Choices: The Woman-Hating Sh*tstorm (Catherine)

I knew as soon as I finished reading that Catherine’s post was the one to finish on, today.  The right to choose to exercise birth control is arguably the greatest right women have today.  The debate on the morality of this action rages on, and nowhere more so than in America.   Catherine writes with anger, with conviction, and with eventual pride that we live in a part of the world where we are allowed to reign down on misogynists and bigots with the full force of all that is within us.  It’s a belter of a piece and her final paragraph sums up everything that today is about.  Thank you Catherine:       

 

It’s all a-go here in the Land of the Free. And, wouldn’t you just know it; much of the a-going is people being crazy about a basic human right: access to birth control.

A bit of backstory…
As part of the Affordable Health Care Act, the Obama administration announced in January that most health insurance plans must cover contraceptives for women free of charge. This set religious and conservative groups in a real tizzy because they felt this would severely threaten their religious freedom to tell women that they could not have access to birth control. In February, Obama announced a compromise: Church-affiliated employers such as universities, hospitals and charities would not have to provide or pay for such coverage. Coverage would instead be offered to women directly by their employers’ insurance companies, “with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception.”

As the argument rumbled on (astonishingly, the compromise wasn’t seen as acceptable) a Republican led-committee held a hearing about religious liberty and contraceptive mandates. It was an all-male panel with no women representatives. Sandra Fluke, a law student and activist, who the Democratic Party offered as a witness, was not allowed to testify with the staff of the Republican committee chair saying “As the hearing is not about reproductive rights but instead about the administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.” Fluke was subsequently invited to give her testimony to a Democratic committee and spoke about the prohibitive cost of birth control for those like herself at religious institutions that did not cover it through insurance. She also spoke, anecdotally, of friends who required birth control for medical conditions but found it difficult to obtain.

The main event…
Conservative radio talk show host and all-round despicable human being, Rush Limbaugh had quite a lot to say about Sandra Fluke. Here are a couple of his well-considered points:

“What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex — what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”

“So Miss Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal… if we’re going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Now, Rush Limbaugh is a troll of the highest order, but he has a gift for tapping into the self-righteous extremes of the conservative psyche and the Republican presidential candidates certainly didn’t feel the need to distance themselves from Limbaugh’s position. When asked about Limbaugh, Mitt Romney, in all likelihood President Obama’s challenger in November, replied: “I’ll just say this, which is, it’s not the language I would have used.”

Now that sounds to me an awful lot like Romney is quibbling with the semantics but agreeing with the sentiment that a woman who chooses to be responsible in her family planning is basically a whore.

You don’t have to go far on the good old internet to find ‘average citizens’ who also think that contraception should not be covered by health insurance plans. Leaving aside the fact that many women use contraception to prevent and treat medical conditions, there seems to be an alarmingly vocal and disappointingly sizable number of people who seem to think that if I get birth control covered by an insurance plan that I pay, it’s somehow akin to me stealing $20 from them each month.

Now, it’s tempting to dismiss this as another one of those crazy “only in America” moments. After all, in the UK, with the good ship NHS and our natural disposition towards sanity, this particular women’s health issue is a non-issue (seriously, I just spent 20 minutes window shopping the NHS contraception webpages, chest pumped with expat pride). But, there is a bigger concern here; a problem that isn’t confined just to the US. This particular argument isn’t only about contraception just as the long-standing abortion argument isn’t only about abortion: these arguments are about women and they are being argued predominately by men.

I’m not suggesting that we’ve all got to stand as an MP or run for Congress at the next opportunity (but it might be fun), but we do have to find ways to get involved in the conversation. It used to be that a man like Rush Limbaugh could make his comments and expect nothing more than a few hearty guffaws and back slapping from his pals in the drawing room after dinner. Thankfully, that is not the case anymore.In truth, I felt a frisson of excitement when I heard that Limbaugh was brewing up a woman-hating sh*tstorm. His comments launched a burst of furious organized activity aimed both at exposing his general despicable nature and at lobbying companies to pull their advertisements during his show. And guess what? It’s working. The Republican Party tried to keep women out of a conversation about women’s health; Rush Limbaugh inadvertently opened the door and let everyone in.

What’s important to remember is that there’s always a way in. We have choices and voices not available to our grandmothers. We vote for political offices at local and national level, and we can support the candidates who will work towards the issues important to us; we have disposable income and we can spend it with businesses who reflect our values; we have networks and platforms like Any Other Woman and International Women’s Day to raise awareness and facilitate conversation and action. We can start debates and we can end them. When we shout loudly enough they have no choice but to hear us.

