But is he the problem or the symptom; that remains the question. While it is no surprise to find a radio shock jock once again in hot water for shooting off his mouth, particularly this shock jock, with a long history of outlandish behavior and even more outrageous views, the most disturbing thing may be how many agree with him. How many of his estimated 15 million listeners, regular tuners in, citizens of this country actually believe Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who spoke at a congressional hearing on women’s healthcare, really is a slut, really is “having so much sex she wants tax payers to fund her birth control,” who, however laughingly agree, that if tax payers are going to fund said contraceptives she should post the video of her sexual exploits online, all comments by Mr. Limbaugh. Continuing, the millions of either closet or sometimes listeners, people who heard about the comments and are nodding their heads in the affirmative, who honestly believe this women’s moral fiber is what the uproar is all about, not equality of medical coverage, not the consequences for lacking that equality. Twice as disheartening, considering we live in the 21st century, is not only the battle still waged for women’s health issues, access to contraception, but also the profound level of ignorance displayed, not just by male members of our society who don’t, under any circumstances, want to understand things labeled with the heading “female problems”, rather an ignorance across the sexes, people of all ages, races, genders who think the only use for “birth control,” the pill is to prevent pregnancy. Increasingly astonishing, the number of people who believe all women who choose to take contraception are sluts, are women of low moral character needing a lecture on keeping their legs closed. None of which was any part of Ms. Fluke’s testimony, any part of the stories she collected and shared for the government panel.
Worse, unlike Ed Schultz of The Ed Show, suspended from the air for a week after calling a rival republican a talk slut, unlike Don Imus who lost his radio show at the time for what could be argued was a misuse of cultural vernacular, Rush Limbaugh delivers a halfhearted apology and remains on the air to spread his ilk, comments leaving no doubt as to what he meant, what he was implying, what he thinks of women in general, not just this one woman. True he lost droves of advertisers, has been pulled off the air in a hand full of areas, a hand full of stations, yet it shows no signs of slowing his listenership. At least The Ed Show host’s comment was a very vulgar way of calling her a political ambulance chaser, not passing judgment on her sexual preference or activities, clearly what Limbaugh was doing. I myself wrote about the Don Imus controversy and the mishandling thereof, that the reaction only fed the negativity of the incident, gave credence to someone few people were paying attention to, to begin with. Adding to what should have rendered the comments null and void even to the most avid supporter, avid believer in his views, casting his as the stupid character he made himself out to be in this instance, is that during his tirade Mr. Limbaugh became flummoxed by his own analogy stating that if she’s the slut that makes us the pimps… no the johns and it goes on for several seconds like that until he tries to take it back, saying she has round heals, whatever he was referring to. His comments went beyond the deep end when he spoke of one government run place women could write to and get condoms and lube for free; left unsaid was the question, so what are you bothering us for? He continued to disparage Ms. Fluke with vitriol like he was surprised she could walk, she’s having so much sex. Ironically in her deposition to the congressional committee she mentions virtually nothing of herself apart from women who come up to her and share their story, apart from her desire to see healthcare equality for women regardless of where they go to school, where they are employed.
Rush Limbaugh’s assertions, comments, conclusions are all the more repugnant based less on the idea he knows nothing about Sandra Fluke, even mispronouncing her name during his lengthy supposed exposé of her character, knows nothing of her sexual history, whether she has sex on a regular basis, how many sexual partners she’s had or not, whether she could in actuality be a virgin, as if any of the above should infringe on her right to get insurance covered birth control, and speaks directly to the appalling way people still feel justified in treating women combined with the complete and utter ignorance, untruth of his statements, things he can fact check. Beginning with the false notion spread by our radio shock jock and every republican of late to speak out about the Obama healthcare law mandating contraceptives be covered; no one is asking tax payers to foot the bill for a woman’s birth control, no they are not asking to be paid to have sex, only asking that insurance policies students, employees pay for via premiums and co pays, include contraceptives and other reproductive care coverage regardless of the moral compunctions of the employer, school. Insurance that was, as a point of fact, not subsidized by Georgetown University. Neither is the argument for or against providing women insurance paid reproductive healthcare solved by the supposedly slutty women having less sex, taking responsibility for their sex lives, because independent of how much sex you engage in or don’t, you still take the same amount of pills, in the same order each month, pills that are provided in 30, 60 or 90 day supplies, depending on the structure of your prescription or insurance billing, again knowledge easily obtained utilizing tools of basic research, something that show staffers should have done if not Limbaugh himself. The only possible exception to normal dosing procedures, the morning after pill, not even mentioned in her testimony, not even a topic of discussion; though it should be noted is most commonly used to prevent pregnancy in sexual assault victims.
