I’ve never been much of an internets troll, that is, until this morning. The new feminist blog on the Washington Post, She the People, reports how thousands of women (and some men) have been posting ironic remarks on Gov. Rick Perry’s Facebook page in protest to his cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, his infamous transvaginal ultrasound bill (Virginia is not the only one, remember!), among other creative tactics in this latest battle on the War on Women.
I thought it was a great idea. I know I should call Congresspeople and Senators when I’m pissed about legislative matters, but I don’t. Very few people do, although that is the most effective way of coming close to influencing anything. But this was different, more familiar, more of this “digital age,” I suppose. The format, too, is different from what a phone call would sound like.
Check out some of these posts, for example, from women asking for menstrual advice on Perry’s page:
“I’m at work and am experiencing the most uncomfortable itch you know where. I know I’m being punished for having a job and not being a wife and mother, but will you still take care of me? I’d like to stop by during my lunch hour.”
But there are other Republican pages that have been left unscathed, as Jezebel kindly reminds us, and we need to do something about it.
Take “Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett, who helpfully suggested that women who don’t want to look at their pre-abortion ultrasound should “just close their eyes,'” according to Jezebel. Here is what I posted on his Facebook page:
“I know this has nothing to do with this, but being a woman and all, I can’t stop thinking about my lady parts. You suggested women close their eyes when getting a transvaginal ultrasound, or Wand of Light, as we lovingly call it in some places. Do you also close your eyes when getting a mandatory anal probe for unrelated legal medical procedures? What else do you close your eyes for? I’m curious, your advice is so fascinating!”
Or Darrell Issa, the one responsible for the also infamous all-male contraception panel. His page is pretty lonely right now. I think it needs a feminine touch. Here’s my contribution:
“I have a question that is unrelated to this topic, but I can’t find the information anywhere, and I know you’re an expert on this. I do not want to have too many babies, being that I am not rich, and I am ambivalent about whether to use the rhythm method or douching, or if you know of a foolproof prayer for this, that should do it also. Could you put together one of those helpful all-male panels on this? Either wise I could not wrap my head around it.. as for anything complicated I depend on men to tell me what to do. I await a taste of your infinite male wisdom, thanks!”
You can be direct or sarcastic, make them squirm in their seats, or not, but the idea is simply for them to know that we care and we will not vote or stand for this nonsense.
Let’s do this!
- Women Take To Officials’ Facebook Pages To Protest Against Anti-Abortion Legislation (thinkprogress.org)
- TransVaginal UltraSound: Fake Rape, Government Rape, and ‘Rape Rape’ (femination.wordpress.com)
- Idaho To Vote On Bill Forcing Ultrasound Before Abortion (thefrisky.com)
It was too late for Rush Limbaugh. Maybe it was the petition we posted here in Femination, maybe it was the brave and awe-inspiring media backlash, Obama’s condemnation, or the six advertisers that pulled out of his program, but Limbaugh, four days after his attack, finally apologized, much to our pleasure. But his apology sucked, and kept the same incorrect rhetoric that birth control covered by health insurance is all about “getting paid to have sex.” Here is an excerpt from his website:
“I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.
I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. … Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.
My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”
If we can just take a minute of silence to reflect on the irony. He did not mean a personal attack? What else do you expect if you call someone a “slut”? I also find it deliciously entertaining that he apparently believes that “it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom,” yet that is exactly what Republicans are trying to do. In having to read his insulting and absurd remarks some consistency would be appreciated.
What is great though, is to see everyone talking about this. Rachel Maddow does a great summary of the issue, and points out that what seems to be at the heart of the matter here is that those opposed to birth control don’t really know what it is. Contrary to Rush’s idiocy, as Maureen Dowd says, “Mother Jones pointed out that Rush, a Viagra fan, might be confusing the little blue pill and birth control, since “when and how much sex you have is unrelated to the amount of birth control you need.”
