Rush Limbaugh has said a lot of appalling things. Terrible, horrible, no-good, racist, sexist, homophobic batshit crazy things. Remember the Michael J. Fox impression from a few years ago? Yeah, he’s hateful, bigoted, shameless human being. This much we know.
So why now, of all the horrible things, is the Sandra Fluke “slut” comment the thing that riles the internet into action? I think the key is in the words of Carbonite CEO David Friend when he announced Carbonite would be pulling their ads on Limbaugh’s show:
“No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency.”
The thing about homophobia is that there are still millions of Americans that have never met a gay person (that they knew was gay…). Same with Jews, or Muslims. In many parts of the country, de facto segregation leads people to spend their entire lives in the company of people who look like them. This unfamiliarity breeds suspicion, which quickly turns to contempt, and allows people like Rush to spew the horseshit he so enjoys spewing. People do not step to the defense of the “other.” I’m not condoning this, of course, only pointing out why Limbaugh’s other egregious comments are more readily ignored by the media and the public.
Women are not “other” to anyone. Everyone has a mother, daughter, sister or wife. While many people might have political disagreements about health care mandates, most of those people are not comfortable with the idea of labeling women as “sluts”. It’s too much of a slippery slope. Sandra Fluke, whatever you think of her sexuality, is just not that far a stretch from the average young American woman. If she can be insulted on national radio, it’s not that hard to imagine women you know being in her place. That familiarity is what makes David Friend’s comment so powerful. He is a father of daughters (Just like the President, who also cited his daughters). Who knows what his views on sex are, or how he’s raised his daughters to behave, or how they actually act when he’s not watching. He’s smart enough to recognize that Sandra Fluke is just a stand-in, and condoning a personal smear campaign against a woman who could very well be his daughter is not something he wants to be a part of.
My friend’s mom was recently inspired to print up her own bumper stickers. This is what they look like:
There are legitimate debates to be had about public policy. We can have real conversations about who should pay for health care and how much. We can ask what happens when the safety net falls apart. We can discuss what should and shouldn’t be covered. I’m all for these conversations; they are essential to creating a comprehensive, efficient, effective national policy on health care. How much sex someone is having, and whether or not you approve, should occupy zero percent of this conversation. We have more important things to discuss.
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Related Post: Here’s where the conversation breaks down…