Thanks, Rush Limbaugh!

3 March 2012

Sometime last summer one of my Facebook friends posted something about an outrageous anti-abortion issue in Texas, and I commented by saying something about how it appeared to me to be part of a widespread war on women. She reacted badly. “I don’t like to use hyperbole like ‘war on women,'” she wrote. “I just don’t think liberals should respond with the same overwrought language as conservatives use.”

I gave up. Facebook status updates are not the place to have disagreements about politics.

I’ve been wondering whether any of the intervening events have changed her mind. The vaginal probes. The personhood measures, which would seem to outlaw most forms of birth control and would make women liable to criminal investigation if they miscarried. The overt anti-contraception measures. The idea that giving employers full say over each of their employees’ health decisions is somehow a way to ensure religious “liberty.”

And now we have Rush Limbaugh, who has decided that any woman who discusses contraception needs to be humiliated on the airwaves. Apparently going with the “all publicity is good publicity” philosophy, he railed against the sole woman scheduled to appear before Congress to testify about the many medical uses of birth control. This young woman — a Georgetown law student named Sandra Fluke whose close friend lost an ovary because she could not obtain access to the Pill — was ultimately eliminated from testimony but appeared on various news shows to offer her evidence to the public. To Limbaugh her pitch for the Pill makes her a “slut” and a “prostitute.” “She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception,” he said.

People in both parties found that to be too much. Not only did President Obama call Fluke to thank her for publicly backing his regulations mandating contraception coverage, but even Republicans John Boehner and Rick Santorum came out to denounce Limbaugh’s “absurdity.”

Georgetown’s president, John DiGioia, emailed the Georgetown University community to back Fluke and celebrate her intelligent, respectful engagement with civil discourse and to decry Limbaugh’s “behavior that can only be described as misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student.”

Limbaugh has doubled down. In response to the furor, on Thursday’s show he followed up his prior comments with even better ones. “So Miss 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. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch.”

So why, given this diarrheac mess, do I want to thank Rush Limbaugh? For making the two sides abundantly clear. I want to thank him for taking Rick Santorum’s anti-contraception theology to its logical conclusion. To clarify the Blunt Amendment’s obfuscation of the contraception issue. For reviving his “feminazi” term to apply to all 98% of American women who use birth control.

Because here’s the thing: I am really fucking sick of having male politicians tell me their vaginal probes are about a “freedom of information,” or that their denial of women’s reproductive health coverage is about “religious liberty.” Thanks for articulating the War on Women in the starkest possible terms.

At last, a real rain has come to wash all the doublespeak away. Women who have health needs are sluts, and women who speak about those needs should be publicly humiliated. Whew! The fresh air is exhilarating.

(Democrats: this is your cue to start winning elections. Do you really need more ammunition than this?)


15 Responses to “Thanks, Rush Limbaugh!”

  1. Didion, what a disturbing post! Her words: “I just don’t think liberals should respond with the same overwrought language as conservatives use.” I think what inflames me is that Republicans love to play the victim card and don’t like when “liberals” call things by their appropriate names. Of course, I’m always sad when women internalize oppression.

    Do let me know if Darrell Issa and Rush Limbaugh have changed your friend’s mind.

    • Didion Says:

      I do believe she was objecting to the “war on…” language. And I haven’t heard her opinions about the last two months of outrages, so she may have changed her mind.

      I’m curious, Michael: I’ve been calling it a War on Women because I think there are times when you’ve got to call out a unified strategy of oppression and intimidation. Do you think by getting pulled into the hyperbolic fray we liberals are losing something of our essential reasonableness? Or is war just war, and we’ve got to fight using the same tools (rhetorical and otherwise)?

      • Didion,
        I share your concern regarding hyperbole. However, I do believe we are witnessing a War on Women. Look at how many states already exist where it is next to impossible for women to have an abortion? Look at the insane “Personhood” amendment. Look at the fiasco about having insurance cover birth control when they have already covered viagra for years now. Finally, look at Darrell Issa and his all white male cronies making decisions about women’s bodies. I think we are in a war.

      • Didion Says:

        Yeah, you’re right. Charles Blow (in today’s NYT) insists that it’s a war on the sexual revolution, but I think for Santorum this devolves down to putting women back into the chains of reproductive fatalism — and being demeaned and humiliated if they refuse. I’m still baffled by the fact that Santorum seems to be watching his mouth when it comes to LGBTQ issues, considering his past; maybe he believes he can get more traction with public opinion with the women question?

