weeks later, in a new special session, the Legislature passed the anti-abortion bill, and Gov. Rick Perry signed it. Texas politics, briefly upended, returned to normal.

Misogyny, as I had come to learn, is rampant in the Texas Capitol.

Or, as Houston Republican Joan Huffman put it, “It’s probably the last of the good ol’ boys clubs.”

 

Rep. Senfronia Thompson displays a hanger during a contentious abortion debate on the House floor in early July.
Patrick Michels
Rep. Senfronia Thompson displays a hanger during a contentious abortion debate on the House floor in early July.

Few lawmakers have served longer in the boys club than Senfronia Thompson. Affectionately known around the Capitol as “Miss T,” she is serving her 20th session. She has represented Houston in the Texas House for 40 years, the longest-serving woman state legislator in Texas history. In her legislative career, the 74-year-old civil rights leader passed Texas’ first alimony law, and fought and won support for legislation to protect gay men and lesbians from hate crimes. Thompson was first elected in 1973, less than a decade after Barbara Jordan (the first African-American woman elected to the Legislature), and she has passed more than 200 Texas laws. Other women in the House look to Miss T for guidance, and she is often willing to speak out when others are not.

Senfronia Thompson’s “Matter of Personal Privilege” speech.

“When I first got here in 1973, a guy called me his ‘black mistress,’” she told me. “The males could not understand why I was offended. He was a state representative. Let me tell you what happened: He didn’t come back, he was appointed a district court judge.” Thompson says that’s a common tale in the Capitol: a male legislator can say something sexist and experience little to no consequences, and, in some cases, be promoted.

Thompson said she’s seen attitudes toward women improve during her tenure as the number of women in the Legislature has increased. But it hasn’t changed that much, and Thompson says she isn’t satisfied. More women serve in powerful roles, but Thompson said looks can be deceiving. “Just because a woman holds a position of chairmanship doesn’t mean that she is in a leadership position necessarily,” she told me. “Women are not usually included in decision-making, even involving their own committees, even when it may look like it from the outside. … To this day, we are still marginalized,” she said.

There’s still plenty of overt sexism, too. Take what happened in 2011 to Thompson’s House Bill 2093, a measure about contractor insurance. “I had a feeling that someone was trying to kill this bill,” she said recently. “You know, after a while, you get a feel for what the movements are. And all of a sudden, I get passed this picture of a pacifier. They had my bill [number] on it and said that I was trying to make Texas a ‘Nanny State.’” The bill had nothing to do with motherhood or childcare.

The flier had been produced by the Texas Civil Justice League—a conservative legal reform organization opposed to the bill. Thompson decided to ignore it. But that afternoon, she encountered another nanny-state flier. Instead of a pacifier, this one had an image of a woman’s breast. Thompson was outraged.

It was the same session that saw the Legislature cut funding for women’s health care and family planning by two-thirds, and pass a bill requiring women to endure a pre-abortion sonogram. It was also the session in which Tuffy Hamilton, during a debate about Franklin Mountains State Park, made a boob joke to Marisa Marquez. (“Young lady, would you please tell us why your mountains are better than any of our mountains, and are they man-made or are they real mountains?”)

After she saw the breast flier, Thompson decided to speak up. “I just get tired of things being funny and of women being dogged out,” she told me. “That was unnecessary, there was no reason for it. There would’ve been nothing that initiated that kind of conduct. So I gave a speech.”

Thompson went to the front microphone on the House floor and addressed the chamber. For a rare few minutes, the Legislature’s dirty secret was discussed publicly, as Thompson spoke about the need to respect women in the House. At one point, she cried, and at another point, her bracelet broke under the force of her fist slamming the podium in anger. “They have no right to do women this way,” she told her colleagues. “We have not earned this disrespect in this House. We fight here, we get elected just like you do, and we have not earned this kind of disrespect. I don’t want to tolerate it by anybody. Men, if you don’t stand up for us today, don’t you walk in this chamber tomorrow.

“Lawmakers, as we are, have an opportunity to shape the attitudes of the public. And those attitudes can be positive toward women, they can be negative toward women, or they can be both. That falls within all of our abilities.”

While Thompson was still at the front mic, Debbie Riddle stepped to the back microphone to ask a question. Riddle, a socially conservative Republican from the Houston suburbs, and Thompson, a liberal Democrat from an urban district, don’t side with one another often. But on this day, they did.

“Do you think this has become standard operating procedure by some because of what goes on in this House with the way some of the men have treated some of the women?” Riddle asked. “With pornography on the floor of this House. Do you think that’s why this is acceptable?”

“We’re going to find out just what’s acceptable, and we’re going to see what they’re made out of—sugar and spice and everything nice,” Thompson said.

Her seven-minute speech became famous. At a party this summer, a former Lege staffer told me that she cried when she watched the speech online. It was the first time she’d ever heard anyone speak openly about the kind of sexism she encountered routinely during her time at the Capitol.

In the end, according to Van de Putte, the Civil Justice League fired the lobbyist responsible for those nanny fliers and issued an apology. But the culture in the Capitol didn’t change.

When I asked why other women don’t speak up about the atmosphere, Thompson cited political ambition. “Everybody who comes here, they’re looking at, ‘Can I go higher politically?’” she said. “To some degree, political office and winning is so important and imperative to us that we are willing to turn our heads and tolerate things that wouldn’t uphold the dignity of a woman. I’m not sure if we contribute to that. And it bothers me.”

She added, “I’m just not sure right now we have enough women who are willing to [speak up].”

 

Some women lawmakers not only tolerate misogyny at the Legislature, they play into it. In January, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, held a panel on the future of Texas electricity at its annual policy conference. The only woman on the panel, Rep. Patricia Harless, a Republican from Spring, began her speech with a blonde joke: “It’s always scary when they ask a blonde female to be on a panel with all these men that know so much about electricity.” Afterward, Katie Thompson, a conservative writer, tweeted from her account @TexasGrizzlette, “I’m not sure it’s appropriate for female legislators to make blonde jokes about themselves. Doesn’t exactly encourage credibility.”

On one of my first days covering the Texas Senate, Sen. Joan Huffman uttered a similarly self-effacing line. The senators were honoring Houston Democrat John Whitmire for his 40 years in the Legislature. In her speech, Huffman, a former prosecutor and state district judge, said, “I think it says a lot about you that you were willing to let me serve as your vice chair [on the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice], with my background and being a woman. But you took me in, and I’ve learned a lot from you.” Like Katie Thompson, I wondered why these women were denying themselves credibility.

I got a partial answer when I asked Huffman about her experience as a working woman in the criminal-justice system. She recalled that back in the 1980s, early in her tenure as a prosecutor in the Harris County district attorney’s office, she helped wage a campaign to convince her boss to allow women in the office to wear pantsuits instead of skirts. They decided they needed to display the kinds of clothes they wanted to wear—and that’s how accomplished women lawyers ended up putting on a fashion show for the men in their office.

 

Sen. Judith Zaffirini
Patrick Michels
Sen. Judith Zaffirini

It’s hard to imagine Sen. Judith Zaffirini putting on a fashion show at the office.

Many women in the House said they looked up to Senfronia Thompson, and several women in the Senate—including Wendy Davis—mentioned Zaffirini as a role model. The Laredo Democrat is known for her toughness and is rarely seen without at least one policy binder. She’s not to be trifled with. But even she isn’t immune to being demeaned.

In April, Zaffirini brought a proposal to the floor. The Senate was discussing an omnibus bill on the Texas Preservation Board, and she wanted to allow lactation suites in the Capitol, where women could breast feed or pump. Amarillo Republican Kel Seliger introduced a farcical amendment to make those lactation suites part of Zaffirini’s office. “It’s not funny. It’s not funny. It’s not funny,” Zaffirini muttered to herself.

“I think that a lot of people have a double standard and perhaps have higher expectations for women,” Zaffirini told me later in the session. “The role of women in the Legislature has changed over the years, and the biggest problem we have is that there aren’t enough of us.”

