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You’re a Slut No Matter What?

March 6, 2012

Kate White ’13

BBC News announced that on March 4th, Rush Limbaugh, a popular radio host, has apologized for his derogatory remarks towards third year law student Sandra Fluke. The debate over whether religious institutions, including hospitals, universities and businesses, should insure birth control for female members has been raging over the last couple weeks, as previously mentioned in another Ike’s Anvil blog post, but the remarks made by Limbaugh last week have shown how openly abusive a character in the public eye can be to a woman. Limbaugh only apologized because of pressure from his advertisers, several of which pulled out of his show. However, he excused his awful comments as humorous jargon that was just a bit too crude. Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University Law Center, is the President of their Reproductive Justice Council and wanted to testify before Congress to explain why contraceptive coverage is imperative for women’s health. In her testimonial she spoke about the many health reasons birth control is used, including women who need birth control to help control ovarian cists. Without health insurance coverage by Georgetown University, these women, for example, must spend $3000 out of pocket per year. She told Congress that this is a safety issue for women, and their rights should not be determined by an institutions’ religious beliefs.

As offensive as Rush Limbaugh was, his remarks are just a cruder version of the conservative republicans’ idea that “sex is bad” when it is not in the confines of marriage in the Christian church. Penn Jillette discussed on the Piers Morgan show on CNN how even though some may be angry over the overtly rude comments made by Limbaugh, we need to examine how the extremely conservative Republican movement is giving fuel to these opinions and endorsing these kinds of ideas. As Penn Jillette says, “The concept is ‘Sex is Bad,’” because, according to him, conservatives see sex as only a tool for procreation and any endorsement that makes sex something else is a “sin” — hence birth control becomes an abomination.

Lisa Wexler provides another opinion about Rush Limbaugh in her piece in the Huffington Post: “You called her a slut. You meant to insult Sandra. But because you called her a slut for exercising her right to speak up and demand birth control, you have stripped the word of its traditional, cruel meaning. I am now a slut too. All women who have ever attempted to decide when and how many children they would have, and with whom, are now sluts. I’m guessing your sister, if you have one, is a slut. Your three ex-wives are probably sluts as well. Might the newest Mrs. Limbaugh be one too?” She argues that, by condemning women as sluts for wanting to use birth control, the term “slut” has been transformed. Since nearly half of the female population in the United States is on birth control for various reasons, she argues, we can take this term as a “badge of honor.” She continues to explain that, in so many different ways, women have been made to feel ashamed about enjoying sex or wanting to take control of their lives in that aspect. Discriminatory language and mandatory clothing by certain religions tries to get rid of any openness of sexuality in women. However, even with these attacks, women are taking control and demanding a right to protect their own health.

Anna Staver reports Sandra Fluke’s response in her Huffington Post article. In response to Limbaugh’s remarks, Fluke replies, “Initially, you’re stunned, but then very quickly, you’re outraged, because this is historically the kind of language that is used to silence women, especially when women stand up and say that these are their reproductive health care needs and this is what they need.” Sandra Fluke is taking leadership for a right she feels women deserve, and she was the only woman to testify on the committee. At first she her testimonial was refused by Republicans, who said she was not qualified, but Democrats made sure she could testify. What does this say about our political community? Where does this put our freedom of expression?

Whether one agrees or not, Rush Limbaugh’s remarks show how quickly people criticize women by attacking their sexuality. Sandra Fluke only sought respect from our political leaders and an ear for her argument because this debate affects our entire country, both the female and male populations. It is a slap to society that a woman was so crudely criticized for exercising her freedom of expression and fighting for her human right in a respectful manner.

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