        There’s a news story today circulating that Santorum’s campaign is awash in disorganization. We’ll see where that goes.

  2. Dr. Sprankle Says:

    Given the recent actions of sexual conservatives, I do not think the phrase “War on Women” is hyperbolic. However, I shy away from the phrase (and any “war on…” phrase) because our culture celebrates and glorifies war. Those who wage it are believed to be heroes who should be honored for their valor. And the last thing I want to do is have Limbaugh be perceived as a hero. He is nothing short of a misogynistic hypocrite.

    • Didion Says:

      Many thanks, Dr. Sprankle! To be fair to this FB friend, I’m sure she too objected to the “war on …” language that gets thrown around too often. The major difference between us was probably just that I saw it as a war back during the summer with the TX mandatory ultrasound bill, and she didn’t. It’s hard to be a woman in TX and not see the cultural misogyny there, particularly that directed at poor and darker-skinned women, without seeing a war underway.

      I do wonder whether Limbaugh is dividing the right with this rhetoric. Because the only thing different about his language is that he’s explicit about the misogyny.

      • Dr. Sprankle Says:

        I completely agree. Limbaugh is direct with his sexism, whereas the rest of his base is either indirect or simply goes along with the cultural, institutionalized sexism.

        I have to imagine he and Santorum are dividing the right, which is excellent news for Obama. I’m convinced they forgot that women have the right to vote in November.

  3. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your posts 🙂
    I’ll be honest, I try to keep the feminist talks to a minimum these days. Not because I don’t believe in them strongly. I just get heartbroken when other WOMEN don’t understand the points I’m trying to make. It’s like they are content seeing the world through conservative men’s eyes, voting as their husbands tell them to and not being able to create one single independent thought!
    Your give me hope 🙂

    • Didion Says:

      Argh — I know what you mean. And I can honestly understand those women’s desire to avoid rocking the boat with their feminist cries; I mean, look at how this grad student was raked over the coals by a blowhard with a nationwide radio following!

      There have been many times in my life when I didn’t speak up — I happen to be at a point when I’m done with that. There’s something so liberating about not needing male approval. I completely understand how hard it is to speak up; and I’m hoping the more we do speak up, the easier it’ll become.

  4. Becky Says:

    I love your posts. Just thought you should hear that from a lurker. I, too, am at a time in my life when I don’t care if men approve of me or not. I certainly don’t approve of a large number of them. My husband patiently listens to my rants with empathy, but I have come to believe that women need to do more. When Rush lost his sponsors, I think something may have, at least momentarily, made him think he had messed up. Women really need to get more organized. Oh, the things we could do! And, they need doing!

    • Didion Says:

      Becky, thank you! And you know, I’ve never like the term “lurker,” mostly because I refuse to see myself as some kind of peeping Tom when I go trawling about for interesting and thought-provoking material! Surely there’s a better term we can use?

      And on feminism vs. fear: I spend so much time with undergrads that I sometimes worry I absorb some of their hesitance about feminism. The fear that I’ll be attacked by a Limbaugh type, or that I’ll be called a bitch. If I’d had to endure at age 30 what Sandra Fluke has experienced … well, I’d have crawled under a rock and needed prescription drugs. But that’s where being in my 40s and having more professional stability has given me an extraordinary new perspective on what I might be able to do as a writer and teacher. Let’s hope those kids today are watching all these Limbaugh shenanigans and don’t feel the need to be in their 40s before they join the feminist fight for birth control et als.

      • Tori Says:

        Surely there’s a better term we can use?

        I have always liked the term “reader” — or if more description is required, “quiet/silent reader.” 😉

  5. JSA Lowe Says:

    Done Tweeted this! Thank you. :o)

  6. Thanks for this post. Reading it made me think of Gingrich’s comment that Obama’s calling Fluke was “opportunistic.” To which I want to say, and who do you think set up this opportunity? Obama wouldn’t have had the opportunity to enter into this dialogue in this way if Limbaugh’s comments stayed in the extremist land of talk radio, but they’re part of a larger text that’s coming from legislators and presidential candidates. Obama was “opportunistic” enough to let me and millions of other women across the country know that wasn’t his stance.

    • Didion Says:

      Exactly! Please, please, please, Democrats, be opportunistic so I never have to hear about “sluts” and “prostitutes” again from Rush Limbaugh!

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