Categories: International Women's Day
30 interesting thoughts on this

26 Comments

  1. Posted March 8, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Yes. Just yes.

    There are so many words I would love to use to describe Rush Limbaugh, but you guys mightn’t let me post here again. But I do slightly thank him for saying out loud and publicly what so many people seem to really think (e.g. Romney’s unsubtle dodge). It has highlighted to so much of the world just how crazy some of the reasons are for holding back contraception, and how they are so often driven by prejudiced and quite frankly horrid motives and individuals.

  2. Posted March 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I missed this as I was on holiday and took a bit of a hiatus from communication with the real world. I cannot believe the things he said. And I’m pretty sure the men she was sleeping with benefited from the contraception too??
    You’re right though, speaking out and using our voice is the only way to stop this stuff being perpetuated and swept under the carpet

  3. Posted March 8, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    FUCK YEAH.

    No asterisks. No holding back. This. Is. Phenomenal.

  4. Posted March 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Just as this went up, a friend of mine posted on facebook that generic birth control can be bought at Target (a US store) for just $9, so women should quite their whining.

    I rather graphically explained how my body reacts to generic birth control pills.

  5. Katie
    Posted March 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Every post has been brilliant today, and as Anna says, perfect post to finish the day on.

    I’m so glad Rush Limbaugh opened the door. His comments appal me.

    I never think I make a difference. It’s just the occasional charitable donation, casting my vote, signing online petitions, and sometimes making political comments online and in real life. I try to be honest about my views, even if it doesn’t always fit in with my conservative family and husband.

    On my twitter feed this morning were some comments on being a feminist in third world countries.
    It included the statistic that 24% of Iraqi women are illiterate, compared to 11% of men. Among the reasons for this illiteracy, were that parents refuse to send their daughters to school.

    When I read the AOW posts, and twitter feed, I think, must try harder.

    Thank you AOW.

    xx

    • Posted March 8, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      I often wonder about the effect my voice has and I’m certainly not changing the mindset of the few conservative people I know. But, I’ve come to realise that I can’t stay silent when the opposing voice is so (obnoxiously) loud. Even if I can’t change any minds, at least I can show people that I’m here.

  6. Mahj
    Posted March 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Urgh, Rush is a douchebag of the highest order. One of my go-to lunchtime blogs (Jezebel) has been keeping up with this unfolding situation and whilst I feel rage every time I see his face, I also feel so effing lucky that I live in a country where this is not a situation I have to deal with.

    Considering how America toots it’s horn a lot for being a free country, people like Rush L do absolutely nothing for that image. And as angry as he makes me, I really do hope this is what leads to women really being listened to and the situation being resolved.

    Awesome post Catherine.

    xoxo

    • Posted March 8, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      I love Jezebel. It covers stories with just the right amount of humor to prevent me from exploding with rage.

  7. mysparethoughts
    Posted March 8, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m failing to string together a coherent sentence because I’m so angry. Will come back later and try again.

  8. Amanda
    Posted March 8, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m actually flabbergasted that ANYONE could even think that, let alone say it. Out loud. To lots of people. That’s utterly appalling and I’m really shocked. I hope ALL the advertisers pull out – why would anyone want to be associated with that level of hate?

    • Posted March 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. Rush Limbuagh’s outburst was not out of character. He is detestable. He has advertisers purely because he is (unfortunately) very popular. I hope these advertisers stay away long enough to severely damage his career, but I’m not holding my breath.

  9. Posted March 8, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Great post, thanks Catherine. This whole thing has been making me so so mad, and you’ve so eloquently put into words my own feelings, so thank you.
    x

  10. Steff
    Posted March 8, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    I’d heard rumblings of this but this is the first time I’ve actually paid attention to the whole story I’m ashamed to admit. It’s hard to believe that this kind of thing actually happens, especially in a country like America – the so called “land of the free” – and especially living in the UK where issues like this are addressed in a typically British and very polite way.

    Having read every single post today from start to finish I want to congratulate you girls for a fantastic series which raises issues that people might not like to face and for facing them head on with pride and a whole butt-load of gumption!

    • Posted March 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      Me to Steff. Brilliantly written. Clear, concise & emotive. Thank you for opening my eyes.

  11. Ginny
    Posted March 8, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    As someone who was born and raised in the good ol’ US of A (and been monitoring this situation quite closely) I can say I am appaled by the recent goings on with regards to this issue, but can hardly say I’m surprised.

    As someone who was suspended (and nearly expelled) from my high school for advocating that our health centre supply free condoms to students, I will always try to fight the good fight, but remain unastounded at the opinions of people like Limbaugh and his ilk.
    I was also shouted down by adminstration and ‘concerned parents’ when I suggested that the school should do something for the community on World AIDS Day. I was even accused by one parent of ‘wanting everyone to catch AIDS!’.

    So good that the country has moved forward in the last 15 years!

