Just after I posted Undeterred, Rush Limbaugh bashes another single woman, Yasmin Nair sent me a heads-up about her own post on the Rush stuff. It is long, so I’ll post the first few paragraphs here, then give you the link so you can read the rest of it at her site. Yasmin Nair, by the way, contributed that wonderful essay, “Singular Friendships,” to the Singlism book.
One more aside: Shortly after I posted my Rush essay, I turned on The Rachel Maddow Show and discovered that she was about to interview the single woman, Tracie McMillan, just trashed by Limbaugh. The video excerpt is called “A closer look at Limbaugh’s attacks on ‘young, single, white women.’”
Now to Yasmin’s essay:
In Defense of Sluts, by Yasmin Nair
As the saying goes, unless you’ve been living under a rock in the US, you know by now that Rush Limbaugh recently did what he does best: malign, defame, eviscerate, and demonstrate that he is the king of douchebaggery.
On March 1, perhaps filled with rage at the advent of Women’s History Month, the popular talk-show host ripped into Sandra Fluke, a third-year Georgetown University law student who had testified before Congress about the need for birth control coverage. Limbaugh berated Fluke, calling her a “slut” who wanted the government to pay for her promiscuous lifestyle, making the inference that her need for birth control signaled an active sex life, presumably with many people. This is vintage Limbaugh, and it’s fairly typical of a man who has made derogatory comments about nearly all groups, including undocumented immigrants, African-Americans, and women.
The recent incident has prompted a cultural backlash on both sides, with liberals decrying his words and conservatives rushing to his defense. To those who declare that Limbaugh has put his foot in his mouth, I would caution that he is one of the most dexterous in manipulating media attention. I would also caution that such manipulation does not imply a lack of belief in the ideology he professes or that, somehow, that belief could be changed—progressives, liberals and lefties love to imagine that arch-conservatives are people like them who’ve just lost their way. There is nothing to indicate that Limbaugh does not act and think in racist and misogynistic ways, and the sooner we come to terms with the existence of more people like him in many parts of our world—and the fact that their beliefs demonstrate a position, just as much as ours do, the better we will be equipped to deal with them.
But to return to Fluke: the law student is a demure-looking and eloquent woman who can hold her own and has, to her credit, handled the issue with dignity. Making the media rounds, she has managed to keep a level head and tone, and has consistently battered home the same message, that “women need access to basic health care that’s important to prevent medical disasters and to prevent pregnancy.” I suspect she also has at least one really good media trainer. That’s not a criticism—everyone who wants to establish a public message needs one. I raise this point because it’s important not to think of Fluke as an unwitting pawn in this game: she is an astute spokesperson and, like Limbaugh, she is advocating for a position.
That brings me to an aspect of this case which leaves me, at best, deeply uneasy and, at worst, terrified for the future of women’s sexual lives in this country: the fact that the media coverage and responses of feminists so far have been to first criticise Limbaugh’s “slut-shaming” and then to insist that Fluke is no slut. They go on to demonstrate that her testimony included her pain at watching a friend “be forced to have an ovary removed due to ovarian cysts,”which birth control could have prevented. On Chicago Now, Janet Dahl writes that, “[t]he imputation that anyone using contraception is promiscuous is beyond ridiculous.” Only good, monogamous, non-slutty women need contraception! [Continue reading here.]