Austin Democratic Rep. Donna Howard was more blunt about the behavior of some male lawmakers. “Part of it seems to be acting like middle-school boys,” she said.

During the House budget debate in April, Brenham Republican Lois Kolkhorst and Austin Democrat Dawnna Dukes were debating an amendment. As the debate intensified, their male colleagues in the chamber started meowing and making angry-cat noises. Several times each session, men in the House will make cat noises when two women are debating.

“It shows how there’s this immediate visceral response from the men to treat us in a demeaning way,” Howard said. “Certainly, two men can go at it, and it’s thought to be business as usual, maybe because we expect that behavior from them. But the fact is that it’s still very hard for women to be assertive without being thought of as overly aggressive.”

When I asked Van de Putte if this immaturity is ever apparent on the Senate floor, she answered, “At times. You know, [pornographic images] on their personal iPads or something. You just say, ‘Gentlemen, don’t bring that to the floor… Just do that at home.’”

Howard also alluded to enthusiastic physical contact between House members. “You may have noticed that there’s a lot of hugging and friendship and that sort of thing going on,” she told me. “Sometimes people take that too far and feel like they can invade your space or touch you—and I’m not talking about an ‘inappropriate’ touch so much, but touching you more than you might want them to. We’ve kind of opened the door for that kind of relationship, and then they take advantage of it.”

 

Given the male domination of Texas politics, the events of June 25—the night women took over the Capitol—seem even more incredible.

On the fateful night when Wendy Davis, in her now-famous pink running shoes, filibustered the anti-abortion bill, sometime after midnight everyone was scrambling to piece together whether the bill had passed. A crowd of reporters formed around Davis on the Senate floor. Most reporters were asking how Davis felt (“tired”) or what she thought the political implications would be (“I’m not really thinking about that right now”). As I looked around at the older, male reporters, I couldn’t understand why no one was asking about the people Davis had done all of this for—women. So I asked.

“Women showed a lot of strength today,” Davis said. “They showed that they’re paying attention and that these issues mattered deeply to them. I think that women in Texas are tired of being on the receiving end of some pretty abusive power plays here in the Texas Capitol.”

Since she joined the Senate in 2009 after defeating Republican incumbent Kim Brimer—who The Washington Spectator once called a “cigar-chomping, silver-haired good-old-boy”— Davis hasn’t shied away from controversy. She’s been a vocal critic of cuts to education and family planning, and she’s attempted two filibusters in her three sessions. Despite her outspokenness—or perhaps because of it—she’s endured some especially condescending remarks.

Sen. Troy Fraser has trouble hearing “women’s voices.”

During a floor debate in Davis’ first session, Sen. Troy Fraser, a Republican from Horseshoe Bay, infamously told Davis that he couldn’t understand what she was saying because he “can’t hear women’s voices.” And during the Senate budget debate this session, Davis and Republican Finance Committee Chair Tommy Williams had a run-in of their own. Everyone was getting along swimmingly, going around the room thanking each other for their leadership and for Williams’ hard work on the budget. That is, until Davis raised an amendment and questioned whether the budget actually provided schools with adequate funding. Despite the fact that Davis was clearly informed on the subject, Williams’ tone shifted from respectful to condescending. “I’d be glad to sit down with you and show you why your numbers are wrong,” Williams said.

Weeks before her famous filibuster, I asked Davis about the sometimes sexist atmosphere in the Capitol. “It’s not OK,” she said. “Families treat each other with respect, and families that don’t are not families. I am able to disregard it; I’m able to let it roll off my back because there’s nothing to be gained in making an issue of it. But it certainly exists, and I think that the obligation that we have as women is to march forward regardless and to demand the respect that we deserve. That’s what I try to do.”

When I asked if she felt this way frequently, she said, “Sometimes, but I think that isn’t unique to the Legislature. You know, regardless of where we are as women and the profession that we’ve adopted, we face those challenges … I do think that women tend to, when faced with a confrontational situation, want to defer to pulling back, and that we do have to fight against our conciliatory natures and really lean in and push hard when we believe in something. And I can see that here, where the male legislators tend to be more confident about that: confrontation when it’s needed.”

She said that lawmakers most often disagree on ideological, not gender, lines. In 2011, when the family-planning budget was slashed by two-thirds, Davis contends, it was clear that “political ideology rose far above any pragmatic concern for the repercussions that decision was going to have on women’s lives.

“It’s disappointing,” she said. “There were Republican women who were as rabid about those cuts as our male counterparts were. I don’t think it’s gender directive, but it certainly has an overabundant consequence on women. ”

Despite ideological differences, though, many Republican women are bothered by how they’re treated at the Capitol.

“I’ve had many comments before. ‘Well, that’s just you girls.’ You know, not my favorite comment, but one that I’ve grown up and dealt with,” Lois Kolkhorst said. “This session has reminded me to look back and think about the real pioneers that we’ve had for women. Barbara Jordan—I can’t imagine being an African-American female and the things that she accomplished in breaking the glass ceiling. So, sometimes I’m challenged inwardly to see, ‘Have I broken any glass ceilings for the women behind me? Have I made this world a little bit better for my daughter to succeed?’ And I’m not always sure I can answer that ‘yes.’”

In our conversation, Kolkhorst recalled the observation another lawmaker made to her: “Serving in the Legislature is like being a scientist. You can stand back and watch a test tube of human struggles all on the House floor.

“I think that there have been times over my seven terms where women really flourished, and I think that we’ve retracted on that,” Kolkhorst said. “I think that I’m a little bit like Miss T. I’m not sure we’ve made great strides.”

In fact, Davis’ filibuster may have breathed new life into the Texas Democratic Party and reinvigorated pro-choice activists in Texas, but it hasn’t yet changed how women are treated at the Capitol. On July 12, three weeks after Davis’ filibuster, the Senate passed the anti-abortion bill. Before the debate, state troopers searched spectators entering the gallery. After hearing rumors that some planned to throw objects onto the chamber floor, officers confiscated personal items from spectators. Women entering the Senate gallery that day were forced to hand over their tampons and maxi pads.

If we’re waiting for the Legislature to prove it isn’t a hostile place for women, we may want to strap on some of those pink tennis shoes. We’ll be standing for a while.

  • Alexia Riggs

    Enlightening, thank you for sharing this. I had no idea that these things were going on at the capitol, it makes me ill to think that some of these “gentlemen” come to our communities and churches and speak of family and home while acting like complete jerks (putting it nicely) at the capitol. I have a few new questions to ask my representative the next time I see him.

    • newsmom4968

      run, don’t walk, to get a copy of molly ivins’ book, “molly ivins can’t say that, can she?” it’s a great primer on male behavior at the capitol. molly had a great way of infusing the most obnoxious antics with just enough humor to make it seem even worse — not that some of the stuff could get much worse.

  • deniseflores

    Great, great piece. Thank you.

  • Paula Alderson Beard

    Great article, a littlepeak into the window of the “good ole boy’s club” and the culture inside the institution. I think if this is ever to change, more women need to be elected to the Legislature. The stronger the presence, the harder it will be for the mysogyny to prevail.

  • Clevelandchick

    What a hideous working environment…and not to mention, illegal. I worked in the field of construction for 22 years as a commercial product rep. I went to job sites, contractor meetings, design meetings with architects, bid meetings and openings. More often than not I was the only woman in the room. I encountered a little of that BS when I was younger, mostly from male colleagues jealous of my sales stats. But rarely out in the field. Yes, I had to be smarter and better than the men to be taken seriously and get ahead, but I was rarely abused in this way. That’s in CONSTRUCTION. Not state government! They need to band together and start shaming these swine. Take video of the offenses with their phones and put it on their websites or send it to a news station. The more they realize they’re being watched by the public, the less they’ll be inclined to be such immature trolls.

    • Carrie Nance

      In the age of social media, these guys should be toast in no time.

  • POC Backwash

    You are now aware that there are legitimate reasons why people cannot hear “Women’s voices.” On average, a woman’s voice is at a different frequency, making it so that if they do have a hearing problem, you’re projecting your victim complex onto their very real disability. Ableism much?