What Ms. Fluke actually testified to before the congressional panel was young female students being put in financial straits trying to afford contraception, time and time again taken for medical reasons; one women humiliated at the pharmacy when she found out for the first time the insurance offered at the school wouldn’t cover so called birth control. She detailed interrogations conducted by insurance company representatives where students were gilled about the medical condition requiring them to take it, because the Jesuit school does provide an exemption for contraception consumed for medical issues; however, many are denied when said representatives assume they are lying and really want it to prevent pregnancy. That was the conclusion despite the woman in question’s doctor documented polycystic ovarian syndrome and the fact she was gay. Ms. Fluke going on to passionately point out, the bills and amendments proposed by various republicans carry no such exemption leading to devastating consequences including one PCOS case who was forced to stop taking the pill and had to have her ovary removed, due to a cyst the size of a tennis ball, pushing her body into early menopause, creating lifelong potential health problems and virtually eliminating any chance she will have her own children someday. Another, an endometriosis case was denied the under the medical exemption, because the only way to definitively prove her diagnosis was surgery. Outside of medical cases, speaking to the character of women on the pill, was the story of a married law student who stopped taking it when her and her husband could no longer fit it into their budget; presumably before this couple was doing what family planning experts, social workers, foster care providers and so on beg people to do, postponing a family until they were emotionally, financially ready to have one. Not to mention having more than one birth control method is standard safety if you wish to truly prevent pregnancy, so no, condoms and lube are not enough. Are conservatives now suggesting married women deny their husbands sex because they can’t get birth control, because they can’t afford the children that will eventually occur with only one contraceptive method; keeping in mind these are the same conservatives adamant about gutting welfare, stripping people of food stamps. Maybe men should stand up on this issue, the right to have sex with their wives without taking unnecessary chances of making a baby. Also poignantly touched on in the testimony was the resulting perception given to students well aware of the school’s limited insurance coverage embodied in the story of a rape victim who sought no medical treatment, no STD testing because she believed the insurance they provided wouldn’t cover it, that the school didn’t care.
Others who agree with Limbaugh or think he is on the right track now seem to believe she is some sort of leftist puppet put out there to further their agenda, fueled by his own wild claims about a conspiracy theory involving the Georgetown law student. Whether this is because she got a call from president Obama congratulating her for standing up for what she believed in, apologizing for the offensive nature of what was said to her on behalf of the other 285 million people in the United States who don’t listen to radio, radio talk shows or shock jocks, people who may not know who Rush Limbaugh is, or if it’s because Ms. Fluke got her way when it came to testifying before the congressional panel, we probably will never know. Media analysts have baulked at her being portrayed as a poor, ordinary citizen ambushed by a radio shock jock and thus the rest of the country, suddenly thrown into the spotlight, saying she is a public figure based on her activism regarding the issue. Along those same lines, speaking to the conspiracy theories alleged by our conservative mouthpiece, she is a law student part of an on campus law organization, who seeks to change the law, change the policy regarding women and birth control as conservatives want to design it, as laws keep creeping up nationwide impeding rights and access to contraception; what did he expect of someone with her education, her obvious career goal? Not in dispute however is the reality the original group assembled to examine women’s healthcare, discuss bills and amendments countering the Obama mandate, included no women; Ms. Fluke was first denied the opportunity to speak, hints her comments, during a reappearance on the Ed Show, saying legitimate talk about policy has gotten lost in the crass, degrading back and forth between her and the shock jock, the respective sides taken by all. Likewise discovered in between all the vulgar comments, baseless accusations, possible alternatives that really aren’t, is that all birth control, all brands and facets labeled the pill are not created equal. The lower end stuff costing roughly $9 a month at places like Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Cost Co do not work for all women, whether it be ineffective, cheaper components pose an increased risk to some women or in the case Ms. Fluke once more demonstrated, a women again with a medical condition, a genetic disorder who could not take low cost birth control; hers costing $1,200. Bringing us back to women advocates’ concept during this whole process, leaving women’s healthcare decisions up to them and their doctors, not government and employers who fail to understand the nuances of said decisions. Leaving us to wonder is all the outrage indeed about a moral objection to women using contraceptives, being asked to provide them or is it actually about the costs of healthcare and them not wanting to foot the bill.
