As Rush Limbaugh 'Slut' Comment Catches Appeal Amongst Academics, a Defense of Women is Necessary

In response to Rush Limbaugh’s outrageous and unsubstantiated comments regarding Georgetown Law student and women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke, University of Rochester economist Steven Landsburg weighs in in a manner consistent with the GOP discourse on women’s health. Rather than credibly debate Fluke’s stance on mandated subsidized contraception as a preventative to polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, and other reproductive diseases, Landsburg equates Fluke to an extortionist, pick-pocketer, and wholly undermines the burdens that fall on everyday women, not men.

“But while Ms. Fluke herself deserves the same basic respect we owe to any human being, her position — which is what’s an issue here — deserves none whatsoever. It deserves only to be ridiculed, mocked, and jeered."

In his typical appeal to the shock factor, my former economics professor attempts to illustrate logical inconsistencies in Fluke’s reasoning while missing her position almost entirely. Landsburg, like Limbaugh, Santorum, Gingrich, and innumerable upper-middle class, white male GOP figureheads, marginalizes the powerful, articulate statements of women around the country by labeling those in support of subsidized contraception, and general access to health care, as prostitutes, whores, or extortionists.

“All she said, in effect, is that she and others want contraception and they don’t want to pay for it,” Landsburg said.

Is that all she said, Landsburg? It is not that they don’t want to pay for contraception, but that they can’t afford to pay for contraception. Not once in her written testament to the House did Fluke mention sex, for herself or for others (though even if she did, I still would never equate that with prostitution or extortion). Fluke is merely drawing attention to a terrifying reality in today’s day and age: that women around the country are being denied access to physical and emotional well being on account of their gender.

I am tired of defending my right to live a healthy and productive life, much less to a man who is supposed to be an educator and to other men who are vying to run my country. Concerns by women, particularly low-income women, women working for religiously affiliated institutions, women pursuing higher education at religiously affiliated institutions, are real. Sandra Fluke spoke truth to power in defense of these women and their bodies, and now her testimony is being cast aside so Steven Landsburg and Republicans alike can take advantage of their prominent position and access to a mouthpiece to propagate their typical ad hominem dialogue. I expect wingnut conservatives like Limbaugh to engage in this behavior, but I expect far more from a prominent academic.

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