  12. Louise
    Posted March 8, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Catherine, what a fantastic post. I didn’t understand the Republican Party’s decision not to admit a woman’s testimony – after all, even the ‘right’ in the UK has Nadine Dorrit – not least the fact this passed without fuss…but the DJ has opened the door, as you so excellently point out. Everyone should care but the white-male politicos turn all but the most active ‘off’. Popularising the issue has made the difference in terms of engagement. The question is what are the Democrats going to do in order to capitalise on the opportunity to mobilise on the ‘women’s question’? I’m intrigued – yes, you have a democratic voice, but who is having that conversation? It strikes me that there’s little engagement with 50% of the population! Which is also true here. But we have another 3 years before out next election. Wonderful post, Catherine x

  13. Posted March 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    *applauds*
    Brilliant piece.

  14. Rach M
    Posted March 8, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Awesome piece Catherine. So angry about this I can barely type. No better proof than this that we have to keep fighting.

    xx

  15. Zan
    Posted March 8, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    This is everything I’d like to say about the issue but far far better! Fantastic piece Catherine.

    And yes…Land of the Free indeed!

  16. Posted March 8, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Okay, I’m back – I loved this piece so much I had to comment twice. Hopefully more coherently this time.

    Part of the reason you have me cheering in my seat is that you’ve hit on exactly what angers me about the abortion and contraception debates in America (and elsewhere): the fact that it is women who are most deeply affected, yet the discussion is completely dominated by men. Women are consistently portrayed as sluts and harlots and baby killers, yet sex – last time I checked – is not a solo sport. It is utterly infuriating and goes unremarked far too often.

    I was so honoured to kick off today’s series, and I couldn’t have imagined a more ballsy, powerful way to close it. I am woman; hear me roar.

    • Esme
      Posted March 11, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      Abso-fucking-lutely.

  17. Posted March 9, 2012 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Thank you, King Kirsty, thank you very much.

  18. Katielase
    Posted March 9, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Only just had time to comment on this but I’m 100% with Kirsty in the FUCK YEAH. I’ve been following this online since it happened, and every time I read the words he said I feel sick. And then I want to scream. But I’m glad he was enough of a douche to say them so publicly because now we can make the opposing voice just as loud, and just as public.

    I read the most heartbreaking post online this week from a Mother whose 16 year old daughter came home from school sobbing because she’d been labelled a slut and a whore by her peers and, worse, the mothers of her peers, for being on the birth control pill to deal with her dysmenorrhea. There is no possible situation in which it is okay to tell a 16 year old that. There is no possible way in which anyone has the right to label her like that.

    Finally, as Kirsty said, it takes two to tango, are the men who want sex but don’t want to get someone pregnant sluts too? Of course not, because I imagine in Rush’s disturbing and disturbed mind, the evil manipulative sex-crazed women don’t tell the poor innocent man that they’re silently going against the laws of nature and prostituting themselves. It goes back to the ridiculous notion than men’s carnal urges are perfectly natural and women’s are disgusting and wrong.

    Amazing post Catherine. I’m waving flags with your words on.

    K x

  19. Esme
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    I’m so glad I took the time to read all of these posts, because now I am feeling pretty powerful.

    Catherine, thank you so much for writing this – all women should read this! I am literally sitting here open mouthed at those words – how on earth could someone in the public eye say something like that? Maybe I’m being naive, but that guy should be made to publically apologise to every woman who has ever used contraception. How *dare* he?

    There have been so many great comments here, so I’m not going to repeat them. I will say, however, that I think men should take more responsibility for contraception. A man commented to me a while ago that women go to the doctor’s more than men because they worry about their health more. We also worry about you having to help us look after a baby, luckily for you…

    xx

  20. Jenny
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    I’m still catching up on the posts from International Women’s Day so excuse my lateness to the party!

    I was reading this with my mouth open I was so shocked, it got wider as I continued to read! Along with everyone else I’m appalled and disgusted at the thought that someone in the 21st-Century could still think of women in such a degrading, unenlightened, patriarchical way and find it so easy to separate women from men in this issue! Argh I want a Limbaugh shaped punchbag! Mahj is right, waht a douchebag!

    Fantastic post Catherine! I need people like you to show me the way!

    xXx

4 Trackbacks

  • By Weekend Wonderings (The Recap) on March 10, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    [...] series for International Women’s Day, with some of the best writing we’ve ever had here on AOW, and finished it off with some of our favourite AOPs and MORE competitions. [...]

  • [...] post.  Not content with living working and studying in France, Austria and Germany that year, Catherine and I planned and executed an adventure of epic proportions around Eastern Europe, trusty travel [...]

  • [...] The Other Side (Yes, I know this should really be filed under ‘O’) by Catherine [...]

  • [...] will write something passionate, eloquent and well-researched.  Last year she wrote about the woman-hating sh*tstorm which remains one of my favourite posts on the blog.  This year is no exception.  Targeted use [...]

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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