March is National Women’s History Month, and this year’s theme is “Women’s Education — Women’s Empowerment.” It’s a nice mom-and-apple-pie theme.
Educating women is relatively noncontroversial in the United States, as long as students don’t expect affirmative action or public funding to get them past race and class access hurdles. And, unlike gals in Afghanistan, U.S. coeds don’t have to dodge acid-tossers on their way to school; they only have to contend with post-adolescents who want to rape them with the aid of ruffies in their Red Bulls.
But empowering women? Whooee! That’s a whole other can of worms, big hairy elephantine worms, if you get my drift. Yep, whooee!
Now, if you happen to think “whooee” is one of those hysterical female-type responses, take a gander at what the opening days of our month-of-fleeting-fame have presented in the way of the well-reported GOP War on Women. There are some rather stunning examples of female quashings, squelchings and just plain shut-up-you-slut-tings that have meandered through the media, attempts to assure that women say and do nothing worth recording for posterity.
Although impressive, the lead-in to our annual celebration of female accomplishments disregarded by our patriarchy did not start with the well-publicized Issasian idiocy of the recent House Oversight Committee hearing guests. Fatefully posed by their fearful chair Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), they were immortalized in an all male “We like ’em barefoot and preggers” shot. But, no, the War on Women has actually been around since — oh, since women crawled out of the primordial slime of men’s kitchens and bedrooms. But the committee’s inevitably iconic image was a handy bit of framing for the current status of the war and what has followed in more recent days.
Last Wednesday, talk radio blather-head Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown University Law School student activist Sandra Fluke “slut” and “prostitute” in a stunningly stupid spin on her support of contraception coverage for female beneficiaries of healthcare plans provided by faith-based organizations. He followed up with the demand that if women receive government-funded contraception they should videotape their sex acts and post them online for all to see. Yep, he said that: He defamed Fluke and publicly solicited pornography — and he still has a radio show.
Because empowered women are uppity bitches and they deserve it?
Thursday saw the culmination of Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R–Mo.) attempt to amend the nation’s healthcare law with language that, perhaps unintentionally, would have allowed your local animal-adulating healthcare practitioner to refuse to provide flu vaccines because the vaccine is made in chicken eggs, killing millions of pre-born chicks every year. The nutty amendment was defeated in a barely sane 51-to-48 vote. If the near-majority of supporters hold true to what is evolving into a “life begins at the twinkle in his eye” platform, “Abstinence is Murder” ought to be next on the GOP agenda.
Because, you know, control the womb, control the woman?
On Friday, GOP presidential primary candidate Rick Santorum responded to Limbaugh’s slander of Fluke with, “He’s being absurd, but that’s, you know, an entertainer can be absurd.“ Do you suppose Santorum would have so blithely dismissed the misogynistic attack as absurd entertainment if Limbaugh had put the bull’s-eye on the mother of Santorum’s many children? Is this the failure of representation women can expect from a Santorum presidency?
And GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney followed Santorum with this pabulum response: “I’ll just say this, which is, it’s not the language I would have used.“ Does this mean that Romney is comfortable with Limbaugh’s attempt to bully Fluke into silence, but he would have used a more gentlemanly term, say, calling Ms. Fluke a “woman of ill-repute”?
Ron Paul thought Limbaugh “sounded a little crude,” and Newt Gingrich said not a word.
What these fellows do not comprehend is that Limbaugh, using a classic War on Women tactic, acted on his disagreement with Fluke’s opinion by attacking her sexuality — if you can’t beat them or screw them, call them “Slut”! — and not one of them called Limbaugh on that, no one on the GOP side of the aisle did, no one but Fluke herself.
President Obama did phone Fluke to commiserate and ask how she was doing — he can be so endearing when he’s not being so moderate.
But some Democrats are no better than Limbaugh and the GOP candidates. Former governor of Ohio, Tom Strickland, put his I-don’t-get-women foot in his mouth at a Democratic Party event Friday: “Republicans are attacking our women. And we’re not going to put up with it, are we men?”
“Our” women? We’re not putting up with it, are we “men?” Pshaw — putzes, all! But, thankfully, women don’t need men to empower them.
Because we do that on our own.
And this is exactly what has happened in response to Limbaugh’s verbal assault against Fluke. Feminist and progressive groups have responded to Limbaugh’s attack in full force, launching grassroots campaigns to curtail Limbaugh’s advertising revenue, and they are working.
By Saturday, six advertisers had committed to suspending their ads — and Limbaugh actually posted an apology on his website, a self-aggrandizing attempt at revenue-salvaging apology, but an apology nonetheless.
This one ought to make the women’s history books.
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Kit-Bacon Gressitt's commentary and political fiction can be read on her blog Excuse Me, I'm Writing and is republished by SDGLN, The Ocean Beach Rag and The Progressive Post. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize while working for the North County Times. She is also host of Fallbrook's monthly Writers Read open mic and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.