• Wed, Mar 7 2012

Has Rush Limbaugh Helped The Slut Empowerment Movement?

“What movements do is take the words that are used against us,” she said. “It is good to take the words that have power in them and take the power back. Now it depends on who is using them though. Sometimes when they call you bitch they are not giving you the power. But sometimes I do think, “Yeah, watch out for me.” Gloria said when she was a young woman in her 20s she went back to Toledo for a TV show and she was called a “slut from Toledo.” “At the time I would have been devastated when I lived there [in Ohio.] But then I thought, yeah, that’s a pretty good thing to be. I want it on my tombstone: “Here lies the slut from Toledo,” she said with a laugh. -Gloria Steinem at The Athena Film Festival in February 2012

On March 1, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh created a national outrage and sent his advertisers running for the hills when he called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” after she testified before Congress about contraception. Later in the week he grouped Tracie McMillan, author of The American Way of Eating, “with all these young single white women” who, he said, are “overeducated.” And then later in this week this E-card came out which has made me come to the conclusion that Mr.Limbaugh, for all of his larger than life flaws, has helped make slut a positive word in less than a week.

Slut like the word b*tch has started to take on a new linguistic evolution. Tinamarie Bernard, in an article titled “No Fluke: The Planet Needs More Sluts, Less Rush,” attributes Easton and Dossie Easton, whose groundbreaking book, The Ethical Slut (1997), as one of the firsts to try to reframe this old derogatory term. She wrote “A slut is a person who has taken control of their sexuality and has sex with whomever they choose, regardless of religious or social pressures or conventions to conform to a straight-laced monogamous lifestyle committed to one partner for life. The term has been “taken back” to express the rejection of the concept that government, society, or religion may judge or control one’s personal liberties, and the right to control one’s own sexuality.”

The slut walks of recent years have also helped give the word more power under it. Reclaiming the word slut is part of the the aim of the SlutWalks, the protest movement that started last spring in Canada and spread to more than 70 cities worldwide. Taking angry inspiration from a Toronto police officer who said the best way for women to prevent being raped is to “avoid dressing like sluts,” the women joining in SlutWalks have marched in all manner of bras, bodices, and other scanty dress.

And now Rush Limbaugh has made the word almost a compliment in some way or at least given it some leverage. According to Webster’s slut is defined as “a dirty, slovenly woman” or “an immoral or dissolute woman; prostitute.” Isn’t 27 year old Georgetown Law student, Cornell University graduate and former employee of Sanctuary for Families, a New York-based nonprofit aiding victims of domestic violence who speaks in front of Congress, exactly what comes to mind when you hear the word slut? Tracie McMillan fits into that over-educated group too, so by definition would she be a giant slut too? And then, just for the sake of argument, would anyone with a graduate degree who chooses to use some form of contraception (so smart women) so they aren’t getting pregnant everytime they have sex, a slut as well then? Then by that logic, though I don’t know what kind of birth control they use, let’s add Sheryl Sandberg, Andrea Jung, Meg Whitman, Carol Bartz, Sallie Krawcheck, Anne Sweeney and Tina Fey to the list. They all have college degrees or above and speak their mind freely, so according to Rush Limbaugh they too should be in the slut club. If these women make the cut, then this is definitely a club I would like to be in.

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  • Tinamarie Bernard

    Love that you reference my article in your piece. One request – the Examiner.com didn’t write it, I did, and the Ethical Slut was written by Easton and Janet Hardy. I neglected to mention that in the first draft of the article.

    Thank you, Tinamarie Bernard

  • Meredith Lepore

    Thank you Tinamarie! I will make the change!

  • ShyTown

    Ugh, I have been in a war with my Dad about this on facebook all week. The fact that he is in full support of Rush is driving me crazy, but I’m tired of fighting with him about it bc I’m getting nowhere.
    He even gave me a link to his blog (which I didn’t know existed…) where he tore Fluke apart : http://politicsncrap.blogspot.com/2012/03/devil-is-in-details-rush-was-right-i.html
    I also wrote about the craziness on mine, though from a much different perspective! http://gutsandglitter.com/2012/03/03/rush-limbaugh-should-be-beat-up-by-a-slutty-prostitute-gg-is-volunteering/

  • Jeff

    I’m first to admit Limbaugh isn’t careful with his speech, but that’s the game. Since when have commentators like Madow, Olbermann, Maher, et al. ever been careful about what they called who? And in most cases, with less reason.

    But its a red herring anyway. Fluke, a seasoned activist, claimed a $3k need for contraceptives per student over 3 years, which placed an unreasonable financial burden on students which she believes the US Government has the responsibility to cover.

    Think about that. CVS less than a mile away from campus sells condoms for about $0.64 each. $3k provides enough for more than 12 sexual encounters every day for 3 years with no breaks. That is if the woman does not use birth control pills, which can be obtained at the local Target for $9/mo, or $324 for 3 years.

    This highly educated, respectable, Georgetown woman either cannot do proper math, or by her own admission she has earned the less than complimentary title several times over.

    But in reality neither is the case. Fluke is an activist making an absurd comment for political reasons. R.L. is doing the same thing. All of these attacks against Limbaugh are just a cover for an incredibly stupid statement that Democrats have no other answer for.

    • katelyn

      Maybe I’m in an alternative universe here, but whenever I hear about Mrs. Fluke it is always about the medical necessity of birth control. Why is it that so many people fail to address her friend, who lost an ovary because her school felt that it wasn’t necessary to cover the cost of birth control for their insured students?
      I’m sorry, but all the condoms in the world won’t prevent someone from getting ovarian cysts, having horrendous cramps, heavy bleeding that leads to anemia, or migraines. Not to mention that Mrs. Fluke has never once, to my knowledge, called Limbaugh a manwhore because he disagrees with her.