Responding to the progressively invasive and intrusive legislation relatedly leveled at women before they can have an abortion, including trans vaginal ultrasounds, legal language mandating the doctor basically shove the ultrasound screen in a woman’s face, forcing her to look at it while he explains in detail what she is seeing, women legislators have countered producing their own mandates for men’s health. One requiring psychological testing, another a rectal exam and cardiac stress test, still another state wanted men to watch a video about the treatment for persistent erection before being given prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs, Viagra and the like; still Georgia went further trying to outlaw vasectomies on the grounds it deprived thousands of babies birth. Now first glance may make this seem very tongue and cheek, very immature on the part of women legislators, even a misuse or waste of time for the states they represent, but it does brilliantly illustrate their point, that if we don’t think women and their doctors can make these decisions on their own, then it stands to reason neither can men. Is a brilliant picture of the ludicrous things we’re trying to do to women presented in a way they can understand it; further there is more precedent for there to be these safeguards on men and women or men and not women, due to Viagra, it’s companion drugs being newer, judging by the number of heart attacks, deaths and anatomical injuries resulting from their use. Men should know the possible risks of popping that little blue pill, men should be deemed healthy enough for sexual activity, healthy enough to handle what the drug will do to them before being given it, men should know the side effects, potential damage to a vital organ should they misuse it or fail to seek proper medical treatment if something goes wrong. Psychological testing may appear a bit out there, look like a step too far until you consider someone seeking Viagra, this type of drug could be a sex addict who needs treatment, could be suffering an extreme midlife crisis who needs help, could be a predator preying on women; plus it’s no different than the counseling many have tried and, in some cases, succeeded in mandating for women prior to an abortion.
Fact is it’s 2012 and the debate over birth control on a legal level was decided in 1965; while new off shoots of freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, have remained contentious, we still have those freedoms. How then is this any different; why is it women continuously must fight for rights they’ve already been given? There is no question it’s wrong to call someone a slut, make slanderous, unfounded comments about their sex life, number of sexual partners, based on their belief that women should have access to birth control as part of the insurance policy they pay for, activist or not, public figure or not. There is no question it’s also wrong, to say nothing of irresponsible, even for a radio shock jock, to spread blatant misrepresentation of fact, to not know enough about the topic you are addressing to discuss it semi intelligently. Again had Mr. Limbaugh or any of his radio show staff done so much as listened to Sandra Fluke’s speech to the committee they would have noticed how many of the cases mentioned had nothing to do with sex but medical conditions, they would have been able to check her facts on the bills and amendments presented as to whether or not they contain a medical provision and called her out if she was wrong. Engaging in some basic research about birth control how it is taken, the difference between cheaper forms and more expensive ones would have told him having less sex won’t fix the problem, that all women can’t take the same kind, but none of that was done. Sadly it’s not that he’s still on the air; it’s how many people believe his ignorance.