    • Captain_Tragedy

      Mm, way to pick one anecdote out of the article and spin it in the most positive light possible, so that you can dismiss the rampant sexism described in the rest of it.

    • Karen Menke

      They don’t hear women’s voices because they don’t want to. It’s easy to concentrate on what people are saying rather than tuning them out. I think it’s a matter of tuning out women’s voices.

      • gorgegirl

        These are the same controlling white men who think they should be able to control all women’s uterus’s. They are accustomed to telling women what to do instead of partnering with their loved ones.

    • disembodiedprose

      Please provide one piece of evidence where people with a hearing disability could only hear men’s voices but not women’s. Human voices are fairly similar. It is not as if women speak at some invisible frequency that only dogs can hear. Get real.

      • KetchumResident

        l have a hearing disability and can’t understand children’s voices and some others. Depends on whether you speak up. It’s the high frequencies that are killers.

      • gorgegirl

        Especially since they have microphones in the chamber.

    • Laura Edmiaston Allen

      I am completely deaf in one ear. I do not have trouble “hearing” women or men’s voices. He was being a condescending and I know this because I have the dubious honor of being in his Senate district. He just doesn’t respect women.

      • TheChaoticStorm

        It depends on which frequency the area of hearing loss is. With partial hearing loss, some frequency ranges may be affected more than others.

        As such, it’s quite possible he was being completely truthful in his statement. He didn’t say that he couldn’t hear her at all – that he was getting half of what she was saying. This sounds like he was having trouble with distinction.

        IMO his statement was grossly blown out of proportion by people looking for a fight.

        • Stephanie Webster

          Surely if he has trouble hearing women’s voices, an interpreter could be arranged? It’s easy to say you don’t understand someone when you don’t want to understand them. Even if he legitimately can’t hear a woman, that doesn’t mean he can dismiss what she says.

        • Laura Edmiaston Allen

          Trust me as a partially deaf person, I completely understand frequencies. I also know that the frequency changes between a man and a woman’s voice are not so large as to cause a person to be able to hear one and not the other. If he was truly complaining about not hearing, perhaps his colleagues could stop their private conversations while someone else is talking. If he had said I lose sound in this environment because it is large, I would have believed him. However, the difference in frequency of men and women are minimal.

        • Holli

          Did anyone else watch THE REST of the video? “I know you’re new in the Legislature…” He was being blatantly condescending, and it was appalling.

    • Sports Princess

      Douchebag much?

    • Steve D

      The generally accepted standard range of audible frequencies is 20 to 20,000 Hz. I’ve worked in audio with MCA (Music Corporation of America) and that’s garbage POC Backwash

    • Steph

      Are you suggesting these poor old men need hearing aids?

  • Capitol Watcher

    Great article. It jives with my experience of a culture that allowed for such men as “Kissin’ Kuempel” and “Molesty Uresti.”

  • freebird44

    These men are dispicable – no different than high school boys yelling obscenities or dirty jokes, they ARE a joke. God if I could get out of this joke for a state I would…Texas is a national embarrassment!

    • Francine

      At least its just one state, i live in an entire country with that mentality, australia!

  • Jeff

    Some guy said you looked pretty and asked you out on a date?? The audacity!!!

    • Stephanie Webster

      She is at work. Workplace romances may happen, but they are frowned upon, and women are often the ones who take the blame and whose careers suffer the consequences.

      Nobody should have to turn down advances at work. If this guy thought she was an amazing person who might just be the love of his life and he couldn’t let her go, perhaps focusing on something other than her looks might have been the way to go.

      • Jason M. Fitzmaurice

        The guy who asked her out didn’t mention her looks, it was a staffer later who mentioned her looks. I didn’t read this part of the article as her being offended. I read it as an indictment of the corrupting culture of that workplace. The young page made no comment on her appearance, was nervous to be asking her out, apologized if he seemed too forward, asked her out, she declined, end of encounter. She even describes him as innocent. She then bumped into an older staffer(who had obviously been there longer) who made a patronizing comment on her appearance for the third time that day.

        I read it as her drawing a contrast between the two experiences. One a guy she wasn’t interested in, and felt was too young for her, politely and nervously asking her out, aware that even the simple act that begins all relationships was somewhat uncomfortable. Then the condescending jackass that felt it appropriate to repeatedly comment on her appearance, and made her feel as if her looks were all that mattered.

      • AlphaLackey

        Every employee, male or female, certainly has the right to ask their coworker if they’d like to socialize after work. Once an advance is rejected, yes, repeated advances turn to harassment. Key to the definition of harassment is “unwanted”, and until it is rejected, under no circumstances must a request given politely to be considered “unwanted by default”.

        Specifically:

        “Another day, near the end of the regular session, I was at the Capitol (doing interviews for this story, coincidentally) when a House page stopped me on my way out of the chamber. “I’ve never seen you in here before,” he said. “Who do you work for?” I answered the question, assuming that he wanted to see my press badge. “Well, uh, this may seem forward,” he stammered, “but I’m not sure if I’ll ever see you again—could I maybe take you out to lunch or dinner some time?” He looked about 16, red-faced and innocent. I politely declined.”

        I’m not even going to tempt you by wording it like a rhetorical question, so I’ll just flat out say it. Nothing wrong was done by the Page here. Nothing whatsoever. If you think there is, you are just as big a roadblock to equality as the odious senators highlighted in this article.

    • barefootwriter

      Clearly this doesn’t happen in a creepy way for you, ever. So let’s have a thought experiment in an alternate universe.

      Imagine, for a moment, that a gay male colleague repeatedly tells you that you are good looking and asks you back to his place. In fact, imagine that you have more than one of such colleagues — that guys like these run the show — and you have to run the gauntlet literally every time you go to work.

      You can’t punch them: They’re in charge and they outnumber you. Sure, you could quit and get a different job, but chances are you’re just going to face more of the same, to a greater or lesser degree, so why bother?

      And, when you complain, no one takes you seriously. People dismiss you and tell you (as you have above) “Some guy said you looked handsome and asked you out on a date?? The audacity!!!”

      Now do you get it?

      • Jeff

        meh

        • barefootwriter

          Interesting that you seem to have backtracked on your comment. I do get e-mail notifications of replies, you know. . .

          • Jeff

            Just figured there was no point in arguing with someone like you. Just remember, the world is against you. Nothing is fair and all men are out to objectify and oppress women.

      • AlphaLackey

        I failed to see how the young, nervous Senate page did any of those things. He asked her out on a date, she declined, and that was that. He did absolutely nothing wrong.

        If a gay coworker ever nervously asked me out, and I said no thanks, and he didn’t ask again, I’d feel the exact same way.

        • Kamimyla

          Sounds like you would be a good candidate to join the good ole boys club in the legislature. Just saying.

          • AlphaLackey

            You would be in error. I’m too erudite and rational to be a politician. Apparently these traits also preclude me from making any sense to you.

          • Kamimyla

            If you were truly erudite you would have the foresight to see through your own self-inflated ego, arrogance and pomposity. Perfect traits for a politician. By assuming that because I am a woman I don’t have the intelligence to “make any sense” of your comments, you confirm that you are no different than the good ole macho boys in the Texas legislature. Surely you would be welcomed by their club.

          • AlphaLackey

            When did I say that your inability to make any sense of your comments had anything to do with your being a woman, a fact of which there was zero evidence until you just stated it now?

            I state you don’t have the intelligence for me to “make any sense” of my comments because I presented a logical argument and your response was a personal, gendered insult that did not address any of the concepts I’ve touched on. Your follow-up accusation of sexism, demonstrably baseless as it is, only reinforce that. I cannot make sense to you because you are incapable of having a rational discussion, a trait that transcends gender.

  • cozmiccowgirl

    The base of the problem seems to me to be the fact that men can’t stand the thought of a woman doing the same job as they, and doing it better, even. As a 16 year trucker, I see this all the time. So they have to belittle and dismiss women because they are afraid of us. We expose their immaturity, and we cut to the chase. This scares the crap out of them, and they fear for their fragile egos.

