Wendy Davis represented District 10 in the Texas Senate from 2009 to 2015. In 2016, Davis started Deeds Not Words, a nonprofit that provides resources for young women to take political action.
Starting a few years ago, I certainly knew that there was a pent-up demand for change. We had this growing body of informed, passionate young women who wanted to be a part of helping to make that change, the one so many people understood was needed.
No one could have anticipated how vibrant and active 2017 would be. It activated young women who were already poised to be a part of this conversation—but it also activated a lot of women in their thirties and forties and fifties who had come to believe that we were gaining ground and that everything was OK, that things were getting better, and that they didn’t personally need to participate.
It demonstrated to me that there’s an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm for being a part of driving change, but in some instances a quandary about exactly how to do that. I knew some guidance was needed and I was also aware of the work that was being done by myriad organizations to advance the interests of women in the reproductive rights world and the economic world and the world of leadership and safety, and I felt like I could serve as a good connector between that energy and all that great work that was being done.
That’s why we birthed our website, Deeds Not Words. What we do on the ground is advocacy training. We train high school and college-aged girls about the legislative process, teach them how to navigate that process, and then we basically mentor them throughout the legislative session, so that we are connecting them in key and important ways to using our voice in the process. And then on social media, almost every day, we push out suggested actions that people can take.
The thing that has really kind of caught us off guard is the makeup of our audience. Interestingly, there’s a lot of people in the 35-to-45 age range actively participating with us. So we’ve been talking about that lately and how we can try to work to make sure that we’re bringing that same advocacy training effort to women who aren’t as young as our initial audience, but who definitely have something to contribute and who want to get involved.
Seeing the huge increase in the number of women running this election cycle is just unbelievable. I’m so excited about it. In some of those districts, it’s going to be a watershed year for women. That’s exactly what we need to begin to change the climate for women, not just in elected offices but in every aspect of our social and economic world.
I disagree with those who say the #MeToo movement could go too far. That sentiment exhibits itself anytime there is an effective and active push for change, that somehow you’re going to cause the unintended impact of actually hurting the cause. I just completely disagree with that. To say, for example, that we can’t push for workplace equality and fairness because that will mean that fewer women will get hired is absurd. It’s a victim mentality. No, I don’t think that women are so precious that we have to be treated specially. That’s not what anyone’s asking for here. It’s to be treated with respect and fairness as we would expect any human being, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, or cultural background should be treated.
To see resources about female mentorship, getting involved in local issues, and what to do if you experience sexual harassment, read here.
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The Women’s Voices Project
In a series of as-told-to conversations, two dozen Texas women talk about gender, work, and what needs to change for women in their home state. Read their perspectives here.