Joan Walsh writes about it in Salon.com, where she “thanks” these conservative ideologues who have galvanized the women vote. Three New York Times columnists wrote about it today, Nicholas Kristof (though that isn’t surprising; it was actually taking him a while), Maureen Dowd, and Charles Blow.
In his aptly named column, “When States Abuse Women”, Kristof says Alabama, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Mississippi are considering legislation similar to the worst one in Texas, where women who want an abortion have to get an infamous transvaginal ultrasound, have to look at it, do a big list of other humiliating stuff, then return 24 hours later to actually get the abortion.
Dowd performs some needed fact-checking, pointing out how Limbaugh “said insuring contraception would represent another ‘welfare entitlement,’ which is wrong — tax dollars would not provide the benefit, employers and insurance companies would.” But this statement of hers is simply beautiful:
“Rush and Newt Gingrich can play the studs, marrying again and again until they find the perfect adoring young wife. But women pressing for health care rights are denigrated as sluts.”
Of course, this is not restricted to Rush Limbaugh; this exploded like it did because he has long been embraced by the Republican party as their “uncensored spokesman”, as the guy who has the guts to say what they are all thinking or intending with their legislation.
It also speaks to how society at large views these words and reacts to them. Fluke herself commented on this, as reported on NPR, saying that “she was stunned by the insult, but primarily because Limbaugh’s comments still were considered acceptable discourse in certain sectors of society.” As a society we are still fine with calling women a “bitch” as a general insult, even when we mean that person to be an asshole, an idiot, bigoted, ridiculous, etc. They’re all bitches anyway, right? No, not OK. I’ve used it in the past, to for example, refer to Sarah Palin, but I know better now. If you’ve ever wondered whether “bitch” is OK to use, it’s probably not.
- Petition to Denounce Rush Limbaugh (femination.wordpress.com)
- Even After Apology, Web Company Still Withdrawing Ads From Limbaugh Show (mediaite.com)
- Rush Limbaugh apologizes to Sandra Fluke for ‘slut,’ other remarks (latimes.com)
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has this online petition for Rush Limbaugh to apologize for his recent comments on Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who testified in favor of contraception. (I’d like a petition to get him off the air, personally, but this is a start).
Here’s an excerpt from the petition’s description of some comments of his that I missed.
“It makes her a slut, right … a prostitute … Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives … we want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”
- Rush Limbaugh’s Loose Lips Cause Him to Lose Advertisers [Dicks] (jezebel.com)
- The Caucus: Obama Calls Law Student Embroiled in Birth-Control Debate (thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Advertisers: pull your support for Limbaugh by Daily Kos (socialactions.net)
- Nancy Pelosi rips Rush Limbaugh, calls on GOP to repudiate him (dailykos.com)
Sandra Fluke is the Georgetown Law student who was denied testifying in the Contraception Congress hearing, the famous one with all the dudes, because she wasn’t relevant. Later, Democrats held a mock hearing and let Fluke speak about the dangers of denying women contraception. She was a lone female voice almost drowned by the sea of white male Republican idiocy. Then, the tip of the white fat male privilege iceberg that is Rush Limbaugh called her a “feminazi”, “slut” and a “prostitute” on his show recently.
From the NYT:
At the hearing, Ms. Fluke said fellow students at the Jesuit university pay as much as $1,000 a year for contraceptives that are not covered by student health plans.
On his radio show Wednesday, Mr. Limbaugh said: “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 contraception.”
Three sentences and Limbaugh just upped his gross factor by 100-fold. He apparently does not understand how birth control works, nor the fact that she testified about “ovarian cysts, acne, irregular periods, and the handfuls of other reasons to take it” as commenter FINNasty at Jezebel said.
So what was the reaction of the Left, the Right, the media? The president of Georgetown condemned Limbaugh’s words and called Fluke “a model of civil discourse”. According to the Washington Post, “Santorum said at a campaign event in Chillicothe, Ohio, that he’s “not for anyone calling someone a bad name.'” Democrats urged Republicans to condemn Limbaugh, and finally a reluctant Boehner condemned him, as the NYT explains,
Under heavy pressure from Democratic leaders, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio earlier Friday condemned
Mr. Limbaugh’s comments as “inappropriate.”