    • Andy

      oh yeah because women don’t have big egos…and oh yeah all women are just better than all men…grown up you are quite clearly a sexist woman who feels that to be sexist towards men is ok.

      • cozmiccowgirl

        You just proved my point.

        • Becci Himes

          lol!

        • Andy

          LOL, clearly you try and put things in your head to make yourself feel better, saying things like men can’t stand that women can do the same job as them, when clearly most men don’t care who does what job…it’s like feminism 101 where they claim this vast conspiracy where men have secret meetings to oppress women…LOL I guess you feel that men are scared of you so they belittle you, whatever makes you sleep at night I guess

          • cozmiccowgirl

            Yep, it looks like you’re scared of women. And, you have a vivid imagination.

          • Andy

            “So they have to belittle and dismiss women because they are afraid of us. We expose their immaturity, and we cut to the chase. This scares the crap out of them, and they fear for their fragile egos.”…and you say I hav a vivid imagination LOL !!!

          • cozmiccowgirl

            Yep.

          • Andy

            lol

  • Sports Princess

    Brilliant. There is only ONE thing that will solve this problem – MORE WOMEN in Austin. That Lois Kolkhorst CAN’T answer her own question, should be her first clue she’s on the wrong side. Just sayin.

  • Donald Dickson

    If I had a daughter I would not let her work at the Texas Capitol. Having said that, I can tell you that things are no different in the New York State Assembly. So this is not a “Texas thing.” But it is revolting.

    • Christina Taulbee DeLaigle

      My half-brother, a career Army man, told me if he ever heard of my joining the Army he’d come back to KY and beat me up. He said women in the Army are nothing but sluts. Those were his words and in the early sixties. My daughter, a wife and a mother, also serves and I can tell you, she’s no slut. She is a moral enlisted woman, a compassionate adviser, and a devoted and loving wife with no truck for someone who looks down on women. This behavior in the Texas legislature is not uncommon and should be checked and cancelled. If it goes on in other legislatures, the same goes for them. Men and women are equal and should be treated as such in every office, school, workplace in America. Till they are not, I guess I’ll do broom duty and point the bums the way to the door as vocally as possible. God bless those women who went before us in politics. If you can’t treat us as equals, then we’ll accept being your betters.

      • RebeccaKW

        My brother was a Marine in the 2000s. I made a joke about enlisting after I graduated college so I could be an officer and his boss, and he told me absolutely not, that female marines are called ‘walking mattresses’ and he refused to let his sister be one.

        There are many, many things wrong with this, and it just makes me more proud of those women in the military who deal with this every day and don’t give up.

        • starumbra

          I think it says a lot that ‘he refused to let his sister be one’. Why would she let her brother have such power over her? SHE needs to do what she wants, because if she became a Marine, maybe her brother would think differently about women as competent co-workers and not ‘walking matresses’.

          • RebeccaKW

            Well, as I stated in my comment, I made a joke about enlisting. I wasn’t interested in doing so, so there was no power over me. I made my comment to compare some current military attitudes to the commenter above me, who had a similar experience with her brother 40 years ago.

    • Beth Richardson

      You wouldn’t “let” her? I’m assuming that by the time she could conceivably be old enough to work there she would be an adult, making her own decisions. So how would you “let” or deny her? I’m glad you don’t like the obvious misogyny, but please be aware that you are displaying a bit of your own. And try to remember, this isn’t a problem that will be fixed by ignoring it. Rather, you should encourage your daughter to work there, to support her as she helps change the things that are wrong.

      • Donald Dickson

        No Beth, the pages and messengers and interns are all very young. If I had a daughter and she wanted to run for office, I’d say “have at it.”

        • KatieG

          Actually many interns are in their 20-30s. Young yes, but adults and capable of making their own decisions.

          • AlphaLackey

            But some are minors, right? So “I wouldn’t let my daughter work there” is an issue of parental control and not of misogyny, right? So someone ranting with a cock-eyed accusation of misogyny would still be proven to be in error, right?

      • AlphaLackey

        Now that you’ve been corrected, Beth, I don’t suppose an apology for your angry tirade will be forthcoming to Mr. Dickson? Or maybe you don’t see how accusing someone of misogyny who exhibits none, solely due to your own ignorance of a situation, might just be part of the problem too?

    • Kyle Marie Stock

      You wouldn’t “let” your daughter work in the Texas Legislature? I’m quite certain that is not your decision, but hers.

      • Donald Dickson

        If I had a daughter, of whatever age, I’m supremely confident that she would not wish to work there after I told her some of the stories that I am not at liberty to share with you and the other people who have chimed in here.

      • AlphaLackey

        If the daughter is under the age of majority, as some pages are, then I am quite certain that it is the parent’s decision.

  • NativeSonKY

    “At what point must a female senator raise her voice to be recognized by her male colleagues?” – that quote from Leticia Van de Putte should be engraved somewhere in the Texas Chambers for future reference if needed.

  • Nancy Baker Jones

    Thank you for this reporting, Olivia. You may be interested in reading “Entering the ‘Men’s Room': Women Inside the Texas Legislature,” my chapter in the book I co-wrote with Ruthe Winegarten, *Capitol Women: Texas Female Legislators, 1923-19998, published by UT Press in 2000. In it, I describe the legislature like this: “Along with barrooms and bordellos, there has not been a more male-focused institution in Texas history than the Texas Legislature. These three worlds have a lot in common, such as liquor, tobacco, money, fistfights, and, of course, politics. They are also arenas of male social bonding–in other words, ‘men’s rooms’–where women have traditionally had quite specific, limited roles.” There are scads of stories in this book similar to the ones you collected. I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that attitudes there have not changed since the first female legislator showed up in 1923.

  • radsenior

    Absolute power corrupts, and Texas politicians are the most corrupt and showing it after they forced women to undergo medical treatment not called for or ordered by a physician. We are at a point in time where women should take the reins of local and state governments and change the national outlook. The prediction of internal war within the Republican consortium may be coming to fruition. The evangelicals want to Talibanize the women into their quarry for the propagation of their off-spring. The Libertarians want to liberate the top 1%-er from taxation and pass that responsibility to the middle class. The TEA-fringe elements wants little if any central government restrictions and allow the top 1% to run free to pillage and plunder as the did in the early 1900’s. Women would take a serious look at the situation and make the changes needed to fix every city, state and national problem. We will have to start this coming 2014 election cycle. Failure to act in the next election cycles, 2014, 2016 and 2018 will prolong the pain for the middle class and those at the edge of society. Remove the obstacles – TEA party and Republicans standing in the way, standing in the way must be tantamount. There must be a concerted effort by students, women, blacks, Hispanics/Latinos and others of color to remove these obstructionist from office. The 2014 Mid-term is a-coming! As is 2016, and 2018! V.O.T.E.(Vote Out The Encumberance)

    • Beth Richardson

      Well said!

      • radsenior

        Thank you! Thak you very much! Now please – get involved – be sure to register to vote – be sure to vote – Help get out the vote – Remove the obstacles – TEA party and Republicans standing in the way, standing in the way must be tantamount. There must be a concerted effort by students, women, blacks, Hispanics/Latinos and others of color to remove these obstructionist from office. The 2014 Mid-term is a-coming! As is 2016, and 2018! V.O.T.E.(Vote Out The Encumberance)

  • Cizzle Furtado

    In my experience, I think the worst and most paralyzing part is if you try to point out that a joke was used to dismiss you, you are told you just don’t have a sense of humor or that “you’re one of those women”. In other words, you are just dismissed further. So how do you stand up for yourself? Sometimes I have the wit to shoot something back, but I am no comedian, so what tools am I left with?

