Senfronia Thompson, Moral Hero

Senfronia Thompson, Moral Hero

Last week I found this gem of a post at

The post includes a video clip in which Texas State Representative Senfronia Thompson spoke out against disrespect for women in the legislature. Her words are extraordinary, powerful, and sadly much needed.

Here is the Texas House webpage for this wonderful woman:

“Rep. Thompson has been in the forefront of every campaign against discrimination for the last four decades. Ms. Thompson has among the highest ranks of any legislator for her voting record on issues of concern to women, minorities, labor, consumers, reform advocates, domestic violence victims, the elderly, teachers and civil libertarians.”

“Rep. Thompson has authored and passed more than 200 Texas laws, including Texas´ first alimony law, the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act, laws prohibiting racial profiling, the state minimum wage, the Durable Power of Attorney Act, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, the Sexual Assault Program Fund, the Model School Records Flagging Act, the Uniform Child Custody & Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, contraceptive parity, and scores of other reforms benefiting women, children and the elderly. Rep. Thompson pushed through major reforms in child support enforcement, simplified probate proceedings, and complete overhauls of statutes dealing with statutory county courts and municipal courts. In 2005, she passed legislation requiring free testing for the human papilloma virus (HPV), an early indicator of cervical cancer, for women who have health insurance.”

House Floor – Rep. Thompson on Disrespect to Women – May 26, 2011

This clip is only 7 minutes and 53 seconds. Please watch/listen to every second of it.

My favorite part is this, especially the last sentence (beginning at about 6 minutes and 24 seconds):

“… And we have not earned this disrespect in this house. We fight here we get elected just like you do. And we have not earned this kind of disrespect. And I don’t want to tolerate it by anybody. And men, if you don’t stand up for us today, don’t you walk in this chamber tomorrow.”

Also this part (beginning at about 4 minutes and 8 seconds):

“… This is wrong; it cannot exist. And I think that – I want to ask you if you have any intestinal fortitude, and I believe you do, to stand up and tell this organization that this is not acceptable conduct for the members of this house…”

Some of Representative Thompson’s sentiments here remind me of (one aspect of) G. A. Cohen’s criticism of John Rawls’ focus on the basic structure of society and social institutions, as opposed to focusing on individuals and individual obligations. Liam Murphy published a paper on the same topic, and you may know of the literature surrounding it. These matters remind me of the frequent part of many speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. in which he identifies the greatest injustices not necessarily in the horrible, unethical actions of bad people, but rather in the silence and inactions of (seemingly) good people who know what ethics/justice requires and do not step up to do things about it (because doing so has various costs and risks for sacrificing one’s career, job, time, resources, freedom, and/or life). We can find similar sentiments throughout history. Senfronia Thompson could not have said it any better than she did in her words above (as well as in many other places for those interested to look).

Senfronia Thompson, Moral Hero

2 thoughts on “Senfronia Thompson, Moral Hero

  1. Thanks for the helpful and sadly still timely link to the post on your blog, Brian. Readers interested in some news coverage of Representative Thompson’s recent address to the Texas House on disrespect to women can begin looking here:

    Texas lawmaker denounces ‘sexist’ lobbying fliers

    Prominent House lawmakers create ‘Women’s Caucus’

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