But Mr. Boehner, a Republican, also denounced Democratic fund-raising efforts that have tried to use the debate to the party’s advantage.
Well, and why shouldn’t they bank on this? So it’s fine when Republicans bank on fear of inexistent wars, on fear of “sluts”, but it’s wrong when Democrats want to communicate their believe in furthering women’s rights? What else are they supposed to do, hide their achievements? They should post it everywhere, PR the fuck out of it, until everyone knows what everyone stands for. If Boehner is afraid Republicans might look like assholes, it’s a bit too late. He’s probably crying on camera somewhere as I type this.
But Obama outdid them all. I must say, well played, sir. As the Washington Post says, it’s pretty rare for a president to call a person, it’s usually for something pretty hardcore. And it is — that’s what’s awesome about this, that some people are finally realizing it. Whoever says “this is nice, but let’s get back to the real issues” — whatever, I don’t want to hear it. This is a real issue. It’s very real for the millions of women who have unintended pregnancies, for the women who are poor and have no way of avoiding the six, seven, eight pregnancies that will mark their life as one of endless toil. This is a public health issue, it’s and environmental issue (as Amy Poehler says on SNL, “people pyramids! that should be an advertisement for condoms right there”), and it’s a women’s rights issue, a.k.a. a human’s rights issue. I’m glad we’re taking the time to get this straight. Thanks Santorum, Romney, Issa, Foster “Aspirin-Between-Your-Knees” Freiss, et all.
Limbaugh will be eating his words soon. Another Jezebel article reports two advertisers pulled ads from his show, and two more are likely to follow. The Washington Post also read my mind with this:
The president’s call is a signal that the White House, like Democrats more broadly, believes it has the upper hand on a hot-button issue that does not appear to be leaving the political spotlight anytime soon.
Asshats in the Right will regret, first, ever giving credibility to Rush Limbaugh, and second, messing with women’s rights. You’re 50 years late, idiots, move on.
- Rush Limbaugh Continues Rant Requesting Explicit Videos (thecrimsoncrow.com)
- Rush Limbaugh condemned by Barack Obama for ‘slut’ remarks (guardian.co.uk)
- Rush Limbaugh Doubles Down On Birth Control Advocate Attack (huffingtonpost.com)
The Obama administration announced on Jan. 20 that all FDA-approved forms of contraception must be covered by most insurers without a co-pay, co-insurance or a deductible paid by the patient, starting Aug. 1, 2012. The original ruling provided an exemption for churches, synagogues, and some primary and secondary religious schools. That was not enough for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, nor for Santorum, Gingrich, Romney, Fox News, and the entire far-Right political demagogue apparatus, including top Republican Congressmen, who immediately vowed to overturn the decision.
Since when did contraception become so controversial and revolutionary? Since when did prevention become the fanatic agenda of hysterical feminazis? Apparently, since the leading contenders in the Republican primary circus have thrown caution and reason to the wind in exchange for ultra-conservative Christian middle-aged white votes. Even though a lot of Republicans used to support health insurers covering contraception only a few years ago, today, it is the sign of the upcoming apocalypse, lead by the Muslim Kenyan Anti-Christ Obama.
Does this supposed “war on religion” even have a foundation on reality? First of all, let’s begin with the fact that an overwhelming majority of Catholic women use or have used contraception, as a Guttmacher Institute study showed, which was quoted by the Obama administration in their decision. Not that what women actually do or think even matters in this. Don’t mind us. Never mind that Viagra was covered by insurance before contraception was. I mean, come on, girls, what’s the big deal, just put an aspirin between your knees and problem solved, as Santorum’s guardian millionaire angel and 1950s time traveler wisely advised. Some family planning advice for the ladies. You’re welcome.
“with the implication that women’s voices are not necessary when discussing “religious freedom.” (The religious freedom of female workers to make their own contraception decisions is not included in the conservative definition of “religious freedom.”)
Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Eleanor Holmes Norton walked out in protest. And when people noticed this, what did the discussion looked like? That’s right, you guessed it.
Hilarious! Although at least we should be thankful that they covered it all, and ignored they did not. NPR reported on the dearth of female voices in this debate, Gail Collins from the NYT wrote an editorial on this, Rachel Maddow has been all over it, doing several segments and appearing on other shows to talk about it, saying that “this is more of a women’s issue than a religious issue.” They even played clips of her talking at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, when Cal Thomas, conservative pundit, columnist and Fox News regular said that the best argument for contraception was Rachel Maddow herself.
Where does the lunacy stop, you wonder? We’re not even close. On the same day, February 16, 2012,
modern women being told by Republicans that they’re not qualified to talk about their own sexual health, are dressed like “whores” and probably need birth control because they’re so slutty. And this is just in one day.
Less and less female voices are being heard, in the media and in politics. Not what you’d expect in 2012. ThinkProgress, a project of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, recently released a report where it analyzed coverage on cable and broadcast news of the administration’s contraception mandate. Of the 146 guests brought on cable news shows to weigh in on the free insurance, for example, 55 were women and 99 were men.
None of this bodes well for Republicans when November elections come and they’ll have to face that women are going to come out to vote in overwhelming numbers (right, ladies?).
And in the meantime looks like
“The president is committed to making sure that all women have access to these important preventive services,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary.”
Did Obama just punk the GOP on contraception? He issued his decision, then backtracked enough to make it clear that the issue was not about religion, giving the exemption to Catholic churches and universities, so he comes out clean, and leaves religious institutions and the GOP looking like assholes.
The President is suddenly looking very attractive.
- Issa Defends Denying Female Witness At Contraception Hearing: She ‘Wasn’t In Any Way Related’ (thinkprogress.org)
- Republicans now on defensive in birth control debate (thegrio.com)
- Contraception Hearing Excludes Women (newsy.com)
- Men discussing contraception (feministphilosophers.wordpress.com)
Some interesting facts on the condition of women worldwide arise out of this NYT article on whether the Earth can sustain Seven Billion people, a population count we are predicted to hit today:
- Most of the world’s 800 million illiterate people are women. (Which reinforces a vicious cycle of disenfranchisement, among other things).
- “Nearly two-thirds of women under 50 who are married or in a union use some form of contraception, which saves the lives of mothers who would otherwise die in childbirth and avoids millions of abortions each year.” (Not all are pessimistic and depressing statistics).
- Of the 208 million pregnancies in 2008, about 86 million were unintended, and they resulted in 33 million unplanned births. (Cutting this number with contraceptives would also appease conservatives who oppose abortion).
- Contraceptives have been free since 2002 in Niger, where the total fertility rate — more than seven children per woman in mid-2010 — was the world’s highest.
- Women in Niger marry at a median age of 15.5 (Statutory rape? This drives maternal mortality through the roof and significantly lowers the standard of living for the mother, child and their entire communities).
- Niger married women and men reported in 2006 that they wanted an average of 8.8 and 12.6 children, respectively. (What’s four more children, give and take, when you’re not the one carrying the baby and depleting your life-energy?)
- “Is economic development the best contraception? Or is voluntary contraception the best form of development?” (How about both? What do we have to loose from trying a combination of the two?).
- “There is no panacea, though some priorities are clear: voluntary contraception and support services, universal primary and secondary education, and food for pregnant and lactating mothers and children under 5. (Educating girls and women greatly reduces the number of children per woman).
Many of the actions suggested would not only be a human rights triumph, but would also ease environmental strains on resources already stretched thin. Like the article points out, “these priorities are mutually reinforcing, and they are affordable.”
- Keli Goff: 10 Facts About Contraception (And How It Changed the World) That Every Man and Woman Should Know (huffingtonpost.com)
- The War on Women – NYTimes.com (progressiveword.com)
- Growth in World Contraceptive Use Stalling; 215 Million Women’s Needs Still Unmet (treehugger.com)