    • Beth Richardson

      I know how you feel, I could never think of things on the fly either. Later I would, of course, but by then it’s too late. But I try to remember those things that I think of for the next time and now and then I’m able to shoot back very well. That give me more confidence to do it again, and again. Next time you’re in that situation, hold on to what you think of later and use it the next chance you get. :)

    • Nicole

      Cizzle, I agree that this can be horrifying. I don’t know if this is your style, but when I’ve been in these situations, and it’s continued to escalate, I fight fire with fire. I make jokes about men who say such things as having “small equipment” and needing “little blue pills.” If they get insulted, of course the response is “What, can’t you take a joke?” And if they try to say that’s harassment, etc., I politely say, “Oh honey, I’m a blonde. Can you please explain how that is any different than the comment you just made?”

      As I get older, I encounter this disrespect less and less. Maybe our culture is changing or maybe it’s my job. In my current job, about 90% of my clients are men, and active-duty military, but they are always, always respectful.

      • mark cathcart

        Your response works fine without the Blonde reference. I know you were using it to ironically but it just give them permission to use it, much like Rush Limbaugh saying he can use the N word because they do.

    • cholula1111

      Lawsuits, and public exposure–lots of public exposure.

  • chix0rgirl

    Fantastic journalism – really insightful, and resonated with me on a very personal level. Thanks for putting a face to the invisible monster, and for helping us all be more aware of ways in which we can start combating sexism.

  • http://moultonlava.blogspot.com/ Mokita Syzygy

    Politics is Anti-Social Personality Disorder wearing a jacket and tie.

  • donna

    i hate the term “girls” it continues on though I try to fight it with the term “women” in every conversation I have.

    • HellNO

      I live in Texas when a man refers to me a girl or young lady in a condescending tone I call him boy or sonny, they REALLY do not like it.

  • Rebecca

    I agree with parts and disagree with other parts. Yes, the flirtatious environment at the Capital is unprofessional and unacceptable. The demeaning remarks even less acceptable. But when Sen. Leticia Van de Putte complained that as a woman she wasn’t being allowed to speak, that was pretty ridiculous given that Davis had just been talking all day. Protesters were planning on throwing tampons and pads at their senators, (they had a huge box of tampons) so of course they were confiscated.

    • belgianchic

      Only when Senator Van de Putte complained that she wasn’t being allowed to speak, she in particular wasn’t being allowed to speak. She was being pushed aside and others were speaking over her, and she needed to make her voice heard.

    • Everybodhi

      “…that was pretty ridiculous given that Davis had just been talking all day”.
      Davis talked 11 hours because she was filibustering.
      When Van de Putte was trying to speak, she had a constitutional question.
      One has nothing to do with the other, other than, both women were doing their jobs.
      Your comment leads one to believe you think they were just a couple of “gals” running their mouths.
      And also, the reports of throwing tampons was propaganda spread in the right wing blogosphere.

  • belgianchic

    Wow. Sending so much support to you amazing women from New York!

  • Marsha Adamson

    Excellent article. Thank you for giving a voice to these women who have had to endure this kind of ridicule. Our fight for women’s liberation is far from over and young women need to know they must constantly be strong and stand up for their rights.

  • Everybodhi

    While Thompson speaks, the guy behind her spits his snuff in a cup.

  • TronPhenix

    Wow, those Texan waste no time in hunting fresh meat. More women need to hit the with harassment charges, but in a macho state it might not stick. Sad !

    • cholula1111

      It will start “sticking” if enough women do it.

  • bbettybbq

    excuse me, but porno on the senate floor?!? This article is good and eye opening ,by the way, but as far as I’m concerned porno has no place in a business enviroment since these are taxpayer’s ipad maybe its time to see what we are paying for

  • NeoTechni

    That first video was beautiful. I cried as more and more women joined her.

  • David Kempton

    Well said. Texas is especially onerous when it comes to recognizing women as equals. They just don’t get it. They are frustrated by the durn female’s refusal to submit like the Good Book tells ‘em to. (One of ots prime purposes…)

    Texas women, you’ve got a hell of a fight ahead of you. Start with your children. Keep them away from church and make sure they can think for themselves…

    • Kamimyla

      Very well said David. Not only do we have to keep them away from church, but we need to take full responsibility for their education too, which starts in the home. These petty tyrants and “good ole boys” had mothers too. We need to instill in them at a young age that they are no less men when they can stop and smell the roses and appreciate the beauty in nature and all living beings. We need to teach them what it really means to be a “gentle man” who can love women for their hearts and minds and not just their boobs.

      • Andy

        and here we go again with the ‘boys need to be taught’ comment, as if girls just inherently know how to treat men and boys need to be taught how to treat girls…funny how you don’t mention all those women who use and abuse men who disrespect men, but of course who cares right because sexism towards men is ok

        • cozmiccowgirl

          Yep, they need to be taught. Kindness, compassion, love of nature, etc. Apparently you were absent that day (or lifetime). Did you even read the article?

          • Andy

            again, girls as well need to be taught all this stuff as well…and if you take this article as fact and not with a grain of salt, sadly you are not fully aware of ‘life’…the whole men think they are better and superior then women is complete fiction, don’t believe every feminist idea…more men respect women than there are women who respect men

    • HellNO

      As woman who moved to Texas from California I am appalled by the prevalent misogyny and closed minds here. My father, who considers himself Catholic but has not attended church in 30 years always said to me “My job as a parent is to teach you how to think not what to think.” My husband and I work hard to do the same with our 8 year old son (who has never attended church.) Every teacher he has had has said he is the nicest child in the classroom. They would likely be surprised to learn his kindess is because of compassion and not fear of punishment.

  • David C. Morrow

    You’ll find what you look for.

    • John Anderson

      You’re right. I came here looking for an ignoramus, and I found one.

      • David C. Morrow

        I wouldn’t describe her that harshly.

  • WammJamm

    Im really liking dat picture, dat ass!

    Anon-Top.tk

  • Kelly Speaks

    Listen I get it.. Texas definitely lives by own set of rules.. HOWEVER, We the People of the United States cannot help Texas women.. They have the power to make changes and that would required getting rid of the good ole boys – Republicans.. As long as they insist on voting for Republicans, they will never see any social change…

    • Supernumerary

      You may want to take the opportunity to read about how redistricting has affected Texas and its voting population, as well as how it has also managed to give Republicans an incredibly strong foothold — one which allows them to easily become reelected. It’s not so cut and dry as ‘oh, the voters of Texas deliberately puts these people into power’.

      • Jed

        redistricting is not what made texas republican.

        the truly awe-inspiring stockpile and density of racist, sexist morons is what did it.

  • jaybird2005

    Lactation suites, paid for with Government money would be illegal. They would only be used by women. The State won’t pay for a special room only to be used by men will it? Oh, I forgot. “Equal Rights” means that same as it always has: women get everything men get and more.

    This author definitely has an ax to grind. Truth or not, I have no idea. Odd that she was unable to get any actual recordings.

    • Jason M. Fitzmaurice

      Right, and I’ve heard there are County hospitals paid for by the government. Pure discrimination since the healthy don’t use them, and schools, they are paid for regardless of whether you have children or not. The discrimination. My dad can’t swim, and yet the discriminatory city he lives in continues to maintain city swimming pools. I will never use a women’s restroom, yet there it sits, mocking me.

      Look, satire aside, I would support the idea of such rooms, and clearly you wouldn’t, but it isn’t really about that, it is about the condescending way the opposition was handled. It wasn’t a debate over funding, financing or even “Equal Rights” it was a sexist joke, made at public expense.

      • jaybird2005

        Satire aside. Start using a little honesty. Stop calling it “Equal” when it is “Equal Plus.”
        Lactation rooms, at their very core *are* sexist. Period. No joke, just the way it is.

        I don’t have an answer, but that does not mean the question should not be asked. The only way to *not* be sexist is to find a true Equality.
        As a society, we give special gifts to the handicapped, this is accepted because at any time any of us may need those facilities. Half the population will never use these rooms. Half. Look at facts and stop being sexist.

        • Jason M. Fitzmaurice

          I’m not being sexist. People have different needs. It would be laughable to suggest that medical benefits should not include OB/GYN doctors, because a man would never go to them. It would be laughable to suggest that they shouldn’t include prostate cancer screenings because women wouldn’t use them. I am using honesty. Would you support removing all medical benefits not used by both genders from government employee health insurance, thereby ensuring true “equality” in public funded health insurance?

