Thursday, March 08, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #47 - Part 2

The misogyny of Rush Limbaugh and the right

[Note: I posted most of this just a couple of posts down; this is a somewhat expanded version of that which is also closer to what was on the show - including, um, cleaning up some language.]

Okay, much as I would like to never have to even mention right-wing blowhard Lush Dimblah, I can hardly not be among those taking note of my delight at his having put his foot in it big time.

Sandra Fluke is a thirty year old law student at Georgetown. She was to testify at a hearing before a House committee about insurance coverage of birth control, but the GOPper majority refused to allow her to. So the Dimcratic minority had their own hearing at which she testified. And the right wing propaganda machine went nuts, with Dimblah taking the lead.

For three days he called her a slut, a prostitute, said she is "having so much sex, it's amazing she can still walk," labeled her an "immoral, baseless, no-purpose-to-her life woman," said her parents should "go into hiding." The outcry that came in response to this stream of misogyny, undoubtedly to his surprise, was so massive that even he couldn't stand up to it, especially when his advertisers started deserting him in droves.

So Rust (not a mispronunciation, a reference to the contents of his skull) offered what some folks unfamiliar with the concept of "dictionary" called an "apology." No matter, he is still in free-fall. At last count, the total of advertisers who have cancelled is well over 30 and at least two stations have dropped him. The likelihood is that he will survive, but two important and related things have come out of this: One, his brand has been permanently damaged and two people will be less fearful of crossing him.

Others have covered this more than adequately, but I had a few quick thoughts that I haven't noted elsewhere (although maybe I just haven't looked in the right places).

1. If nothing else, it's gratifying to see that the "I was joking! Jeez! Doncha have a sense of humor?" crap won't - or at least won't always - fly anymore. That line has served as a Get Out of Jail Free card for all sorts of racist and sexist crap for far too long.

2. "Thirty years old, a student at Georgetown Law, who admits to having so much sex that she can't afford it anymore," he said. "She's having sex so frequently that she can't afford all the birth-control pills that she needs."

What the hell? Is Limburger really as abysmally ignorant as he comes on? Can any grown man be so uninformed, so totally out of the loop (and his mind), such a total twit as to think, as he apparently does, that the cost of birth control pills is directly related to how much sex you've having? The rational mind reels.

3. He also groused that his failing in his three days of vituperation - excuuuse me, "humor" - was that he "became like the people we oppose." That is, us. Now, it is true that those of us on the left can't claim we don't engage in name-calling - consider this post, for example - even though our name-calling in many cases would better be called mockery than name-calling.

No matter. The thing is, there is an important difference: When we go after people, it is all but exclusively the famous, the rich, the powerful, while all too often the right goes after people like Sandra Fluke: an ordinary private individual of no particular power or influence of who you would likely still be unaware if Darrell Issajerk had had the minimal brains required to allow her to testify in the first place. The language used by the opposing forces may often enough be similar - but the status of the targets is not.

4. This has been mentioned but I think not often or loud enough: How in blazes did requiring insurance companies to cover contraceptive care become "a new welfare program?" How did that become some kind of taxpayer subsidy for sex? This has become almost the fallback position of the right - I even got it in comments here. Bill O'Reilly took it up, making the same idiotic claim that having insurance cover birth control is somehow the government - that is, taxpayers - "paying for you to have sex." It makes no sense - not that what the right has to say often does.

5. Last but by no means least, an urgent message to the entire left half of the American political spectrum and most particularly to those who could actually be called progressive (rather than liberals re-branding themselves as "progressives" because they wanted to scuttle like the political cowards they are from the mean ol' righties going on about "the L-word"): Stop playing by the right wing's rules! Stop accepting their framing of the issue!

What raises this here is that much of the response on the left - I was going to say "defense of Sandra Fluke" but then I realized that there actually has been little of that because it was unnecessary because she did nothing requiring defending - but much of the response from the left has revolved around "Limbaugh doesn't understand that some medical conditions can require birth control for the woman's health." That's quite true, both parts: Some medical conditions are treated with birth control and Limbaugh doesn't understand that. But the argument has a flaw: It essentially concedes that wanting birth control in order to have sex without fear of pregnancy is something bad or shameful or in some way should not be addressed if not avoided entirely.

Screw that! (A particularly appropriate double entendre in this case.) So the right wing charge is that women are sexually active and get birth control to avoid getting pregnant? So freaking what? What, is this Armageddon? Are we going to see plagues of locusts? Are the mountains going to tremble, is the sky going to rip open, are the seas going to boil? Women want to have sex! Oh, the horror, the horror! Let there be wailing, gnashing of teeth, and rending of garments!

Yeah, we know the right has hang-ups about sex. No news there. Consider that the Republican Party of Laurens County, South Carolina wants you to sign a pledge with 28 principles before you can get on the primary ballot, principles that including swearing that you never had premarital sex and that from that day forward you will never look at pornography.

But for that very reason, we should not let them even implicitly, even by suggestion, set the grounds for debate such that we limit ourselves to "birth control can be medically necessary for some conditions." I said on my show a week ago and here a few days ago that part of the reason right wing ideas get mainstreamed is that the rightists often enough will say what they want without mouthing platitudes while too often we're too concerned with what sounds good but not too dramatic - which frequently means "nice" - right now.

So to any rightist who goes about birth control and "morality," I say - and we all should say - "Good! Because women have just as much right to sex and sexual pleasure as men do. And we're sick and tired of you trying to deny that. Bug off."


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