I can forgive Rush Limbaugh’s parents for giving him a stupid name, but I cannot forgive him for being a grossly misinformed jerk.
I’m talking about his recent attack on Georgetown University law student and intelligent, well-rounded human being Sandra Fluke. Fluke attended a recent House hearing on the inclusion of contraceptives in religious-affiliated employers’ health plans, sharing a testimony about a friend who had an ovary removed because her insurance company wouldn’t cover the prescription birth control she needed to stop the growth of ovarian cysts. Fluke also noted that the out-of-pocket costs of contraceptives can be as much as $1,000 a year, a high price for an uninsured college student.
Limbaugh, however, insisted on a Feb. 29 airing of his radio show that Fluke was asking for taxpayer money to cover the cost of her contraception, which was “too expensive because she was having too much sex.” (First of all, Rush, you don’t get to decide how much sex a woman chooses to have just because no one’s choosing to have any with you. Second, the cost of birth control doesn’t increase with the amount of sex a woman has. That’s not how it works. Educate yourself before you spread your ignorance onto your listeners).
Limbaugh called Fluke a “feminazi” and a “slut,” and, even more tackily, demanded pornographic videos in exchange for giving women basic rights to contraception.
“If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it,” Limbaugh said. “We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”
This isn’t what political discourse should be.
Fluke voiced her opinion on the hot-button issue with eloquence and poise, as President Obama noted in his personal phone call to her last week when he expressed sympathy for the attack and thanked her for being an excellent model of civil discourse.
Limbaugh is entitled to disagree, but no one should be entitled to the outright bashing and shaming of a calm, sincere and rational opinion just because it differs from his/her own.
The story erupted over the blogosphere with a similar moral: Fluke exemplified the civil discourse to which we should all aspire. But I want to point out an issue overlooked and far more “feminazi” of me: slut-shaming.
“Slut” has been used derogatorily toward women since its origin. Limbaugh used it exactly this way: to shame Fluke as a sexual deviant having “too much sex” and wanting it paid for by the American people.
It’s a nearly irreversible double-standard: if a man has multiple sexual partners, he’s praised, admired and envied by his peers. But if a woman engages in sex with multiple partners, she’s a slut and should be ashamed of herself.
We use the term “slut” colloquially, referring to women as if more than one partner makes one sexually promiscuous and even referring to certain styles of clothing as “slutty.” A woman wearing a short dress? Slut. Shirt showing a bit of cleavage? Slut. No, those are simply the clothes she decided to wear and are in no way indicative of her sexual behavior. Even if they were, why is being comfortable and empowered in her own sexuality something she should be ashamed of?
Limbaugh’s comments were wrong. They attacked civil discourse, they attacked women’s health, and they attacked a woman’s right to her own sexuality. He turned a conversation about the future of women’s health into an opportunity to slut-shame and silence a strong, intelligent woman.
Lucky for us, Fluke could not be silenced. She issued a statement last Thursday in response to the criticism: “This language is an attack on all women and has been used throughout history to silence our voices. The millions of American women who have and will continue to speak out in support of women’s health care and access to contraception prove that we will not be silenced.”
Stand with Sandra Fluke. Use your voice to intelligently share your opinion on the issues, not to slut-shame.