With close to 30 sponsors pulling funding from his show, a rare apology from Rush Limbaugh regarding his “choice of words” surfaced on his website Sunday afternoon. This was a useless response after calling Sandra Fluke, a law student who testified on the necessity of covering birth control under healthcare programs, a “slut” “who admits to having so much sex that she can’t afford [her birth control pills] anymore.” The host also made a horrific amendment to Fluke’s demands by proposing she post her sexual activities online, so that taxpayers could at least get a show for the birth control they’re paying for.
These blatant attacks on women resulted in close to 400,000 people signing petitions to get Limbaugh advertisers off the show. The damage is done, and the effects have surfaced despite an apology. This incident has exposed the rabidity of an uninformed public, an overall lack of education and awareness around women’s health issues, and some prevalent backwards attitudes the general public has towards women.
Rush, you’re messing up Super Tuesday. Limbaugh’s reputation decreased dramatically with a majority of his audience after he personally attacked Fluke. This incident leading into Super Tuesday really muddled the issues for the public. The GOP race lost a credible platform for the 2012 elections. Most of all, the candidates were placed in awkward positions, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the shades of disapproval they shared when they were asked for reactions on Limbaugh.
People don’t know what birth control pills are. Birth control pills are essentially tablets of hormones that offset levels of testosterone and estrogen in a woman’s body. There are millions of women who are prescribed birth control pills, ranging in various hormone levels, for reasons other than contraception: to clear acne, to minimize the pain of severe cramping during menstruation, to regulate cycles, to treat polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and are sometimes used to reduce the probability of developing certain types of reproductive organ cancers.
There are different brands and types of birth control pills, and prescriptions vary depending on a woman’s current hormone levels. Contrary to Limbaugh’s comments of Fluke having “so much sex” that she can no longer afford her birth control habit, women only take a pill a day for an entire month. You buy twelve packs in a year, no matter what.
When we do not understand that these are special needs women have due to having ovaries and a uterus, how can we entrust the public to help create policies and legislation that can accurately represent the needs of women in healthcare?
People take the lead from celebrities. Sadly, Limbaugh is a thought leader amongst conservatives. He has followers. There are message boards everywhere alight with intergenerational flame wars due to his attack on Fluke. The archive of sexism in these now closed-comment forums have a heavy peppering of “well, that b___ should keep her legs shut”s and “I’m not paying for her welfare babies” – esque comments.
However, if one were to gloss over the transcript of Fluke’s testimony or watch the video, it is quite clear that the primary example she gives is of a friend who lost an ovary due to polycystic ovarian syndrome, which affects 5 million women in the U.S. alone.
There is something terribly dangerous when the public does not attempt to be critical with information, regurgitates sound bites, and makes no further attempt to investigate. This kind of mob mentality trickles down to our communities where our children commit all sorts of heinous acts as they replicate our modeled behavior, like this one young woman who was bullied because of Limbaugh's comments.
Limbaugh's apology is irrelevant, he's already done the damage. Of course, I value the First Amendment. I enjoy entertainment. But when Limbaugh personally attacked Fluke and offered his apology on the basis of his "word choice," that is neither entertainment nor apology. When one speaks for a larger group of people, willingly or not, there is a terrible responsibility which runs parallel to that duty. Unfortunately for conservatives, the mouth speaking for them is Limbaugh: irresponsible, insincere, and insanely sexist.
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