There’s a huge gap between the Texas media’s view of proposed privacy legislation and the views of the majority of Texans. A recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showed that—after weeks of negative news reports filled with predictions of a statewide economic collapse and virulent charges of discrimination and endless condescension directed toward those unhip enough to want separate restrooms for men and women—more people believe privacy protection is an important issue now than in the previous poll they took in February. 44 percent among all voters now agree protecting privacy is important. Among the Republican majority the increase was 13 percent, and among Tea Party voters it was 31 percent.
Bottom line – the majority of Texans didn’t pay any attention to the Texas press. That’s probably because the Texas press doesn’t pay any attention to Texans.
On June 8, a man followed a woman into a gender-neutral dressing room at a Target store in The Woodlands and photographed her on his phone while she undressed. When the incident was reported by ABC News in Houston, the man who helped rescue her told the reporter, “I really think they should separate men’s and women’s fitting rooms so this won’t happen.”
Amazingly, after months of high-pitched press coverage on the privacy issue, there was no follow-up on this story. No reporter asked the victim of this crime if she supported privacy protections that would keep men out of women’s dressing rooms. No one asked her if she had been suspicious of the man she saw in the dressing room when she entered.
A few days before The Woodlands incident, a man was arrested in another gender-neutral dressing room in Conroe photographing a 10 year-old girl. Last January, a Fort Worth man dragged an 8-year-old girl into the restroom at a public library and held his hand over her mouth to stifle her screams. A man was arrested earlier this year at an HEB in Austin photographing a young girl. Why haven’t reporters asked the parents of those girls if they believe legislation to keep men out of women’s facilities is discriminatory?
Of course, safety isn’t the only privacy issue. There’s also been the avalanche of news reports from anti-privacy groups around the state screaming that the economic sky will fall if the state doesn’t open its restrooms to both men and women. There’s an obvious three word question those people need to answer, but no reporter has asked it – what about Houston?
In 2015 voters soundly rejected regulations that would have opened public restrooms to both men and women. Economic doom was predicted there too, but it didn’t happen. Houston is the biggest city in the state. Surely that’s worth a mention somewhere.
The same thing is true about the NCAA boycott of North Carolina. It was front-page news all over Texas, almost always headlined as a threat that the same situation could happen here. However, on March 30, when the North Carolina legislature revised their law to mirror what has been proposed in Texas and the NCAA boycott was lifted, there was no news in the Texas press. In April, the NCAA announced their schedule for 2019-2022, and it included twelve Texas games and nine North Carolina games.
Privacy is a serious issue — and the people of Texas know it. It would be nice if the Texas press reported it.