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Lessons From Limbaugh | The Nation

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Katha Pollitt

Katha Pollitt

Politics, feminism, culture, books and daily life.

Lessons From Limbaugh

In testimony she was barred from giving at Darrell Issa’s all-male hearing, Sandra Fluke told the story of a fellow student at Georgetown law, a lesbian who, because of Catholic strictures, was denied insurance coverage for birth control pills needed to control her ovarian cysts. Unable to afford the pill herself, the woman eventually had to have an ovary removed, with serious consequences to her health and fertility. Please note: this woman’s tragic story is not about nymphomaniacal “co-eds.” Nor were Fluke’s other examples: a woman with suspected endometriosis, a rape victim who assumed Georgetown wouldn’t pay for treatment and a married couple who couldn’t afford contraception. Fluke did mention the humiliating experience of one woman, who discovered at the pharmacy that her insurance wouldn’t pay for birth control and who had to leave empty-handed because she couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket. Maybe she was the hot babe. Fluke said nothing about her own contraceptive needs or her own sex life. No matter. By now you surely know how Rush Limbaugh played the story:

“What does it say about the college co-ed,” said Limbaugh, “who goes before a Congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.” Limbaugh suggests the women who want the pill should have to make porn videos of themselves and post them online. “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. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Limbaugh says disgusting hate-filled things about women all the time. His fans think it’s hilarious. The media insiders think it’s naïve and boring to complain: that’s just the way Rush rolls. Slate’s Dave Weigel, for example, points out helpfully that Rush is “a private citizen who hasn’t endorsed any presidential candidate,” so it’s unfair for the “Democratic media complex” to attack him for this bit of “classic Rush, sort of.” (Apparently it’s no big deal for Rush to smear his vile viciousness all over Sandra Fluke, a private citizen.) Maybe the Republican primary debates, in which candidates compete for the titles like Most Opposed to Plan B for Rape Victims, have woken people up, because Rush’s attack on Fluke has drawn fire—a wave of outrage from feminists, liberal columnists and bloggers, including petitions to his sponsors, several of whom have pulled their ads. Even President Obama got involved, with a phone call to Fluke expressing support. Rush issued a half-hearted self-serving apology: “In the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize.” Rick Santorum, last seen blaming birth control for rising rates of single motherhood, commented on CNN, “He’s being absurd but that’s you know, an entertainer can be absurd.” Mitt Romney was no knight in shining armor either: “I’ll just say this, which is, it’s not the language I would have used.”

Meanwhile, the wingnut media has doubled and tripled down. Bill O’Reilly: “You want me to give you my hard-earned money so you can have sex?” Pam Geller: By all accounts she is banging it five times a day. She sounds more like a prostitute to me. She must have an gyno bill to choke a horse (pun intended). Calling this whore a slut was a softball.“ Ace of Spades: “A shiftless rent-a-cooch from East Whoreville.” Jawa Report posted a photo supposedly of Fluke with a “Semen Demon” tattoo above her butt.

What do we learn from this story besides that Limbaugh apparently believes you have to take an additional pill every time you have sex, like, um, the Viagra pills he was found with when he returned from a Dominican vacation? (The Catholic church has no problem with covering boner pills, by the way, and they are routinely covered by insurance.) We learn that there is no point even bothering to point out that many women take the pill for non-contraceptive reasons—not only will the bishops will still do their best to keep women from it, misogynists like Limbaugh won’t even notice. They don’t know anything about ladyparts—Cysts? Endometriosis? —and they don’t care. They don’t care either that almost all women use some form of birth control at some point—wives, mothers, women who may not even like sex. Even lesbians! When the topic is anything remotely connected to female sexuality, every woman is a ho, a prostitute, a slutty-slut-slut, from a teenage virgin who needs to control her acne to a tired and put-upon 40-year-old mother of five. Even the feminazis! Those slutwalkers were really on to something.

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