Has Rush Limbaugh Finally Gone Too Far in Slut-Shaming Sandra Fluke?

What Women Really Think
March 2 2012 3:43 PM

Has Rush Limbaugh Finally Gone Too Far in Slut-Shaming Sandra Fluke?

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Rush Limbaugh

Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

In case you aren’t already familiar with this developing story, here’s a bit of background: Last month, Darrell Issa held a hearing on Obama’s controversial birth control mandate that totally excluded women from testifying on the absurd grounds that the issue is solely one of religious freedom, not women’s health. Later that week, the woman who had been scheduled to testify—Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke—was finally given her chance to speak in a panel organized by Democrats. In her testimony, Fluke spoke of the pain of watching a friend be forced to have an ovary removed due to ovarian cysts, a fate that insurer-provided birth control might have prevented. Now, fast-forward to Wednesday, when conservative radio host and provocateur Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute”*—despicable, but not surprising. But what he did next really seems to have crossed a line. On Thursday, Limbaugh laughed off the outrage at his previous remarks with an ejaculation of boy’s club crassness:

J. Bryan Lowder J. Bryan Lowder

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

"So Miss Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here's the deal: If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch."

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Obviously, feminists, liberals and really anyone who has a modicum of respect of women—including President Obama, who called Fluke today to offer his support—was disgusted by this statement. As Krystal Ball writes in the Huffington Post, this is classic slut-shaming with the added bonus of creepy voyeurism. And considering that the content of Fluke’s actual testimony wasn’t about sex (though it would have been fine if it had been), Limbaugh’s lurid, peeping-tom reaction is all the weirder. In this case, I think we see another example of Amanda’s observation (made earlier this week) that the contraception debate is really bringing out conservatism’s “prurient prude” double-standard.  

But let’s not be naive. In the conservative, self-congratulatory bubble in which Limbaugh resides, criticism from “feminazis” doesn’t carry much weight. Admonishments from Fluke’s professors and the administration of Georgetown about the importance of civil discourse (PDF), though noble and true, have little hope of getting through either. And forget MSNBC contributors’ description of the outburst as “hateful” and “low”; even hisses sounds like applause inside Limbaugh’s headphones.

But there is one thing that Limbaugh might hear: money.

According to HuffPo, Sleep Train, a mattress store that pays for regular advertisements on the Limbaugh show, has announced that it will pull its support immediately—because, you know, ladies—especially sluts and whores—like to use mattresses, too. The company quickly responded to a boycott call on Twitter, saying “We are pulling our ads with Rush Limbaugh and appreciate the community's feedback.” HuffPo adds that Sleep Train “has been targeted before for advertising on Limbaugh's show. This time, though, the campaign worked.”

Let’s hope other advertisers will follow suit, because the video that would really get me going would be Limbaugh’s being handed a pink slip.

*Correction, March 3, 2012: This post originally reported that Limbaugh described Fluke as a "whore." The word he used was "prostitute."

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