Why What Happened with Rush Limbaugh Matters!

Hey everyone,

So…I promised myself never to blog mad. Again. This, of course, was after I discovered firsthand the way that my anger can obscure good judgement.

That expression…seeing red? Not entirely inaccurate.

That’s why I’ve been so careful only to blog a few days after I’m mad. Although usually by that time, I have something positive I would rather share instead. I tend to let my anger fall by the wayside.

Life is too short, right!

Mainly, I started this Don’t Blog Mad policy because I don’t want to post something online which offends people and which might someday embarrass me.

But this time, I’m breaking my rule.

When I first found out about Rush Limbaugh’s vitriolic comments towards Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, I was furious. For those of you who haven’t been following the story, here’s what happened:

It all began with the Republicans in the House calling an all male panel to speak about upcoming contraception legislation. When the Democrats realized the Republicans had no intention of calling any women to discuss what is most definitely a women’s health issue they asked to have Sandra Fluke speak as their witness. They wanted Ms. Fluke to testify about getting insurance through her Catholic university where contraception was not covered. More specifically, about the health problems that women at Georgetown faced because of this policy.

What health problems? One of her friends lost an ovary because she had to navigate around Georgetown’s objections to her medical prescription.

Now right here: I was angry. Furious, actually. Politicians and academic institutions interfering with women’s rights to consult a freaking doctor and get the medical help they need! I was livid.

It gets worse.

Republican Darrell Issa said that Sandra Fluke was “not qualified to testify” on the issue…leaving it, instead, to the real experts.

Men.

This Funny or Die video really lets the experts share!

House Democrats (under Nancy Pelosi) later convened a forum to hear Sandra Flukes testimony. You know, so she could actually explain why this is such an important issue for millions of American women.

What happened next?

This is the part most people have heard. Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

Those two words have been getting the most airtime, probably because that’s the only part of his three day marathon of misogynistic personal attacks for which he has apologized.

It’s laughable, really, that he claims: I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

Well, Media Matters counted at least 46 personal attacks in those three days. It’s impossible to spew that much hate-filled rhetoric without intending someone to take offense.

Let’s look at the highlight reel of what he said:

1. “Can you imagine if you’re her parents how proud of Sandra Fluke you would be? Your daughter goes up to a congressional hearing conducted by the Botox-filled Nancy Pelosi and testifies she’s having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth control pills and she agrees that Obama should provide them, or the Pope.”

2. “What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic], who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid for sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.”

3. “She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.”

4. “The left has been thrown into an outright conniption fit. … The reaction that they are having to what I said yesterday about Susan Fluke — or Sandra Fluke, whatever her name is — the Georgetown student who went before a congressional committee and said she’s having so much sex, she’s going broke buying contraceptives and wants us to buy them. I said, ‘Well, what you call someone who wants us to pay for her to have sex? What would you call that woman? You’d call ’em as I — slut or prostitute or what– that has sent them into orbit.”

5.  “I’ll happily buy her all the aspirin she wants. … We would happily buy Sandra Fluke all the aspirin she wants. What could that possibly cost? … I’m offering a compromise today. I will buy all of the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as they want.”

6. “Ms. Fluke, have you ever heard of not having sex? Have you ever heard of not having sex so often? What next that you can’t afford are you gonna go to Pelosi and say we need to buy? Mink? A Volt? A Prius?”

7. “So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

8. “So, if we’re gonna sit here, and if we’re gonna have a part in this, then we want something in return, Ms. Fluke: And that would be the videos of all this sex posted online so we can see what we are getting for our money.”

9. “I want to know, who bought — Ms. Fluke, who bought your condoms in junior high? Who bought your condoms in the sixth grade, or your contraception? Who bought your contraceptive pills in high school? Wouldn’t you be just as likely to go broke in high school and junior high as you would be in college?”

10. Limbaugh went on to say that an MSNBC anchor had said that “Limbaugh yesterday squarely aimed his words at Sandra Fluke questioning her virtue.” Limbaugh then said: “I’m not questioning her virtue. I know what her virtue is. She’s having so much sex that she’s going broke! There’s no question about her virtue.”

