You’re talking about everybody’s daughters, dumba$$.

This was my first thought when I heard Rush Limbaugh’s repeated prurient insults directed at a private citizen.  It’s interesting to me that Democrats are now articulating this very idea in media appearances–see the clip from syndicated columnist Connie Schultz on Rachel Maddow last night, and now President Obama in his press conference this afternoon.  It’s difficult for a lot of parents of daughters not to see in Sandra Fluke their own daughter, if not now then eventually someday.  As Schultz says, “[Limbaugh] asked for video, Rachel, of this young woman; he called her a slut because she wanted to be responsible about birth control.  They have no idea yet, it seems to me, what’s been unleashed but they’re about to find out.”  (Scroll up to about 5:30 to see Schultz’s interview.)

If my college students are at all representative, many of them were put on the Pill in high school by their parents.  Not all of them, of course, but it’s hardly a remarkable thing any more for a parent of a teenager to do this.  Republicans love their birth control as much as any other Americans.  They also love their daughters as much as other Americans–so who are you calling a slut, again, mister?

(I am not privileging parenthood of daughters here as the best or the only reason to be outraged by Limbaugh.  I’m just suggesting that given the number of parents of daughters in the United States today, it makes even less sense than calling people who want to send their children to college “snobs.”)

38 thoughts on “You’re talking about everybody’s daughters, dumba$$.

  1. My hypothesis is that Limbaugh forgot that the sick motherfuckers that call in his show and cheer him on represent an extremely small minority whose opinions are absolutely repellent to the overwhelmingly vast majority.


  2. For years, Rush has been uttering similar type insults about everything and everyone he dislikes. Some of his statements were not any better. His luck ran out; he mistimed, misstated and messed up this time. This time it wasn’t Hillary, it was all the Hillarys and that seems to be to much.

    The lesson is actually very sad. You can insult anyone with impunity. Just make sure that they are less than 50% of the population. Matthews and Olbermann character assassinated Hillary. The complaints did rise very high.


  3. Limbaugh is, after all, the same man who openly mocked Michael J. Fox’s symptoms of Parkinson’s on the air.

    Personally, in this instance I am delighted that he unintentionally shifted the public discussion away from bogus questions of “religious freedom” to the reality that access to birth control (in many forms) is a basic human right. Heck, the Democrats would have never been able to do that with a hundred radio shows.


  4. Well, let’s be blunt: He insulted a gal that looked like what folks assume Good Female College Students oughta be: Thinking, not Drinking, aware of responsibilities, good-looking, and white.

    I’m cynical enough to believe that if an African-American or Hispanic-American coed spoke up about this, not so many gallant DLC pols would be standing beside her…. but there’s much to be said for taking the hits as a test case that the court of public opinion was, at last, ready to try against Limbaugh.

    He made his national bones bashing queers, pretty lil’ dykes, included, so truly nothing is new save the Dems being willing to spend political capital, when they effectively refused to push back for decades.


  5. There could be one heck of a viral campaign, with posters of the usual old man GOP suspects, captioned, “Would *you* have sex with him, without contraception and STD prevention?” It’d send gals to the barricades, I tell you what….


  6. Two more gender points for possible discussion, based on as yet un-parsed text from the Rush tapes:

    1. Over and over, he calls her a “college co-ed.” She is, in fact, a third-year law student. Yet he’s looking for the language (albeit quite dated) that brings up “girls gone wild” and other pornified imagery.

    2. Right after he calls us her a prostitute, he accidentally slips into a moment of reflection: “So what does that make us… that makes us the johns…. no, no — we’re not the johns…” It’s like, for a moment, he wandered into the logical conclusion that women are not solely to blame for (nastydirtybadbad) sex, but then realized what he was saying, and hightailed it out of there, pronto.


  7. Notorious & cgeye–excellent points.

    Cgeye: I had thought that the young woman in question was kind of a perfect foil for Limbaugh’s toxic invective: white, pretty, and prim; not threateningly sexy. I wonder if an African American or Latina activist would have been pushed forward by the mainstream feminist groups for the reasons you suggest.

    Notorious: I love your point about “co-ed.” (I tried to make it over at Tenured Radical’s place, but my comment got held in moderation for some reason–maybe co-ed is a trigger word for their software?) I was also struck by the inappropriate use of that term, which I agree with you is meant to diminish Fluke.

    At another uni, I had a male colleague pretty close to my age who used to call all women students “co-eds.” I had to ask him to knock it off, because the uni we taught at went “co-ed” in the 1920s, after it was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan! So I thought it only perpetuated the notion that women didn’t belong there, when in fact our uni had a MAJORITY of female students.

