Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut. Sandra Fluke, the law student who stood up for women’s right to access contraception, the same one who was barred from testifying at Darrell Issa’s hearing on contraception. Rush Limbaugh has shown himself to be a misogynist, so when I heard that he said this, I was disgusted, but not surprised.
When I heard Obama called her and asked how she was handling the things said about her and thanked her for speaking out, I was proud of our president. A male president of the United States of America should be an ally for women, but we all know that has not been the usual course of presidents.
So I read a couple of articles about Rush’s behavior, and how he issued an “apology” when he saw advertisers were taking their ads from his show. but I hadn’t read or seen what Sandra Fluke actually said. Then I read what she said and what he said. And yes, he called her a slut but, in my opinion, that was the very least of what he said.
First, if you haven’t already read Sandra Fluke’s testimony, read it! She is articulate and brilliant and the examples she gives of friends who have needed contraception for other health concerns that do not include preventing pregnancy are sincere, moving, and powerful. If she had been talking about contraception as birth control rather than as medicine, that would have been fine too, but that’s not what she was saying.
I want to quote one piece of what she said that I thought was particularly eloquent and profound. She has been talking about how women at her school, because it is a Jesuit institution, have not been able to afford contraception that they have needed for medical conditions. She then says:
“We did not expect that women would be told in the national media that we should have gone to school elsewhere. And even if that meant going to a less prestigious university, we refuse to pick between a quality education and our health. And we resent that in the 21st century, anyone think it’s acceptable to ask us to make this choice simply because we are women.”
I want to make it very clear how well Sandra Fluke speaks, how smart she sounds, and that she makes really good points. She is really articulate and fierce. This is the reason behind the slut shaming. This is why Rush Limbaugh attacked her. He tried to remove her power by re-naming her a slut. Again, she wasn’t even talking about sex. She was talking about contraception as necessary medication for certain medical conditions. But that didn’t matter. In the eyes of the right wing, she’s too powerful- they had to change it up, to make her something else. The way they do that is by changing the language.
Republicans have been known for having organized think tanks that do that, people who sit around all day racking their brains for ways they can confuse people into seeing things their way. It has been done with language throughout time. “Pro-life” is a great example. Who isn’t pro-life? That’s ridiculous, but it makes the issue polarized so people have to pick one side or the other. You’re either pro-life or anti-life. The issue of a woman’s choice for her body and life isn’t even there.
George Lakoff writes on this in his book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant.”
Lakoff’s basic concept is that by selecting the right language you can create a framework evoking a set of concepts supporting and “proving” your point of view. Once this idea-based frame is established it will be held even in the face of facts to the contrary. It has been found that “if a strongly held frame doesn’t fit the facts, the facts will be ignored and the frame will be kept.”
So Sandra Fluke, as a representative of women who want access to contraception was framed as a slut and a prostitute. Limbaugh has not just slut shamed her but created a framework where women wanting access to contraception are seen as prostitutes and sluts. It doesn’t matter if this is true. It isn’t, but now it has been framed this way so the truth will be forgotten.
Rush Limbaugh’s radio broadcast is the highest rated national radio talk show with the largest audience in America. It is heard on almost 600 stations by approximately 20 million people each week. He is also the author of “The Limbaugh Letter,” the most widely read political newsletter in the country.
It saddens me to know that the nation of people that I love. The nation where I am from, is influenced and apparently captivated by someone who so deeply hates women.
When I heard all of what Rush said, I realized something: calling Fluke a slut and a prostitute were of course beyond awful, but the most hideous of what he said was this:
“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 and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos on line so we can all watch.”
Whoa! How was this not talked about? Or how did I miss the conversation?
So, he calls her a slut and a prostitute and then says he wants to watch the videos of her. She is talking about women needing to have the right to access contraception for medical issues, not about having sex. He put that on her, completely objectifying her- turning her into a sexual object.
He not only reinforces the framework that women are to be valued for sex only, but he said it in the voice of a perpetrator. It was threatening and menacing and suggesting blackmail. It was: this is what we want in exchange. It was: ‘Fine, take your contraception women, but you will pay for it by giving us a tape of you having sex.
Now he has framed that women wanting contraception is that they want to be watched having sex, that they want to be sexually violated, and that they owe men. He has reinforced the framework that women are for men’s viewing pleasure, for having sex with and to exist to pleasure men.
Rush countered confrontation about his hateful words by saying he would buy all the Georgetown women “as much aspirin as they wanted to put between their knees.” Again, he is framing that women are for sex and for the pleasure of men. By setting up these frameworks, women and what women say can be more easily controlled because even though our real concerns are being voiced, they are not being heard. The framework doesn’t allow for it.
Everyone is putting pressure for advertisers to stop supporting him. YES- we must do that- that’s super important. We also must be aware of these frameworks being set and reinforced, regularly call them out, and take away the platform for those who set them against women.
Grrl Code: Begin to decode the frameworks set up against us and speak out about them. See through the lies. Help others see how women are being targeted as a group, all women, not just Sandra Fluke or Democrats or feminists.