Wendy Davis’ Filibuster Was Important, But Not As Important As Her Shoes

Yesterday, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis led an amazing filibuster to prevent the passing of a restrictive bill that would have shut down all but a handful of abortion providers in the state. Davis stood for 9 hours, unable to leave or even lean on the podium, in order to stall the vote on the bill. (She was forced to end her filibuster early, but kept standing anyways for a reported 13 hours total). Her actions were an impressive demonstration of fortitude—well worthy of the media attention it’s receiving. The last time a filibuster was big news was in March when Sen. Rand Paul led a filibuster for nearly 13 hours to block the confirmation of John Brennan’s nomination to be the new CIA director. However the coverage of these two filibusters are very different. Let’s compare.

Here is the Associated Press’ first line about Paul’s filibuster:

A Republican senator and tea party favorite from Kentucky used an old-style filibuster lasting nearly 13 hours to take control of the chamber and block Senate confirmation of John Brennan’s nomination to be CIA director.

And here is their first line about Davis’ filibuster*:

Wearing pink tennis shoes to prepare for nearly 13 consecutive hours of standing, a Democratic Texas state senator on Tuesday began a one-woman filibuster to block a GOP-led effort that would impose stringent new abortion restrictions across the nation’s second-most populous state.

Notice anything strange? Davis’ wardrobe is mentioned in the first line, whereas Paul’s is not. The AP does eventually note Paul’s outfit – but not until 738 words into their 1,448 word piece. I suppose if AP deemed these details as necessary, then by all means, include them. It’s not the inclusion of the wardrobe details we have a problem with; it’s the placement.

According to the inverted pyramid of journalism, the most important details in an article should come first. This includes that 5 W’s (Who, What, When, Where, and Why), and not surprisingly doesn’t include the color of footwear. Frankly, we just find it hard to believe that shoes were the most important part of the Wendy Davis filibuster. 

The detail about her shoes was considered so important it was part of AP’s tweet (see blow) which no doubt contributed to the heavy import now being given to the color and description of her footwear.

Equally troubling is the fact that other news outlets have repeated the shoes detail to the extent that Davis is now being referred to as “the Texas lady in the pink sneakers.” Almost every article about the filibuster mentions her shoes, and numerous news websites have featured headlines identifying Davis as the female senator in pink running shoes without including her name.

In addition to the pink shoes line, many outlets have run with the AP’s headline about Davis being an “ex-teen mom.” Yes, Davis might have been selected to lead the filibuster based on her life experiences, but reducing her identity to her decisions 30 years ago, or her choice of footwear, is totally unacceptable. This is Davis’ first time in the national spotlight, and it’s a pretty big deal. Until this filibuster, few people outside Texas politics had ever heard her name. To erase her identity and refer to her as “pink tennis shoe lady” or “ex-teen mom” is not only insulting, but also takes away from her accomplishment and could potentially damage her future campaigns.

*It’s important to note that since last night the AP has updated their article so that the pink shoes line is no longer first however the article in its original form can be found here.


Published by Allison Adams on 06/26/2013

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