11. Later on the show, Limbaugh played a clip of congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee condemning Limbaugh’s attacks on Fluke and calling Fluke “a courageous young woman.” Limbaugh then said, “Stop the tape. Courageous. Recue that to the top. Courageous, having so much sex she’s going broke at Georgetown Law. (laughing) Gosh, I love this.”

12. “Here’s a woman exercising no self-control. The fact that she wants to have repeated, never-ending, as-often-as-she-wants-it sex — given. No question about that.”

13. “Did you notice in that sound bite was Sheila Jackson Lee or Maria Cantwell or one of them, talked about the strength that Sandra Fluke had to go before Congress — which is amazing. She’s having so much sex, it’s amazing she can still walk, but she made it up there.”

14. “Here this babe goes before Congress and wants thousands of dollars to pay for her sex. Well, that’s what it is. If she wants her contraception to be provided, that means she wants to have sex without consequences, with no worries, no responsibility.”

15. “[T]he Democrats are putting on parade a woman who is happily presenting herself as an immoral, baseless, no-purpose-to-her-life woman. She wants all the sex in the world, whenever she wants it, all the time. No consequences. No responsibility for her behavior.”

16. “Georgetown’s a pretty expensive school. I don’t buy your argument that’s it unaffordable. Have you ever heard of the term ‘budget’? Have you ever heard of aspirin? Have you ever heard of saying ‘no’? You can’t afford it, you don’t buy it. You can’t afford it, you don’t do it.”

17. “Were these kinds of women around when I was in school?” Limbaugh then said: “Oh, oh, no, no, no. I didn’t know any Flukes. No. Well, wait. I take it back. Yes. Every school had a couple of ’em. You know, for every 500 students, every school had a couple of these. Now they’re everywhere. That’s what you’re getting at, right? And the two at your school, I mean even with birth control, you wouldn’t go there. That’s the big difference. I mean there were women that you might think you could get a disease, but you didn’t care.”

18.  Reacting to the news that Obama had told Fluke her parents should be proud of her, Limbaugh said, “OK, I’m going to button my lip on that one.” He went on to say: “OK. Let me ask you a question. … Your daughter appears before a congressional committee and says she’s having so much sex, she can’t pay for it and wants a new welfare program to pay for it. Would you be proud? I don’t know — I — I’d be embarrassed.”

I feel sick.

I’ve been watching this play out in the media and I keep waiting for my anger to ebb so that I can blog about it.

But it’s not going to happen.

Sandra Fluke never discussed her sex life with the American public. She testified that women are being prevented from receiving appropriate medical care.

So why am I am blogging about it now? I’m terrified that America is missing Sandra Fluke’s message.

I’m scared that with the preoccupation of his name-calling and his apologies (again, only related to the two words “slut” and “prostitute.”) we are ignoring that the majority of Rush Limbaugh’s unbelievably hateful attacks were based on an incredibly faulty premise:

That contraception equals sex.

It doesn’t.

Really. It can be taken for any number of reasons, including to prevent cysts from growing on ovaries. It can also be used to regulate menstrual cycles to alleviate cramping and to ensure that the female body is functioning well.

Rush Limbaugh was vilifying Sandra Fluke but he was also insinuating that a lifestyle which includes birth control is one built upon reckless, empty sex without responsibility.

Here’s my story:

A few years ago, I had a health scare. I’ve always had an irregular period but since reaching college I would sometimes go four months between cycles. And it made me really nervous. My mom told me to relax and said that there was probably nothing wrong with me. But I mentioned it to some of my friends and the more I thought about it…the more certain I became that I needed answers. I needed facts for my own peace of mind. So when I came home over break, I scheduled an appointment with my doctor.

It started out the way that all my doctor’s visits begin: sitting on a long examination bed while I answer questions that should be obvious but which, for whatever reason, become illusive as soon as somebody asks them. My doctor pulled out various shiny instruments to check my blood pressure etc. and I felt myself getting increasingly jumpy. I started fearing for the worst. Rare disease with unpronounceable Latin names were surely the culprit!

I kept that particular thought to myself.

But it was all pretty straight forward: I explained about my period situation. My doctor took notes on her clipboard. And then she told me that my irregularity might make it hard for me to conceive in the future.