    Little wonder that I then heard rumors about him hanging out at undergrad bars trying to pick up. . . sorry, I can’t finish that sentence. It’s too creepy and pathetic. So that’s my cautionary tale about men who use the term “co-ed” seriously.


  8. Thanks for highlighting the “co-ed” bit, antiquated men using that phrases pisses me off to no end, as it paints educated women as a trivial novelty.


  9. What about Rush not even getting Sandra Fluke’s name right? All women are interchangeable…

    As for co-ed, it was out of date in 1972, except insofar as it was used to describe an institution that educated both males and females.


  10. no one has really addressed the fact that a lot of women use BC to regulate their periods. i know women who were on BC who waited until marriage to have sex. their BC kept them from near-death every month.

    how is using BC in this way any different from daily migraine medicine?

    he was really short-sided with his comments. since then, i’ve been calling my wife and all of my female friends (who use BC) ‘sluts’, just to let them know their place. i really like doing it to the republican ones (i am republican too, but i’m no limbaugh fan).


  11. In response to the comment above: Hmmm….

    But, to the final paragraph: HUH?

    And if it’s an excuse for the standard “you feminists have NO sense of humor” rejoinder, well, now, I think this topic requires a DefCon 4 level of humor extraction, just to wade through the psychic fallout this whole mess has revealed about manly men and their preoccupations….


  12. I took Jason’s comment about calling women of his acquaintance “sluts” to be the near-equivalent of SlutWalks and women who wear t-shirts in them that say “slut.” I got a lot of pushback for it here when I wrote about SlutWalks when I said that this may be a strategy for reclaiming a hurtful label (like “queer” in recent decades). Among friends and allies (which is what I assume Jason to be to his wife & friends, based on the content of his comment) I don’t think this is so bad.


  13. I shoulda left it at “SMILE when you say that, son”, but you know, the feminism humor thing, not working, my time of month….


  14. I’m delighted that Limbaugh is getting some pushback (but alas, he’ll be fine, like the Enron guys, and the Wall Street guys, and …). But it’s true that it took a 3-day attack on a pretty white (presumably straight) girl to make enough people pay attention.
    Here’s an informative and shocking list of grotesque racist comments he’s made that didn’t make a single sponsor blink:


  15. I disagree that noting Fluke’s ethnicity and appearance is the same as calling her a “co-ed,” but I take your point that repeating the phrase “pretty white girl/woman” could have a similar effect.

    I think the point that LouMac makes is a great one. The difference in outrage is telling, and one that I think links back to my original point. Attacking Fluke highlighted Limbaugh’s prurience and vileness in ways that made it personal for a larger number of white Americans than the racist remarks & racialized invective he uses on a regular basis.


  16. Although not intended as such, “pretty white girl” sounds like anti-feminist MRA-speak, in which one’s opponent wants to paint your concerns as silly and inapplicable to The Real World as men define it. It reads as dehumanizing and patronizing.

    I’ve no doubt that if Fluke were not Fluke, but were a woman of color, she’d be even more pilloried by Limbaugh and the outrage over Limbaugh’s comments would be mute, at best; she’d get an even rawer deal. But Fluke is not a “girl,” her prettiness is subjective and irrelevant at best (it’s her white and class privilege that make defending her a far more tolerable and easy task, and it’s the reason sponsors are fleeing Limbaugh’s show), and casting someone with a legitimate grievance (and who incidentally represented herself as an authority speaking on behalf of other women’s grievances) as a “pretty white girl” usually means her fears and complaints are unjustified or hyperbolic, and that that they apply only to a small, privileged minority. But Fluke didn’t plan speak about herself, at all, and her concerns, in this instance, apply to all American women.


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  18. On second thought, perhaps I’m speaking from a position of ignorance. As a woman of color I have not, admittedly, ever been scornfully dismissed as a “pretty white girl,” so I don’t have firsthand experience as to the sting of that particular pejorative, but I’ve been called plenty of infantilizing things (like “female,” meaning something akin to an animal) and I believe I recognize a slight when I see one.

    White, usually feminist colleagues and friends are called, often in fatherly tones, “pretty white girls” in my presence, invariably by people who, themselves, are pretty middle class white men, and who fail to see any irony in what they are saying because being female nearly always damages one’s political credibility and it’s considered beyond a doubt and a fact accepted by all who count (other white men) that young white women are the most over privileged people in any social justice context and have nothing of value to contribute, and are flighty and vacuous besides (hence the “pretty” part), and should probably be giving up their seats to men of color. I’ve never actually heard a man of color use the “pretty white girl” line against a white woman before, and while it’s probably happening, it’s certainly not as common. Which is one of the reasons I find the remark less politically apt (it’s true that white women possess and take advantage of their white privilege at the expense of people of color) and more angry and resentful.


