Rush Limbaugh. That name conjures up a myriad of images, thoughts and reactions in every person not living under a rock in America. To some, he’s a veritable bastion of knowledge and profundity, a man of the people who understands the state of all things. To others, he is a “big fat idiot” (according to the first result on google for “Rush Limbaugh is”) misogynist who appeals to the ignorant masses of Republicans. Some people have a jubilant response to the mention of his name, and others respond in abject horror. One thing we all can likely agree on, regardless of our personal take on him, he is a man who knows how to stay visible.
I am a child of Gen-Y who grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh’s radio program with my mother, who tuned in almost daily. We are commonly referred to as “Rush Babies”. I have many fond memories of listening to him get all blustery about Charlie Tree, Waco, the famous blue dress and a slew of other issues. He has brought laughter to my life, prompted me think about things differently, and challenged me to be more involved and more informed. When I tell friends I listen to Rush regularly, I get a lot of groans and funny looks, but it doesn’t bother me because he doesn’t define me. I don’t agree with everything he says, and the older I get the less I agree with him in a few key areas. In the last few years I have made a habit of listening to people with whom I have profound disagreements, since having my views echoed back to me does nothing for mental cultivation. Challenging commonly accepted notions has value, questioning our leaders is good and right, and exposing ourselves to a variety of ideas causes personal growth. These things have been a part of my life largely because of listening to highly opinionated people like Rush Limbaugh. I am thankful for the Limbaugh’s, Maher’s, and Williams’ of the world.
Rush’s recent statements about the Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke, who gave testimony about the birth control mandate before Congress last week, have stirred up a typhoon not unlike the Super Typhoon Nina in 1931 China. People are outraged, insulted, angry, and calling for Limbaugh’s proverbial head on a proverbial platter. I bet some people would be ok in doing away with the “proverbial” antecedent. Rush called Fluke a prostitute and a slut, while expressing outrage that she wants the American people to pay for her to have sex three times a day. Conservatives like Newt Gingrich have decried the liberal media’s outrage to these insults as “desperate” attempt to avoid discussing the “real” issues.
So is the media doing what Speaker Gingrich said? Frankly, I don’t really care that much. Perhaps they are, but I’ve never really relied on the media as my sole source of information and ideas. What matters to me, a Rush Baby, is what Limbaugh said. I was outraged and disgusted by his use of language as a way to prove his point and further elucidate his disgust with President Obama and the Democrat’s push to take freedom away from the American people. Calling a woman a “slut” and a “prostitute” because she’s advocating for mandatory oral contraceptive coverage is unacceptable. Women who use contraceptives and/or have sex outside of marriage are not sluts. The term is inflammatory, and intentionally so in Limbaugh’s comments. His statements reveal once again the double standard women face in modern society, that our sexuality makes us dirty, while a man’s makes him manly. Limbaugh has been married three times, and I have no idea whether or not he saved his sexy time for marriage, and I don’t care. If he had sex with three different women every day, I still wouldn’t care, because it doesn’t influence my life at all. If he has to pop a Viagra every time, I also don’t care, more power to him. Sex is a wonderful and healthy act for consenting adults. Would I call him a slut if he takes Viagra 100 times per day? Nope. Would I call him a slut if he wanted his Viagra to be provided by the government? Negative. What would I say? I would say something like: “If you want to have sex, and you need Viagra to do so, that’s fine but I’m not willing to pay for it. I don’t think the government should be involved in healthcare or health insurance. If you want Viagra, pay for it yourself, or find a health insurance plan that covers it.”
Well, that perfectly conveys the point, doesn’t it? The government has no business meddling in contraceptives or erectile dysfunction medication, period. End of story. No insults required, no derogatory remarks necessary. Limbaugh subtly implied that women who have sex and take birth control are sluts. Maybe he didn’t mean it that way, but that’s essentially what he said, and it was a sexist, misogynist remark. Limbaugh, according to my research and recollection of his remarks about the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, never called Clinton a “slut” or whatever the male equivalent was for having sexual relations with a White House intern or his scandals involving Jones, Flowers and Willey. But a woman who wants to take contraceptives is a slut, regardless of his knowledge (or lack of) of her sexual activity.
I agree with the substance of what Rush is saying here and I don’t think he’s a bad guy, I think he’s a highly flawed human being just like the rest of us. But this name calling and seeming sexism is pretty disgusting to me as a woman. Rush jumped into the filthy pool of insults and woman bashing, and I’m sad to have seen it. I’m glad he apologized to Ms. Fluke, she didn’t deserve those remarks. I hope he’s learned his lesson with this one, and I’d like to think he’s better than resorting to derogatory remarks. Disagreement is fine, but calling a woman one of the most opprobrious terms possible is not. Not ever.