I was horrified.

Here I was, a college student, just informed that getting pregnant might be a challenge…and I wanted to cry. I wanted to bawl my freaking eyes out. Sure, I wasn’t planning on giving birth any time soon. I mean, I still don’t even have my college degree and I’m planning on making a career out of young adult fiction. I’m not exactly in a position to be bringing a new life into the world–financially or emotionally speaking.

But I’ve always wanted a kid.

So hearing that it might not be possible for me? Not easy to handle. My doctor recommended I have some tests performed at the hospital and I instantly agreed. I needed more information. I needed to know whether I was going to spend the next fifteen years of my life obsessing over adoption.

After a handful or awkward hours, the tests were complete. And after a tense week of waiting, the results were in: nothing wrong with my ovaries. My mom’s prediction was confirmed. I was fine. Irregular, of course, but healthy.

That’s when my doctor discussed birth control with me. It wasn’t because I was planning on becoming an over-sexed twenty-something. It wasn’t because I wanted to have wild, condom-free sex in the mountains of Ashland. Although, frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with either of those things if it involves consenting adults who are comfortable with their level of intimacy.

I’m not going to share the outcome of my doctors visit with everyone. It doesn’t matter. That should be between me and my doctor. The reason I’m sharing this story is because when I was terrified about a childless future, I discovered that birth control could make it easier. Simple hormone regulation with the birth control pill could make pregnancy possible for me.

That was empowering. Kids or no kids, I had control over my body, over my future. Now politicians are trying to interfere and take that power away.

Rush Limbaugh intentionally vilified Sandra Fluke as sexual depraved, immoral, irresponsible and reckless. He wanted to make this incredibly brave woman ashamed for demanding access to birth control.

I’m not ashamed.

I’m also not a slut. Nor am I a prostitute. My parents shouldn’t be ashamed of me for speaking up for something I believe in.

Oh, and Rush? You know that little dig at Georgetown? The one where you said “Well, I guess now we know why Bill Clinton went (there)”?

I’m a student at Lewis & Clark College. And, yeah, our most famous alumni is Monica Lewinsky.

That doesn’t make me a slut either.

Now a lot of Republicans have been getting very defensive. They’ve been hollering “It’s not fair! Rush isn’t the only person to ever make an offensive comment! Democrats have made them too! Why aren’t they being punished?”

First of all, I have never heard of a Democrat making 46 personal attacks on an individual in three days. Rush Limbaugh has truly sunk to a record-breaking low.

But what I hope we can all agree on is that this kind of misogynistic language needs to be stopped. No matter the source, it is unacceptable. And in the future, I promise, if I hear about a Democrat making this kind of a vitriolic mischaracterization, I will blog mad again! In the meantime, digging up old stories about Democrats feels like a distraction or an excuse for Rush.

And I’m not willing to hear excuses for Rush.

What I find most troubling is that the majority of the Republican candidates for presidency have  limited their reactions to Rush Limbaugh’s hate speech by simply addressing his language as problematic. They wish he hadn’t called Sandra Fluke a “slut” or a “prostitute.”

Beyond that? I haven’t heard them denounce his sentiments.

I wish all of them would admit that this is a women’s health issue. That Sandra Fluke is trying to make women aware of the rights our government is currently trying to strip away from us. I want the Republicans to be outraged at the nerve of a political body believing it has the right to play doctor without a medical degree.

This news story isn’t about Sandra Fluke overreacting to a little name-calling. It’s a very real warning about the kind of gross mischaracterizations and verbal abuse that women face today when they stand up for their rights.

I want to leave you with this final message from Meg Cabot, one of my favorite young adult authors:

Rush Limbaugh, I lost an ovary to cysts. I’m on the Pill to keep from losing the other one. And that ovary does NOT accept your apology.

Neither do I.

Sincerely,

Marni

P.S. For those of you looking to get involved in speaking out against Rush Limbaugh, I highly recommend you boycott the advertisers who support his show. The first amendment gives everyone the right to free speech. It doesn’t mean corporations have to pay someone to promote their products. And it doesn’t mean that you as a consumer can’t demand that the companies you support condemn this kind of hate-filled rhetoric.

