If you’re a media outlet that caters to a New York or California-based audience who consider themselves to possess liberal leanings, there’s an easy way to score points: Just talk about how awful Texas is. This is such a reliable way to get cheers from your audience that last year, The Daily Show literally ran a segment called “Fuck You, Texas.” The idea of Texas, and its 27 million people, as an easily-stereotyped monolith is a popular one outside of our borders.
That’s something that became clear, once again, when Cosmopolitan sent reporter Jill Filipovic down to learn about what’s happening with abortion in Texas. In an article for the magazine that bears the headline, “How Texas Created A Culture Of Shame And Silence Around Abortion,” Filipovich writes that the stigma surrounding abortion “is particularly powerful in Texas, where most ob-gyns don’t perform abortions and women typically have to go to abortion clinics.”
If “most ob-gyns don’t perform abortions” is Filipovic’s main piece of evidence that the stigma is “particularly powerful” in Texas (and, aside from a quote from an activist in the Rio Grande Valley, it is), her argument doesn’t hold much water: In a 2011 survey, more than 200 of the 283 Northeastern ob-gyns responded that they don’t offer abortion services either.
That’s not to say that the stigma that the Cosmo story finds in Texas isn’t real—anyone who’s ever encountered a person who’s had or needed an abortion can attest that it is—but the idea that this stigma is unique to Texas isn’t supported by anything outside of the author’s own preconceptions of the state. To put it plainly, a reporter who approaches people anywhere in the country to ask them about their private medical and sexual history is probably going to encounter some hesitation, and the fact that this is what Filipovic found seems to be more of an example of the author’s confirmation bias than anything worth saying about Texas.
But this model of reporting is popular nonetheless. Sending people to Texas who lack knowledge or a deep curiosity about state is common practice, whether it’s Vice tasking a recent UT grad with decrying Austin’s “yuppies” for their enthusiasm for bacon-infused whatevers, or Cosmo deploying a NYC-based reporter to write about how awful things are in Texas for people who, frankly, have a tough time no matter where they live. Outside perspective can be illuminating but “I went to Texas and quickly proved all my preconceptions right” isn’t so much “perspective” as it is “stereotype.” In fact, it probably says more about the author than it does about Texas. If your preconceptions are all 100% accurate, and you’re not curious enough to challenge them, why fly down to Texas to write the story in the first place?
Ultimately, it reads a lot more like the sort of parachute reporting that gets a reporter a taco-filled vacation, and gets an outlet in New York a story that affirms their readers’ cultural stereotypes of Texas. Everybody wins, except people who want to learn whether Cosmo’s story is actually true or not.