OHATCHEE, Al. March 5, 2012 — Last week, conservative talk radio show host Rush Limbaugh got in trouble with the media for arguing that Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke is technically a “slut” because she wants the government to make sure that even religious institutions cover contraception in student health insurance plans.
In response to the comments made by Limbaugh, Ed Schulz interviewed Fluke on his MSNBC show. Fluke’s response was, “I guess my reaction is…the reaction a lot of women have when they’ve been called these names. Initially you’re stunned, but then very quickly you’re outraged, because this is historically the kind of language used to silence women.”
The entire scene screamed irony.
Last year, Schulz was suspended from his MSNBC show for calling conservative talk radio host and former speechwriter Laura Ingraham a “slut” for an opinion she expressed regarding President Obama’s activities after disastrous tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri (Schulz apologized). Conservative women are used to being assailed by liberal men with what Fluke calls “the kind of language used to silence women” simply for thinking independently of their feminist paradigm.
In light of the context, however, Limbaugh arguably used the terminology correctly. After all, contraception is something an unmarried woman would want to have covered in her health insurance plan if she happens to be sexually promiscuous. Like Ed Morrissey wrote, “If you want your sexual choices to remain private, don’t use the government to force other people to subsidize them. Then we won’t have to turn the sex lives of Georgetown law school students into topics for political speculation.”
Limbaugh’s jokes were not a case of cruelly calling a female journalist a “big mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it” (like Keith Olbermann called Michelle Malkin) or name-calling a former first lady, senator and secretary of state a “she-devil” (like Chris Matthews called Hillary Clinton).
Limbaugh’s jokes (which were less crude than some of the jokes Bill Maher has been cracking about Rick and Karen Santorum) were a case of satirizing the irresponsible, government-dependent, nanny-state-primed youth culture being grown in Petri dishes throughout America’s academic institutions.
Limbaugh’s mistake was the inherent risk in satire: Making the personal inspiration for the satire too obvious and thus too personally insulting and distracting to illuminate the point. You can’t get away with doing that unless you have a left-wing comedian’s license like Maher apparently has (don’t take it from me – liberal columnist Kirsten Powers very candidly outlines the media’s double-standard for liberal and conservative men in her latest article).
It is also possible that Limbaugh’s greatest “error” was in being accurate. While the likes of Schulz and Olbermann have said things about women that everyone acknowledged to be rude and mean, their statements could be excused by supporters as metaphorical and sophomoric, because they were absurdly inaccurate (i.e. Ingraham isn’t really a slut, and Malkin isn’t really a mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick).
But if it turns out that Fluke is essentially attempting to get her sex life subsidized by her university’s student insurance plan (and wants that to be enforced by the government), then Limbaugh’s statements hit uncomfortably close to home. Evidently there is no coherent way to defend Fluke, because silencing Limbaugh as a “misogynist” is the long-pined for target that opposing media are aiming at.
Like a gentleman is expected to do, Limbaugh apologized for the impolite choice of words.
But a big cultural problem facing our country now is that he was probably right in the first place.
Fluke’s testimony before an informal gathering of Democrats in Congress was a farce on 21st century America. In all sincerity, she said that 40% of female Georgetown students struggle financially because the birth control they need is too expensive to be acquired unless student insurance pays for it (the claim of an exorbitant price on birth control in that area has since been debunked).
The sappy statement even featured one female student who felt “embarrassed and powerless” when she realized for the first time that her student health insurance didn’t cover contraception.
That is what shame in the slut culture means: being embarrassed not because of a lack of personal responsibility and morality, but because of failure to get that lack of personal responsibility and morality subsidized by institutions of their choice.
Fluke lost no time segueing into the sad story of her gay female friend with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) who lost an ovary due to student health insurance failing to cover the birth control pills so desperately needed to treat the disease. This is painful news to hear, and is framed to make it seem like opposition to forced university and employer-funded contraception is an assault on women’s health.
But if Fluke et al. are truly concerned about women’s health, they are asking the wrong questions.
What PCOS sufferers possibly need is hormone therapy, not contraception. Birth control pills only mask the symptom of irregular menses, not treat the underlying condition. Oral contraceptives do nothing to cure PCOS and there is even some evidence that they actually worsen Insulin Resistance, which is an apparent root cause of PCOS.
Why, then, is such a shoddy argument being offered for contraception coverage?
It just happens to be the only argument available to hide the exploitative agenda evident in the first several paragraphs of Fluke’s testimony.
As if this circus couldn’t get any more awkward, the sitting president of the United States felt the need to give Fluke a phone call to make sure she was feeling alright and to say that her parents should be proud of her.
The “reproductive justice”-activist-turned-law-student with a bachelor’s degree in Feminist, Gender & Sexuality studies is actually representing the old argument against women being admitted to higher education in the first place – that we’re too needy, too sensitive, and too socially and sexually distracting to behoove serious academic endeavors.
When American educator Horace Mann (1796-1859) spoke on behalf of allowing women to study at college alongside men, he intended to demonstrate that it could be an edifying experience for scholars if done properly. Of course, in so doing Mann brought up personal responsibility, morality, honor, and the name of Christ so many times that our 21st century “progressives” probably couldn’t read it without fainting or foaming at the mouth.
No matter how many layers of sense well-meaning women vainly try to wrap it in, feminism remains a dirty trick that victimizes, objectifies, and degrades women to damsels in distress who look to the government to slay imaginary conservative dragons.
The conservative argument does not seek to deprive women of their freedom to purchase contraceptives in the U.S., but rather insists that they cannot make this individual choice a government responsibility, and thereby desecrate the conscience of and devour the business of others in the process. “Conscience is the most sacred of all property,” wrote James Madison in 1792.
Evidently it is difficult to explain this to people who do not give much heed to conscience anymore. Why else would self-proclaimed contraceptive-dependent women choose to attend the oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution in the country?
Georgetown student Angela Morabito summed up the irony and illogicality of this when she wrote, “Let’s talk priorities here. It costs over $23,000 for a year at Georgetown Law. Sandra, are you telling us that you can afford that but cannot afford your own contraception?…No one forced Sandra to come to Georgetown. And now that she has, Sandra does not have to depend on the university health plan. She could walk down the street to CVS and get some contraception herself. Or, go to an off-campus, non-university doctor and pay for it out of pocket. (Or, you know…maybe not have so much sex that it puts her in financial peril?)…Funny how the same side that cries ‘Get your rosaries off my ovaries’ is the same side saying, ‘on second thought…please pay for me to have all the sex I want!’ The people who espouse ‘pro-choice’ ‘values’ are the same people who say religious institutions have no right to choose.”
As a female college student myself, I advocate the most affordable, accessible, and effective birth control available: if you don’t want to conceive a baby, simply stay abstinent and don’t get married right now. It’s not unrealistic, although many people have been culturally conditioned to think that it is unrealistic.
It’s also not a notion only relegated to Puritans and old fogies. Even Lady Gaga understands the sound logic behind abstinence.
Whether you believe in the divine Biblical origins of it or not, the beautiful fact about morality is that it is timeless, and it always works.
Was Rush Limbaugh being mean or meaningful? Read a follow-up analysis on understanding satire at AmandaRead.com.
Amanda Read is an unconventional scholar, a Southerner without an accent, a Christian who hasn’t been a churchgoer in 17 years and a college student who lives with eight younger siblings. A writer and artist, she blogs at www.amandaread.com and is the author of the historical drama screenplay The Crusading Chemist. Amanda is majoring in history and minoring in political science at Troy University.
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