P.P.S. For those of you who are interested in where I got my source material, I primarily used Media Matters. I also highly recommend people watch Rachel Maddow’s analysis of these events. Although you might want to skip the first three minutes.

Rachel Maddow

P.P.P.S. I would love to hear your stories. Please leave a respectful comment below!

7 thoughts on “Why What Happened with Rush Limbaugh Matters!

  1. I find it interesting in an extremely problematic sort of way that Limbaugh seems to think that the price of birth control is linked to how much sex you’re having. Does he not understand the basics of how the pill works? Because it sounds to me like he’s under the impression that the more sex you have, the more often you need to take it, or something like that; why else would he think “she’s having so much sex she can’t afford the birth control”? The amount of sex she has makes absolutely no difference; she could be having sex once a week with her husband (if she has one) or sleeping with a different guy every night, but if she decides she doesn’t want to get pregnant while still pursuing her studies it will cost her the same amount either way.
    For me, this is the biggest problem with what he’s said. All of it is terrible and closed-minded and infuriating, but that’s what Limbaugh does all the time. It sucks, it shouldn’t happen, but it’s what I expect from him. But in this case his slander is based off a premise that completely misses not only the full range of uses for the pill, but apparently also the very very basic knowledge of how it works. For someone so prominent to be so obviously uneducated (or, alternately, intentionally spouting something so completely wrong) about the thing he’s protesting is just downright unacceptable, and it’s only going to spread misinformation amongst his listeners that will cause further issues down the road, which is a much bigger, more harmful problem than name-calling.

    • An excellent point! I love that you are bringing up his basic failure to properly discuss the way birth control functions!

      I’d like to add that politicians have no business interfering with contraception even if someone DOES want to use it for an orgy! That’s private. And unless the politician in question is personally involved in the sexual encounter, they have no right butting in. Crass pun intended.

      Allowing people to have access to birth control does not mean YOUR sex life is being negatively impacted. Or that society is in a moral decline.

      Last comment: thanks for posting respectfully and responsibly! It’s greatly appreciated!

      • Unfortunately, politicians trying to control the sex lives of the general population is another thing I’ve come to expect. It also falls in that “it sucks and shouldn’t happen but does anyway” category, and while I most certainly got upset about the original all-men panel that sparked this whole thing, and the fact that access to birth control is even an issue in the first place, it’s (unfortunately) the sort of thing I’ve come to expect and can’t get quite as worked up about any more. Which isn’t to say that I won’t do what I can to support women’s health rights, just that I can’t get fired up with righteous anger anymore.

      • *In general* i can’t get fired up with righteous anger, I should say. It takes more than the standard political meddling for the anger to kick in full-force.

  2. Even if you ignore all the uses to treat real medical problems, it is not the government’s place to make decisions regarding individual’s sexuality. Honestly, we should be commending women who make decisions that help reduce the possibility of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies. If someone doesn’t support hormonal contraception use, then they don’t have to use it. They don’t get to tell women (and men because this issue affects them too because I don’t know too many men who want to have children every time they have sex) what decisions to make about regarding their sexuality. That’s about as personal of a decision that there is to make.

  3. “It all began with the Republicans in the House calling an all male panel to speak about upcoming contraception legislation.”

    Absolute lie. Two female MD’s, you know, actual qualified Doctors, testified to the Committee, but the Democrats refused to hear THEIR testimony as they had already walked out of the hearing to go setup for the Fluke spare-room press conference where she delivered her non-expert testimony.
    Had you read the committee transcript you would know this. The fact it doesn’t fit your agenda generates no surprise to me that you’ve ignored it.

    • I readily admit that I may have over-simplied the events that led up to Rush Limbaugh’s vitriolic attack of Sandra Fluke. Thank you for adding some more information. That said, seeing the all male panel of speakers did send a very powerful message to women–even if that wasn’t the whole story. And while I certainly have a point of view (doesn’t everyone?) I don’t believe I have an “agenda.”

      Not unless believing in the importance of equal rights qualifies as an agenda.

      In which case, guilty as charged.

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