  19. Chingona–thanks for your thoughts. I think you’ve talked me into seeing “PWG” as a more loaded term than I originally thought. I think it’s the “girl” aspect that ices the cake, too–although I never used that particular word myself.


  20. Thanks, Historiann. The “girl” thing kills me. It seems like it’s returning to the American vernacular, where all women might (in the right context) be called “girls”? Or did it ever go away?


  21. Beyond the ridiculousness of the name-calling, what really struck me is that this was a perfect example of how uneducated many Americans are about birth control in general. His stance seems to be that the reason it costs so much for this woman to be on birth control is that she needs so much of it, missing the point that the pill is a one-a-day medicine, regardless of when (or if) a woman is sexually active, taken consecutively for 21 days. I was really fascinated that he didn’t seem to know that – that apparently he was mistaking the pill for ‘take as you go’ Viagra, which nobody seems to have a problem being covered by insurance.

    I was just fascinated that he seemed to think that a woman who had sex once a week would need ‘less pill’ than a woman who had sex every day, and therefore it would cost less, and that how much the pill cost a woman was indicative of how much action she was getting. And it speaks to the health education problems in this country that a heterosexual man doesn’t understand how birth control actually works.


  22. I think it’s also revealing in that he seems to confuse it with RU-486, a medical abortifacient. This is an interesting confusion because of the connection many on the right want to make between birth control and abortion, even claiming that some forms of contraception are really abortifacients.

    Plenty of teh stupid to go around on this one!


  23. H’ann – I think that’s exactly what those on the right think. They view women as whores who kill their babies by taking pills, and the more confusion is created over what birth control is and how it works, let alone the morning after pill (and look at successful they’ve been about creating a climate of complete confusion about what the MAP does and does not do; I would wager many Americans think it’s an abortificant). The introduction of RU-486 was a huge win for them, because it enabled them to collapse all categories more easily than before.


  24. On “pretty white girl” — in addition to the obvious (and ongoing, and sometimes complex, given women’s use of the term) issues with “girl,” “pretty” for me recalls the dismissive phrase “don’t you worry your pretty little head about it,” which is definitely a way of saying that women shouldn’t be thinking of serious matters (even/including those that directly affect their lives); they’re decorative objects. I think of it as the sort of thing a husband in an unequal marriage says to his wife about the family finances (and when she presses the issue, either because she’s justifiably worried about whether the household is on a solid footing, and/or because she suspects they’re headed toward divorce, by her choice or his, she becomes a “bitch”).

    Also, although Fluke is undeniably attractive by most standards, I’d describe her self-presentation — clothing choices, hairstyle, etc. — as “professional.” That is, of course, absolutely appropriate to a 3rd-year law student, but may point to another problem that underlies both Limbaugh’s reaction and the protective impulses it has aroused: as a nation (perhaps especially as a nation increasingly populated by graying boomers who don’t want to admit they’re graying), we seem to have trouble treating people in their twenties and even thirties, especially those who haven’t yet achieved certain accepted “markers” of adulthood — completion of graduate/professional training, marriage, parenthood, mortgage-holding — as full adults (I’m cribbing this in part from a church workshop I went to yesterday on integrating the younger generation into church life; and yes, we spent some time discussing how to get alternative views of Christians and how they/we think out there, to counter the misogynistic and homophobic nonsense that too often ends up representing the “Christian” voice in the public sphere). Fluke was definitely more vulnerable to Limbaugh’s recasting of her as a co-ed, and also, perhaps, more vulnerable to the protective instincts of those a few decades older, because, unlike some of the women whose stories she cited (who may be her age, or younger, or older), she is unmarried. In the days when the term “co-ed” was in common use, many women who were “co-eds” at 22 were married mothers of 1 or 2 children by 25, and, if not quite matrons, then at least junior-leaguers, at 30. Of course, some of those women also became law students (and, eventually, lawyers and judges and, in a few cases, supreme court justices) in their twenties or thirties or forties, before or while or after marrying (and in some cases divorcing) and having and raising children. I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this, but I think there may be some of the same combination of reactions that greeted another example of (mostly)(relatively) young people seeking to have an adult voice in the public sphere, the Occupy protestors: a tendency either to criticize them as whiny, entitled adolescents (if not toddlers) or to become overprotective/overworried about their health and welfare (I can’t find the link at the moment, but I remember an exchange in some blog’s comments thread about whether it was appropriate, respectful, and/or genuinely supportive to call the student protestors pepper-sprayed in CA “kids”).

    But yes, whatever the exact nature of the various. intersecting cultural currents involved, they’re clearly such that it was incredibly stupid for Limbaugh to attack Fluke as he did.


