The XX Factor

Remember How Pro-Choicers Brought Jars of Feces to the Texas Statehouse? Turns Out That Probably Didn’t Happen.   

But what’s in their hands?

Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

One of the lowest moments during Texas’s anti-abortionpalooza back in July was when the Texas Department of Public Safety started confiscating tampons and maxi pads from protesters entering the capitol building. Pro-choice protesters saw it as an overt attempt to humiliate them for being female, but the official excuse was there were concerns about people throwing these items at the state senators. The DPS and government officials like Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst justified the actions by claiming that pro-choicers were trying to smuggle in jars and bags of feces and excrement, items you would only be carrying if throwing them were your intention. Unsurprisingly, this evocative story about dirty, uncivilized feminists blew up all over the right wing media.

So, who was full of shit—the protesters or the DPS? After putting off requests by journalists for proof of these reported 18 jars of feces that the DPS supposedly found, law enforcement finally released a 144-page report chronicling the incident. The Texas Tribune has published it, and it’s not looking good for the DPS. There was no official report of feces-filled jars filed, and when director of the DPS Steve McCraw asked for photographic evidence—ostensibly to prove that officers weren’t just telling fish tales to make pro-choicers look bad—he was told that the women who were supposedly carrying the poop were simply “directed to throw away prohibited items before entering the gallery.” Yes, we’re expected to believe that 18 jars of crap were thrown in public trashcans at the Texas Capitol, leaving no evidence behind, and yet photographs of the tampon confiscation made their way around the web.

While the DPS officers were apparently too busy to chronicle the 18 jars of feces they claim to have witnessed, other confiscated items were photographed: “a bottle of acrylic paint and a small jar” and “three bricks collected in the Capitol extension.”

Bringing a brick to the statehouse is not OK. But why wasn’t reporting those incidents enough? Why did the DPS have to concoct feces-gate? Probably because accusing progressive protesters of being dirty, gross people who reject the most basic tenets of human decency is a long-standing tradition on the right. Historian Rick Perlstein cited an example in his best-selling book Nixonland, regarding similar rumors floated to discredit the victims of the Kent State shooting in 1969: “A rumor spread in Kent that Jeff Miller, whose head was blown off, was such a dirty hippie that they had to keep the ambulance door open on the way to the hospital for the smell.” Rush Limbaugh has been blabbing recently about how feminists are a bunch of unnatural people destroying your “cute little girl” with “what most people would classify as sexual perversion.”

Part of this is simply an attempt to discredit the opposition. The left has its own version of this strategy. But part of it is that these legends help justify the reactionary belief that the world is going to hell and that we’ll all turn into poo-flinging monkeys if the liberals win. Oh, and the stories help distract from the ugliness of right wing policies themselves. Sure, the anti-abortion policies stink, but can you believe those women with their bags of poop and tampon bombs?