Sandra Fluke — she of the Limbaugh slut-shaming and the Jewish boyfriend — gave a strong speech about contraception and women’s health at the DNC last night. Bumped up to primetime, the young activist got the crowd excited and did an admirable job hitting the Republican candidates hard over their party’s series of legislative attempts against reproductive rights and health care that are now known as “The War on Women.” She enumerated the worst aspects of that war quite clearly:
It would be an America in which you have a new vice president who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms. An America in which states humiliate women by forcing us to endure invasive ultrasounds we don’t want and our doctors say we don’t need. An America in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it; in which politicians redefine rape so survivors are victimized all over again; in which someone decides which domestic violence victims deserve help, and which don’t.
Fluke’s rapid rise to prominence is an interesting story. She was an agitator for birth control coverage at Georgetown chosen to testify at a House hearing on birth control coverage — from which she was eventually excluded. Then she got called a “slut” by Rush Limbaugh, and because so many people recognized that such a sexually-degrading word is commonly used to silence women everywhere, they identified with her plight. She also became an exemplar of how the mere thought of a sexually active young woman gets elements of the ultra right wing absolutely apoplectic. In fact, those elements have remained apoplectic. As Think Progress’s Tara Culp-Ressler documented, the nasty and sexist tweets about Fluke peaked during her speech, as though the lessons from Limbaugh’s caddish behavior — which almost got him fired and vaulted Fluke into heroine status — were the opposite of what they really were. Culp-Ressler notes, “Aside from misrepresenting Fluke’s point that women should not have to pay more than men do for essential preventative health services…these smears degrade Fluke as a woman.”
The latest salvo from the trenches of the extreme right against Georgetown Law student and contraception advocate Sandra Fluke is the most absurd yet, and matches the other slurs in offensiveness. Her latest crime is — wait for it — dating a Jew.
Yes, it’s not enough that Fluke had the gall to stand up for birth control coverage at her Catholic university. Based on a lot of online snooping, she’s apparently seeing (and, her detractors will immediately note, presumably using contraception with) Adam Mutterperl a member of the tribe, and therefore an adherent of, as blogger Brooks Bayne calls it, “the wealthy Mutterperl family’s long tradition of supporting the typical Jewish variant of socialism.”
Among Fluke’s sins in dating this seemingly nice Jewish boy are traveling with him to Europe and, um, the fact that his parents, despite being wealthy, are very liberal, and like many American Jews come from a nice long liberal tradition. In Bayne’s warped mind, there is a big Jewish conspiracy going on here, and it’s all muddled together with American progressive labor history, Barack Obama (of course), Brandeis, the Upper West Side, Karl Marx and more.
“We are all sluts now” is the rallying-cry in a post Sandra Fluke vs. Rush Limbaugh world. By smearing one young woman with that word for advocating contraception coverage, Rush attacked everyone who uses birth control, 99% of women in America. He also chose a victim who was not already in the public eye and who was white, educated, wearing a nice suit jacket and doing her civic duty.
Limbaugh’s comments, coming on the heels of the Komen controversy and the all-male birth control panel controversy, and a full-on assault on reproductive rights for women all across the spectrum has inspired a long-awaited backlash. As one of my favorite professors and novelists wrote on her Facebook page, “the sleeping tigress awakes.”
I’m so glad it’s awake. But I want that tigress to stay awake even as Congress moves away from the birth control front and the Rush furor dies down. Because as many of us relentless feminist types have pointed out, this war on women didn’t start in 2012. It started in 1976 when the loathsome Hyde Amendment passed, barring federal funding of abortion for women on Medicaid. It accumulated over the years with chipping-away here and siphoning there, spiking during 2011’s record-setting year for restrictions. This war has slammed poor rural women in particular but also targeted poor urban women.
The latest salvo in the war on women came from the microphone of the notoriously crass and offensive talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. Even for someone who offends as regularly as Limbaugh, his latest comments were beyond the pale.
Limbaugh has launched an attack on Sandra Fluke — the young Georgetown law student whose testimony about contraception coverage was encouraged by Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi. After being rejected by Rep. Darrell Issa as “unqualified” — Issa notoriously assembled an all-male panel to discuss the issue— Fluke spoke simply and straightforwardly to Democrats on the Hill about the problems caused by a lack of contraceptive access and coverage on campus, including severe repercussions for those who needed the pills to address medical conditions.
For this, she’s been called a “slut” and a “prostitute” by Limbaugh.