#Tampongate from a Community Organizer’s Perspective

By now, most of you have probably heard about the outrage over Texas State Troopers confiscating tampons (among other things), but allowing guns as people lined up to enter the Texas Senate gallery. When I first heard about this, of course I was outraged at first. Why were tampons, and later, I found out, diabetes medicine, being confiscated but guns being allowed? At the insistance of Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, who expressed concerns about gallery patrons throwing them at legislators, State Troopers were told to confiscate tampons/maxi pads. Personally, I can imagine throwing a tampon, but never at someone (unless they had asked and they needed it). Maybe more like, into the trash or throwing it up in the air dramatically because periods are hard, man. Really hard.

Then it came out that other things were being confiscated, for very obvious reasons, such as jars of urine, feces, paint, glitter/confetti, etc. The Texas Department of Public Safety reported, “During these inspections, DPS officers have thus far discovered one jar suspected to contain urine, 18 jars suspected to contain feces, and three bottles suspected to contain paint. All of these items — as well as significant quantities of feminine hygiene products, glitter and confetti possessed by individuals — were required to be discarded; otherwise those individuals were denied entry into the gallery.”

Ok, ew.

 

OK, ladies. We all know that I pride myself on being a feminist and staunch pro-choicer. But this worries me. By all means, get mad about the Texas Senate passing a harmful law. You have every right to be upset. But throwing urine and feces at lawmakers you don’t agree with won’t make the law go away, and by doing so you are hurting the image of feminism. Yes, feminists shouldn’t stand down from a fight that wages war on their own bodies. Yes, we should act. Yes, we should shout and kick our feet because this law hurts women, and that is never ok. There is no reason not to act when you are upset, but there is something to say about the way in which you protest.

I am not an expert in these matters, I have only ever gathered in the gallery of a legislative building to speak one-on-one with my elected officials. I have not felt the rush of standing in a crowded gallery with thousands of others, screaming and hollering for justice. I can only imagine the power of that atmosphere. I do not fault those who wish to gather where laws are made in order to make their voices heard through chants, yelling, or testifying. This is a democracy and you should be able to participate, especially when there are laws that are being passed that will affect you. But I do not want to be clumped together with a group of people who think throwing feces and urine at lawmakers is ever the answer. That is the moment they stop listening to us. And there are many feminists, myself included, who would never use such a tactic.

Our first amendment right allows us to assemble and to make our voices heard, yes, and we should never fail to exercise that freedom, but as with other freedoms, we should practice this right with care. If we want lawmakers to listen, then by all means stand in the rotunda of your state’s House/Senate building and demand to be heard. Stay until the early morning hours if you have to. Join in with the chants and the shouting and delight yourself in the fact that you have every right to speak your mind and to let lawmakers know how wrong (or right?) they are. But nothing, absolutely nothing, is accomplished by throwing feces or urine on a lawmaker. Other than a stinky lawmaker.

As a community organizer, I know of different methods of taking action. Methods that I don’t claim to be more right or more proper than gathering and assembling, because one part of organizing includes reaching out to supporters and asking them to, in fact, gather and assemble where their lawmakers work. It should be noted that there is generally some training by organizers if this happens, but I do not know the protocol for larger crowds, like with what we’ve seen in Texas. After training, organizers usually step back and let the constituents have their shot at talking with lawmakers and making a difference. They usually urge the constituents to get their message across, but in a way that would not result in all participants being thrown out. That, I should hope, would include throwing urine/feces at the lawmakers.

It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to feel like you have been cheated out of a voice or cheated out of a victory. That happens, it happens more often than you would think. But that doesn’t mean you should pee in a jar and throw it at someone you disagree with. When would that ever be an OK thing to do?

As far as the guns go, I think it’s ridiculous that they were allowed in. Just because they have a permit doesn’t mean they have good intentions. We all know that there are pro-lifers who kill abortion doctors (at that point I would probably re-think calling yourself ‘pro-life’) or who drive into Planned Parenthood clinics. If you’re going to be paranoid about women throwing tampons, why would you be less worried about, you know, a bullet shot at the head of a legislator? It doesn’t make any sense. If there’s a possibility of someone throwing a used tampon (again, gross), then why wouldn’t there be a possibility of someone shooting off a gun?

Furthermore, the confiscation of people’s diabetes medicine is not only wrong, its cruel. And I do not understand why that was even an option. And confiscating tampons/maxi pads that were unused and wrapped? Behind childbirth, sitting for hours with an unexpected period and no way to clean yourself or get rid of the smell or cramps or whatever, has got to be the most uncomfortable thing about being a woman.

Basically, the way this was handled was obviously a logistics nightmare. There should have been training for the Troopers so they would have a better idea of what to confiscate, something that is much more fair and practical. Allowing snacks for diabetics and allowing wrapped/unused tampons/maxipads (because what woman doesn’t carry an emergency pack in her purse for ‘just in case’?). Go ahead, confiscate jugs of urine and feces and all that matter. But if you’re going to confiscate any and all tampons, you have no right allowing loaded guns into the chambers.

It’s all about getting your point across, in my opinion, but bringing a gun or bringing jars of urine/feces is usually the point where I would stop listening to someone. I have seen comments of men clumping all feminists into a small group of people who decided to throw urine at lawmakers. That is not fair. It will be harder to get our points across because of that, just like it’s often hard for pro-lifers to get their points across when they advocate for killing abortion doctors or driving into health clinics. There has to be a line, otherwise nothing can be done.

 

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