          My point is this. Physically there are some differences between men and women. Example, on average it takes women longer to go to the bathroom, therefore to truly be “equal” more restrooms need to be provided for 100 women than 100 men, and often are. Men do not have to breastfeed babies, or pump milk. So we will never experience being in a public space, breastfeeding with gawking, or often being told to stop. Therefore, to ensure the ability of men and women to equally experience this, and to allow women who are feeding their young children breast milk (as advised by all doctors everywhere as far as strictly health benefits to the child go) the same ability to function in the workplace, or public as men do, we need to provide these facilities; therefore it is not “Equal Plus,” but simply equal.

          Still, even if you disagree on this, would you not agree the way it was handled by the senator opposing it was shockingly inappropriate? He didn’t debate the merits, or make a reasoned case for his side, he attached a joke amendment putting the rooms in her office.

          • jaybird2005

            Now you see the problem. Men and women *are* different. Different means not “equal”. You only get one. Choose it. You want equality or sexism? The two are mutually exclusive.
            As I said before, mothers for thousands of generations have produced healthy children without these suites. Baby health has not required these suites in the past, or neither of us would be writing these remarks.

            If, and I am saying if, these suites were used by mothers and children, how often would they be used at all? Well, let’s take a look……
            Wikipedia says a child should be fed exclusively by mom until 6 months, solid food also after that. Statistics say that 2/3 of women return to the workforce after 6 months (Bureau of Labor statistics).
            About 3% of women are pregnant at any given time (wikianswers.com). If there are 100 women of child bearing age working in the capitol building (according to the reporter the number is more like 10) then we are talking about building these suites for less than 4 women. Perhaps 3 when you consider that 30% of new mothers choose to stay out of the workforce for more than 6 months (from Bureau of labor statistics). (And don’t think Politicians are going to share with the public.)

            If it takes 30 min per session (10 min with better equipment) per woman twice per work day (webMD), we are talking about building expensive suites that will be empty 5 hours out of the work day (7 hrs with better equipment). Empty 60% to 80% of the time. How can you justify the cost?

            This is a power play, a headline grab. “Let’s ask for something the general public won’t take the time to understand so we can get headlines that make *them* look bad.” It has enraged several here, and hundreds elsewhere.
            If the congresswoman is doing her job, her office *will* be empty at least 3 hours per day, probably more like 6. She obviously does not feel strongly enough about the topic to allow her unused office to be productive.

    • Pencils

      You do realize that the babies who are nursing in lactation suites are both boys and girls, right? So males WILL be using those rooms, therefore it’s not gender discrimination. Also, there are men who lactate and feed babies, but I don’t want to explode your head with that one…

      • jaybird2005

        Nice try. Lactation suites will generally be used by mothers without infants (kids are in daycare, not at work with mom). Or actually by women who just want to be alone, or want to have a private chit with a couple of friends; but no men, except janitors.
        Now, why not make them extra handicapped bathrooms that men or women or nursing mothers or women collecting only milk can use?
        I forgot!! Those are already there and there would be no need for these expensive “suites”.
        Sorry, but your mother and my mother and most of their children survived. Most women’s bathrooms already have comfortable couches in them, nearby sinks, everything needed.
        There must be another reason.
        Lets build dozens of $100,000 suites designed specifically for women only. Poor children don’t really need food so a few assistants to congress can sit back and relax in style.
        Sorry, if you want to build phone booth sized enclosures, you might have a better argument. After all, there is no real need for more room that that is there?

        Or make similar rooms for men only and be done with it. Heck, a man *might* take his daughter into such a room. Maybe.

        • Pencils

          There’s no point in trying to have a discussion with someone so twisted up with anger as you. I’m sorry someone hurt you so much that you now hate all women in response. It’s not necessary, though. Women aren’t actually out to get you, or maybe that was the problem. But nothing I say is going to change your mind, no matter how sensible, so go take some antacids before all that bile chokes you.

  • Rosebudmi

    Misogyny is not only running rampant in the Texas Legislature, it runs rampant in Texas period! I’ve visited Texas many times and have been appalled by the way men treat women…much like they are objects of desire…and basically say anything they wish. A few weeks ago a gentleman from Texas commented to me that the men of Texas put their women on a pedestal. Really? How would you like some man leering at your mother or your daughter or your wife or sharing lewd language? It happens elsewhere as well, but I’m surprised how often it happens in Texas. These men have “decided” what’s best for women when it comes to their healthcare, etc. Where are the women of Texas? Do they not have backbones to stand up to them? So what if you don’t believe in abortion? That should have nothing to do with access to healthcare.

    • Sylph

      Obviously you missed the part about women coming together to protest the abortion bill.
      As a woman in Texas, I can tell you now, that it is not unique in it’s situation. Please don’t vilify Texas as a whole due to a few bad experiences.

  • Michael Fjetland

    MEN in the legislature. GROW UP. You are an embarrassment to the rest of us.

    • John Roman

      They can’t. They are hopelessly like their fathers and the forefathers. They are meat eating, gun toting, womanizing, Bible thumping cowboys. To expect virtue from the ancestors of gunslingers and rustlers is like expecting Romney to pay taxes…

      • HollowGolem

        Presumably, each and every person is responsible for their own behavior. A man who acts like scum is scum because of his own decisions, not something that happened decades before his birth.

      • cozmiccowgirl

        Ha! Very well stated, John Roman! (Especially the part about Romney paying taxes…)

  • Meghan Topp

    Very informative article. As a young, politically active and ambitious woman, it is helpful for me to get a clear picture of the situation for women around the country. However, I do have an issue with equating chauvinism with social conservatism. The politicization of my gender has really gotten out of control. All women are not liberals. Pro-life rallies, at least up here in DC, are predominantly (often exclusively) women – men are usually ashamed to take a stand against abortion, lest they be labelled oppressors. I understand that it would be hard not to conflate Republicans and sexism in such a discriminatory environment down South – heck, my opinion might be different if I had to live in Texas. Nevertheless, it is possible for a clear-thinking woman to come to her own conclusion, without the help of men, on moral issues such as abortion – even if that conclusion is pro-life. To deny her ability to arrive at more than one moral conclusion is equally offensive and discriminatory as condescension from men.

    Also, small note here, but women were bringing in USED tampons and maxi pads to throw at the senators…. hence confiscation.

    But really, aside from that I was very happy with your article. We need more female perspectives, especially in places like Texas where, it seems, the ones with the biggest mouths are assumed to be the best leaders. Keep on writing – women like me are cheering you on, even though we don’t necessarily see eye to eye politically.

    • cholula1111

      Meghan, the details about what the TX Capitol Police heard as rumors about a few people in the Leg, and what the actual situation was remains in dispute. There were never any hordes of crazed protesters with used tampons, pads, urine, or feces. Please stop implying that there were.

  • bnuckols

    You lost me when you find sexism in someone – a page or a staffer – asking you to lunch or dinner or telling you that you are attractive. (and you appended the 1st story with an age-ist comment of your own!) “Sexism” would get in the way of your doing your job. It exists just about everywhere, but you shouldn’t include flirting or invitations to a date within that definition.

    • melaniemwilson

      When one gets flirting, or more to the point, “hit on”, constantly and in every sort of interaction, it definitely implies that the men are seeing you more as a female whose job it is to be available rather than a professional legislator.

      • AlphaLackey

        It does not matter what the other people do or have done — what the page did is not harassment. Asking someone to socialize after work is NOT harassment. Continuing to press the issue with UNWANTED attention is. But there is NOTHING that says that any polite and safe offer of socializing after hours must be considered “unwanted by default”

        There are so many examples of strong, overt and explicit sexism in the article. You insult actual victims of sexism by comparing their experience to being politely (and deferentially, I might add) asked out on a date.

        • melaniemwilson

          Sorry, it’s not for you to judge how these women experience sexism, nor is it your prerogative to define “actual” sexism. The legislature is not a page dating service.

