Imagine with me for a moment that you find yourself in a public setting. There is a guy, standing in the center of attention, regaling everyone with tales of his and his friends need for safety gear in order to protect them from the various high-risk acts of asshattery they frequently engage in and are currently (and, though he doesn’t say so, needlessly) paying through the nose for. Over the course of the monologue, the speaker uses various lies, half-truths, and sob stories that stretch the very boundaries of logic itself — and he is doing this in the hope of forcing someone else to pay for his personal lifestyle, under the guise of “men’s health.”
Now imagine that someone stands up in the crowd surrounding this guy and says, “Shut the hell up, you moron! In fact, do us all a favor and remove yourself from the gene pool so you don’t pass on your clear mental deficiency to your unsuspecting progeny!”
We can all agree that what the second guy said is pretty rude, and in most cases uncalled for. However, given the context, his is by far the lesser of two offenses.
This imaginary scenario is analogous to the scenario we’ve found ourselves in lately, in which Rush Limbaugh used the words “slut” and “prostitute” to describe a woman, Sandra Fluke, who went before Congress in an attempt to force someone else to pay for her contraception. The appropriately-named Ms. Fluke, though apparently fully at ease publicly demanding subsidies for her private sex life, came down with a massive case of the vapors upon hearing Mr. Limbaugh’s comments. After being revived with smelling salts, she proclaimed, while fanning herself repeatedly, that Mr. Limbaugh’s comments were an effort to “shut her up.”
No, Ms. Fluke, they were not. His comments were an effort to introduce you to a concept that is sadly unfamiliar to many of my generation: shame. And you ought to be ashamed. Your entire argument is based on the idea that women are such moronic sex-maniacs that, unless someone else freely provides every form of birth control known to man, we’ll all be popping out babies like crack-addled Pez dispensers. It is you, Ms. Fluke, not Mr. Limbaugh, who has been demonstrating a clear case of misogyny and anti-feminism.
It’s because of people like you that I, both during and after my pregnancy, accepted government handouts when I did in fact have another option. See, I bought the lie that I somehow deserved it. My son is now five; I am still deeply ashamed of myself for accepting those handouts, and doing everything I can to make up for it.
I once had a chat with a woman who worked as a nurse at a county health department. She told me something that I found absolutely shocking: That she dealt every day with girls and young women who had been so browbeaten by the culture of promiscuity promulgated by people like you, Ms. Fluke, that they didn’t even know they had the option of saying “No” to sex. Again, you ought to be ashamed.
Also, Ms. Fluke, do you know how much I spent on contraceptives during my three and a half years of college? Nothing. No, not because I was being irresponsible — because I made the (highly responsible) choice to keep my pants on until the night of the day on which I donned a poofy white dress and said, “I do.” But even if that were not the case, it became abundantly clear to me upon visiting my local health department for a pre-marital feminine check-up, just how easy it is for a woman to get her hands on just about any sort of contraception she wants. I was offered birth control pills by three separate nurses in that one visit, and it wasn’t until I told them about the blood clot I’d had in my leg a few years earlier that they let the matter go.
I don’t disagree with Mr. Limbaugh’s apology, especially since he made it clear the he was apologizing not for the message, but the packaging. But I’m not about to string the man up by his thumbnails for calling Ms. Fluke sexually-charged names when she’s the one who brought up her sex life in the first place — again, in the context of trying to force other people to pay for it. And I’m especially inclined to cut the man some slack, considering all this came around the same time as the death of one of his most accomplished colleagues and a bomb scare at his own home.
It takes a deeply good person to apologize when A.) He should be the last one apologizing, and B.) The person to whom he is apologizing is the sort of shameless hack who will almost certainly use it as a weapon against him. Mr. Limbaugh, you have more than earned my respect.