  25. Can someone please tell me what type of birth control costs $1000 / year? I understand the need for annual exams, lab work … but “the pill” is pretty darn cheap, is it not? Or are things just that more expen$ive in Washington, DC?


  26. Gold-plated pills in the bejeweled pack that’s covered in Swarovski crystals?

    Hell, I don’t know. I never took the Pill. Pill-poppers: let the rest of us know what it’s costing you.


  27. Well, 10 years ago I was on a pill that would have been $75/mo without insurance. My insurance at the time brought it down to $50/mo. That means I was spending $600/yr, and would have spent $900/yr if I had not had insurance. This is why, when I stopped having insurance, I stopped being on the pill until I got insurance again, this despite the fact that I needed it for a medical condition aside from the desire to avoid pregnancy.

    The costs of that particular pill may have gone down because it was one where the patent had not yet expired. Could I have been on a cheaper one? In theory, yes. However, I tried 4 different brands over the course of a year or so until alighting on one whose side effects I could live with.*

    At the time, that brand of pill was one of the more expensive ones, but it was also the only one that worked for me. I can easily imagine someone else in a situation where only one kind of medication works for them. With the escalation in the costs of – everything – I can easily see a pill regimen costing at least $1000/yr, with or without insurance. It’s daily, after all, and thus I agree that compared to other medicines it can be thought of as “cheap” per dose, though you see that in the aggregate it can easily add up to a substantial amount.

    Koshembos, my experience with this was in Texas, which is not known to be an expensive part of the country for anything. And Historiann, no gold-plating, no crystals.

    * The differences between the brands is more than just the label. My understanding is that each brand or kind of BCP has different levels of various hormones, and some have hormones that others don’t. Thus they are not easily interchangeable.


  28. With a co-pay I was paying $45/mo a few years ago. Sans co-pay it was more like $60/mo for the same oc pills. I have no idea what this would cost now. Generic wasn’t an option at the time. I started off on the brand I was on because it was covered by my HMO at the time ($10 copay). Then life changed and I was somewhere else with different health insurance that didn’t cover that brand of oc pill and I didn’t feel like taking months to try out other cheaper oc pills.


  29. Wow. Thanks mandor and best_of_fair. Expense is only one of the reasons I never was interested in the Pill. $45-$50 a month would have been a significant expense for me in college & grad school, and even now there are other things I’d rather spend my dough on. (Side effects, or just the systemic effects of the Pill in general, were the other reason.) But I’ve been fortunate so far: I have never had an ongoing prescription for anything.

    Too bad it didn’t come with the Swarovski crystal pack, though. The bling might have made it all worthwhile!


  30. I guess a baby might also be expensive and presumably other contraceptives aren’t free either?

    Seriously though, contraception of all sorts is FREE in the UK, including condoms (if you go to the clinic to get them). This is both a product of having an NHS, but also it was a demand of the women’s movement and one of their big victories.

    In Australia, I pay $22 for four months for the cheapest brand (it costs more for more expensive brands but I am not sure how much more)- so $66 a year (which right now is pretty much the same price in US$). This is because pharmaceuticals are subsidised by the state.

    Just one more reason to love socialised medicine…


  31. Morality trumps policy. This is the lesson about framing issues for public discussion that George Lakoff (most recently on Huffington Post) keeps trying to teach the Democrats.

    The Republicans always frame their positions as moral. It’s time for us to do the same. Because that’s what people remember.


  32. Pooled insurance that employees and students buy should cover the costs of being human. We grow, get hurt, reproduce (or not), age, and die. Telling women to keep our legs closed and ranting that we are sluts and prostitutes is absurd. Insurance should cover contraception AND maternity care, because reproducing (or not) is part of being human.

    So, I expect health insurance companies to cover the costs of being female. Here are mine, as a a heterosexual female, during 10 years of marriage:

    Years 1-3: actively avoiding pregnancy
    BC pills, $35/mo (on insurance) x 12 x 3 = $1,260
    3 doctor visits = $450
    Total spent on BC = $1,710

    Years 4 and 5: actively trying to conceive, conceiving, and delivering
    No BC
    2 doctor visits pre-conception = $300
    Prenatal visits: $1000
    C-section Delivery: $2,500-$3,000 (I paid of $12,000 billed)

    Year 6: Actively avoiding
    BC = condoms – not BC requiring doctor visit, not calculating cost
    2 doctor visits (1 post-partum) = $300

    Year 7: Leaving it up to chance, conception 2 months after return of period (18 months post-partum)
    Prenatal visits: $1000
    C-section Delivery: $2,500-$3,000 I paid of $12,000 billed

    Year 8-10: Actively avoiding
    3 doctor visits (1 post-partum) = $450
    IUD = $400

    Total reproductive cost (to me) of being heterosexual, married fertile female: $10,000+ over 10 years


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