          • AlphaLackey

            Sorry, it’s not for you to override the dictionary definition of words like “harassment”. An employee asking out another employee in a polite and deferential manner for the first time is not harassment, end of line.

          • melaniemwilson

            Oops, your white heterosexual male privilege is showing……

          • AlphaLackey

            Last time I checked, the ability to read a dictionary was not a privilege reserved for heterosexual white males. Never mind the other comments I’ve made which explicitly apply this reasoning to gays and women as well, standing up for their right to politely and deferentially make a first-time request to socialize with coworkers outside the workplace.

            And if you could kindly explain how your “male privilege” rhetoric is in any way a valid criticism of my argument given that the original commentor is female, yet reached the exact same conclusion with the exact same reasoning, I’d be much obliged.

          • GreenTexan

            You’re wrong because you’re a man, get it? And if you don’t like that, then blame your father, not your mother. :0)

            Seriously, people don’t know the unwritten rules around using the workplace as a springboard for dating and mating because they are still in flux and because some women welcome the male attention and others clearly don’t.

            Most everyone will agree that tasteful approaches are in order, but differ on what that means. Safest course is to keep it out of the workspace altogether.

            Perceived taste in the approach, I notice, IS related to whether or not the woman finds the one “hitting on them” appealing or not. I’m with you that the page in the story above seemed meek and respectful, yet his request was still presented as inappropriate. This is a frustrating double standard for men, yes. You not only suffer the inevitable sting of rejection, but get labeled a bad person too.

            But this is a small cross to bear, compared to the really consequential struggles faced by women individually and collectively. That is what this article is all about, women not getting taken seriously on the job and not being respected for their humanity, diligence, and competence.

            I personally think it’s safer to meet and date single people outside of work, so that you can’t be misunderstood, but a big part of the problem is finding those people to date in those other settings. At work, you can get a sense of what’s important to them, character and values, etc. It’s a shame to cross co-workers or colleagues off the list of potential mates when you find them attractive. but oh well.

          • AlphaLackey

            “But this is a small cross to bear, compared to the really consequential struggles faced by women individually and collectively.”

            In the grand scheme of what’s going on in the Texas Legislature (and a non-trivial number of other ‘old boys clubs’), certainly. I also have no doubt that the author would feel substantially less frustration at the page’s innocent and acceptable offer were the rest of the environment so hostile.

            Overall, socially, I will disagree that the gender-based double standards in the dating world don’t affect men in significant problematic ways similar to how they affect women in significant problematic ways, but that’s outside the scope of this article.

            Nevertheless, going to your point: even if it is a minor injustice, why are people virulently defending the privilege of others to be that unjust? Why so much vitriol to one who is (correctly) pointing out that this article overextends the notion of “what constitutes misogyny” to an extreme that renders it inaccurate, and unfairly impugns innocent people while doing so?

            More importantly, if trying to get people to recognize this minor injustice gets such staggering vitriol, how can we ever expect society to make its quest for gender equality recognize that less than 100% of the problem can be fixed solely by elevating the status of women, including crosses and struggles that ARE very substantial ones for men to bear

    • cholula1111

      bnuckols: How many times do you think that males in the TX Leg told other men that they were attractive, and/or asked them out to dinner as a come-on (which is what the reporter meant)…

      Gee, I bet they don’t tend to do that AT ALL, because it doesn’t have a doggone thing to do with work.

      NOW, do you “get it”?

      Sheesh….

    • AlphaLackey

      Bang on, bnuckols. An offer to socialize after work is completely reasonable when done safely and politely, and is not harassment on a first request because such offers are not “unwanted by default”, no matter how much a bitter, sad and lonely person might want them to be.

  • JEK

    Unfortunately, this has been going on for years and happens everywhere,
    in all work environments, not just the state Capitol. As a young woman, I
    often found myself having to deflect unwanted (and uninvited) male
    attention in the workplace. Sometimes, I would say, “and how’s your wife
    today?”; other times I would smile and say “thanks but I’m not
    interested,” and still other times I met the implications head on with a
    look that spoke volumes. It’s a sad truth that I have had to coach my
    daughter on as she embarks on a career in a male-dominated field, but
    until we continue to educate the men in our lives to treat other women
    with the same respect we demand from them toward us, it will continue to
    happen.

  • Democratic_Thinker

    I encountered some of this kind of thing when I first entered the Oregon legislature as a 27 year old freshman representative and also as I moved on into the State Senate two years later. Much changed while I was there…and my colleages, many of them, were quite earnest in their attempts to overcome habits of thinking and behaving that we women pointed out were offensive, patronizing, demeaning or insulting. I was very impressed by that and by those who became indignant as they saw sexism exhibited towards me or other women legislators by others….. Clearly the Texas legislature is 30 years behind in terms of the attitudes and behaviors of those serving even now.

  • Melody Kelly

    As a private citizen I’ve lobbied for Texas libraries for over 30 years during many legislative sessions and even now with gray hair I’m often called “Little Lady” by the male representatives and senators. Needless to say their support for Texas library issues reflects their attitude toward me.

    • cholula1111

      Thank you very much, Melody, for all of your efforts!

  • Rockerbabe

    The women of Texas have just begun to fight for themselves and their families. All change is hard work. I pray and hope the women of Texas will stick together and make it a better place for all to live.

  • Belloc

    They demean you (and all Texas women who don’t buy their BS) because they are afraid if you really understand power and wield it you will make them look like the marginal Texas legislative public employees they are. Keep it up, progressive legislative women of Texas. They more they strut their stuff, the smugger they get, the more frightened they are. Watch their eyes.

  • Gregory Williams

    The women in the legislature need to file CRIMINAL COMPLAINTS and follow up such filings with a PRESS CONFERENCE and they should seek protection orders for ALL the women serving in or employed by the legislature AND the state government – start making these kinds of things a matter of criminal law and do not allow for a process where the perpetrators can call upon their buddies to white wash and cover up what they do.

  • Kristi Speed

    Men in power acting like tools? What a surprise. I love the internet, they are SO much more exposed.

  • ChainUp

    Sometimes it’s hard to believe this is the 21st century.

  • Gen

    Hello everyone. I
    am posting a petition to, hopefully, bring Perry and Dewhurst up on
    ethics charges. I have addressed it to the Texas Attorney General (yes I
    know he is a crony for Perry, but procedurally I need to include him),
    the Texas Ethics committee, The Texas House and Senate, President Obama,
    and the United States House and Senate. I need to get as many
    signatures as possible. If you agree with the cause, please, not only
    sign, but re-post in as many places as you can. Thank you

    http://www.change.org/petitions/attorney-general-greg-abbott-call-for-a-hearing-to-investigate-lt-gov-dewhurst-and-gov-perry

    • cholula1111

      signed and shared. thanks!

  • poliver

    Why didn’t you name these men? They need to be called out.

    • Andy

      because this is far from the truth, this article is trying to get a certain response, they are trying to show how men are oh so horrible and the perfect women who are victims. Most of this article is false or taken out of context. Many people, men and women, joke with each other about sexist things and most people take it for what it really is which is jokes…alot of women also say sexist jokes yet its not even mentioned in this article…they didnt name names because IT’S FALSE

  • cholula1111

    “Or, last session, when Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton interrupted Marisa Marquez during a House floor debate to ask if her breasts were real or fake.”

    Marisa should have looked him right in the eye and retorted “Are your balls, ‘Tuffy’?

  • Observer373

    This kind of thing should be on prime time TV news, like “60 Minutes” or “Dateline NBC”
    While some of the infractions like “ogling” is kind of mundane, a lot of these is very serious and would never happen in a regular workplace because you would be fired for sexual harassment. What is the sexual harassment policy at the state capital, anyway?

  • EB

    I’m pretty sure if it was Brad Pitt or George Clooney asking for lunch or giving compliments, the writer wouldn’t have a problem with it at all.

