Controlling the Narrative with Gender
When I was a kid I was really strange. I was dealing with being a conservative Christian, an obese geek, and a closeted gay. You can probably imagine that made me socially awkward and I didn't have a lot of friends. It also made me the target of bullying.
We all know traditional bullying where someone is beat up or called names, but there are other forms as well. The hardest one I had to deal with was when this girl at summer camp accused me of sexual harassment. It was the strangest thing to me. I didn't even know the girl and no one told me directly what was going on. I started getting questioned by counselors about my conduct and attitude. By the time I figured out what was actually going on, the whole camp knew. It turned out that this girl would go on to accuse several other people of harassment. Personally, I feel sorry for her as it seems to be a great cry for help or attention.
Unfortunately for her victims, there was no real defense. When a girl or woman says that someone harasses her or worse, people don't dare question her integrity. Saying “as a woman I feel threatened by you” sets off alarms in every decent person's mind that the other person must deserve it and must be a creep.
I'm writing about this because this accusation was recently made at the Texas Capitol toward a person that appears to be from the American Phoenix Foundation, a group of “undercover” activists/journalists that have been following legislators around the Capitol, asking questions, and secretly video taping them. They appear to be made up of people formerly associated with James O'Keefe's Veritas Project.
The accusation I'm referring to comes from Rep. Sarah Davis of Houston. She posted the video below on her facebook wall and claimed this sort of interaction was taking place several times a day over the last few weeks.
In the video, Rep. Davis is approached by a man who appears to start asking her questions and then Davis turns to confront the man. She claims he is making her uncomfortable saying “I am woman. You are a man dressed in black following me everywhere I go. It is completely inappropriate, and quite frankly, it scares me.”
Rep. Davis is a smart woman. She knows that this language immediately puts them on the defensive and her on a side for sympathy and pity. She uses her gender accusation that the man is dressed in black, which is common at the capitol, to elicit an automatic response in viewers that this guy must be malicious and evil for making a woman feel such a way.
Davis may very well be uncomfortable that she is being followed and questioned. What readers need to take into account though is that this is happening in a very public place, to an elected politician, and that it is also happening to every state representative, regardless of gender.
I received an e-mail from Rep. Ron Simmons saying he was confronted by the same man as well. He turned his cell video on to record the man and kindly answered his questions. He never claimed to feel unsafe, but rather annoyed and concerned the encounter could be taken out of context so he took the appropriate steps to cover himself.
This incident reminds me of a news story making the rounds of a college student being accused of harassment because he was waiting until an adviser was available. It is also similar to an incident at the beginning of session when constitutional carry activists confronted Rep. Poncho Navarez, and he used the incident to request the right to a panic button in his office. I can't find evidence he or any other representative actually took advantage of that after the press died down.
The tactics of these activists may be annoying. Following elected officials around and asking questions while refusing to identify yourself is certainly new at the Texas Capitol, but what is not new is trying to paint a group in a negative light to diminish any damning information they may have.
I don't know anybody from APF. The tactics they're using are not something I'd do, but whenever I see accusations such as this without real evidence, my past has made me question the motive. No one should ever be purposefully made fearful for their self whether they're a public official or not, but there are certain aspects of life that should be natural for officials. Being questioned in public places about their stances is one of them. They are public servants and some of the public is annoying. If they can't put up with that, then perhaps they should consider if public office is the place for them.