  • jackobean

    Olivia, asking you out or saying you’re beautiful is misogyny? (hatred for women -you-) or demeaning? And, a woman can’t thank a senior senator for guidance w/o demeaning herself? (Huffman) Are you SURE she wasn’t thanking Whitmire for treating her w/ respect? And, w/ borrowing from his 40 years experience, it’s somehow demeaning to show appreciation for what he taught her? Clearly, there’s plenty of bad bs up there w/o the need for absurd leaps in reason. You sound like you’re running out of substance (which can’t be true) and otherwise undermine your credibility.

  • Michael Lee

    This is not surprising, given the nature of the Texas legislature. Unlike most states, there are no full-time legislators in Texas. They meet once every two years to vote, and they are paid less than minimum wage to do their jobs. Almost everything is prepared in advance. So… I guess it’s a bit like jury duty.

    • GreenTexan

      I used to think it was ridiculous to be part-time, and parliamentary rules so cumbersome to get anything done. And so ridiculous that they wasted so much of their constrained time with proclamations, etc.

      Now I am relieved when they finally leave town. The clock, the calendar, etc is the only buffer against a full-scale slide back into the 19th century or a free-for-all of looting public assets

      But what does any of that have to do with the troglodyte sexist attitudes covered in this article? I don’t see how “jury duty” excuses the need for civility, respect, and decency — especially when you run for the office and present yourself as a representative of the entire community’s needs and aspirations. This place seems like a frat house.

  • Sibbydoe

    Wonderful reporting! Well researched and skillfully presented. Quite an eye opener. Years ago as press, while covering a TX Law Officers’ convention, no sound bites, but plenty of men wanted me to take their drink order!

  • Conservative Catholic

    After reading all these comments, I have come to the conclusion that you are mostly just a bunch of angry man bashers. Really you all need to grow up every bit as much as these men.

    • Will737

      I would say that given the purely factual information given in the article, that you have completely lost your ability to perceive and to think. If men were treated in such demeaning ways, there would be a full scale revolution complete with guns and bombs.
      And I don’t immediately see any comments that are anti-man. After all, men who do this kind of BS are not real men anyway. They are insecure, pathetic little boys who have nothing to offer.

    • usorthem3

      Women are not allowed to speak, what makes you think you have the right. BIBLE LAW

  • SocraticGadfly

    Texas Dems need to recognize that “moderate conservative” Texas women will continue to buy into this, and therefore, they shouldn’t expect campaigns on women’s issues to be as productive as they might hope. And, nothing will really change until a “good ole boy” male member of the Lege gets his pants, and his male member, sued off.

  • lisantx

    The guys in the lege have it easy, but they don’t even know it. Here’s how one guy tries to explain it to straight white men:

    Imagine life here in the US is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not
    always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The
    Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to
    the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the
    difficulty setting for the game. Got it?

    Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the
    lowest difficulty setting there is.

    This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game
    are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for
    completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly.
    You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work
    for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by
    default it’s easier to get.

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

  • Leigh

    “Clownery”? I repeat, CLOWNERY?!

  • usorthem3

    Texans do not like women to speak or think. The Good Ol’ Boys network is what is wrong with the whole state mentality. Hypocrites all but fine Christians who wnat the Bible to replace all civil law. There are just as many strip clubs in Dallas county as there are churches. Both have the same attendees every weekend.

  • Corey Lee Wrenn

    Fascinating and shocking.

  • r.g. ratcliffe

    The truly disappointing thing is how little things have improved. When I first started covering the Capitol in 1983, there was a state senator who had told a female reporter that he would answer her question if she gave him a kiss. Then several years later, a bipartisan group of women legislators surrounded one of their male colleagues on the floor to angrily tell him to quit popping their bra straps. You used to be able to think that this rude behavior was a result of the fact most lawmakers came from rural areas and it was like the boy coming to the city and running wild. But redistricting has changed that, and most of them are from urban or suburban areas now. You would think they’d know better.

  • MikeTX

    It looks like that Olivia Messer has not been paying much attention the news. There is mistreatment of women in every state capitol in the country and in Washington. Also, most of that mistreatment is done by Democrats like Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner, etc. From this article you would get the impression (false, of course) that Texas is the only state that has this and that Republicans are the only ones to blame. She also unsuccessfully attempts to make the claim that Republican women are also too meek and submissive therefore also to blame for the poor state of women. Hogwash.

  • cesardlg

    enlightening read but I’m saddened to read it. its a disgrace that people represent this state in that manner.

  • iggnacious

    The statement ‘acting like middle school aged boys’ is DEAD-ON CORRECT! ANY male who cannot tolerate a female and acts in that manner is AFRAID of that female. School age boys will do ANYTHING to feel superior to their female counterparts. Texas legislative body is NO EXCEPTION. AND THAT is DISGUSTING!

  • PamelaHaley

    Maybe women should play at the men’s game. “I’m sorry sir, I couldn’t hear you over the cialis and whiskey being gargled.” I mean, it’s hard to hit on old crusty men in all seriousness but, “excuse me sir, is that a banana in your pants or are you incapable of couth?”

    • 1bimbo

      wow, what a misandrist you are

    • Josh S

      As a man it’s not really my place to make those sorts of judgements, but I wouldn’t find the sort of things in the article so bad if they respected women’s needs in their laws and if they weren’t backwards in every single other way as well. This is a state where people who run for office are still trying to say that slavery wasn’t so bad (and that this should be taught in school), that science is from the Devil and shouldn’t be taught in school, they’re probably trying prevent people from having access to health care even apart from reproductive care and contraception and abortion.

  • shellgirl

    Wow. Really hard to believe this. Living in Texas with infantile misogynistic jerks like that would be completely unbearable.

  • Michelle

    If we continue to let these guys run this state then we are telling them that what they are doing is okay.

    This is not a GOP vs Democrat problem. Just look at Bob Filner in San Diego. This is fundamentally unacceptable in any party and in any state.

    • 1bimbo

      you obviously don’t live in texas. men compliment women, men rib women, women doll up for men, women and men flirt with each other. there’s a lot of hugging in this state. it’s best you stay out of texas when you get a chance

  • Francine

    Wow, and i thought Australia was bad. More people need to speak about this, there are so many women who think it is just happening to them because people around them witness it but act as if everything is normal so the victim has no pychologcal reinforcement. This also makes it easy for the other party to sabotage the victims career if anything does get said, it’s no wonder it keeps happening. I myself am completely shocked the world is no different from when i was at school and wonder why i even bothered pursuing a career..are things in fact worse than when i was at school or is it just that i now live in A different country from where i went to school? If you think your work evironment is bad you should experience working in television in Australia, whats worrying is that it is not just the old boys club you need to contend with but the young boys club as well, the sons and their friends. Maybe that is what is so shocking to me, that the old ways and traditions are manifesting in modern young men.

  • http://www.fark.com/ Two Wolves

    What a bunch of cowards. Take your little boy attitudes back to the recess yard and complain about girl “cooties” there.

  • Andy

    this articel clearly has a biased angle, ignoring or downright taking things out of context…first of all sexism and sexist comments aren’t just men towards women it’s the other way around as well…women make jokes or say sexist things towards men yet this article ignores it. clearly this article is trying to get a certain response and it’s working. studies found out that women are just as sexist towards men yet women feel if they are sexist it’s not as bad as when men are sexist. in texas and in every other pat of the US sexist is prevailant from both sides but let’s not focus on misandry at all: http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/emotional-health/both-women-and-men-display-attitudes-benevolent-sexism

  • 1bimbo

    the writer of this opinion article needs to put her big girl pants on. texas men compliment women, especially all you ladies who emphasize your feminine features. if you don’t like it, start dressing masculine and don’t wear heels or makeup anymore…..then no compliments to hurt your sensitive sensibilities.

  • 1bimbo

    bias and hypocrisy all in the same article:
    anthony ‘carlos danger’ weiner – democrat
    eliot ‘brothel connoissuer’ spitzer – democrat
    bob ‘feel you up’ filner – democrat
    bill ‘i did not have sexual relations’ clinton – democrat
    joe ‘party groper’ biden – democrat
    jesse ‘rubs the lotion’ jackson – democrat