Rush Limbaugh and Slut Shaming at 16

The story begins with the insistence by President Obama that medical insurance by all employers operating in a secular sphere, including organizations such as hospital run by the Catholic Church or other religious groups. This caused outcry by the religious right who claimed their religious freedom was being trampled.

This was followed by a House committee that refused to allow any women to testify. The lone woman the Democrats proposed, Sandra Fluke ultimately spoke to an alternative Democratic committee about the necessity for oral contraceptive pills, and the negative results for women who are unable to afford this medication.

Rush Limbaugh the Conservative radio host and political commentator spoke forcibly against Fluke and her arguments.

Besides calling her a “slut,” he also called her a “prostitute,” said that he wanted her to make sex tapes and post them online, and speculated that she only had a problem paying for contraception because she was having “so much sex.”.

A few days later he apologized, but the damage was done, and the past few days have seen an exodus of advertisers from his show. He has a strong following in the conservative right wing, many of whom continue to support his stand, while criticizing him for his overly strong language.

Now we move to a personal story written by ‘beantown mom’ in the Daily Kos, in which she describes the ordeal of her 16 year old daughter.

She is on birth control and has been for almost a year now- not for sexual activity and pregnancy prevention, but even if that were the case so what?!?! No, instead beantown girl suffers from menorrhagia and secondary dysmenorrhea. That is, since almost the time of her very first period, she bled so heavily and suffered such severe pain and cramping that she was rendered immobile for the first 2-3 days of menstruation. She would become so violently ill that she would miss at least 2 days of school each month. PMS for this poor child was so horrible- she would rage, cry and be so very depressed that the entire family would try anything to avoid being near her. It ended up the safest place for her was her room for the week preceding her actual period and we all knew to just stay away from her if we could. I finally convinced her that she needed to see a doctor about this when her periods began to last for 8-9 days and she would become so pale and listless throughout the entire period that I feared she was becoming anemic. She was. After doing extensive testing, ultrasounds and blood work, the doctor diagnosed her with the menorrhagia and dysmenorrhea. She placed beantown girl on Ortho Tri-cyclen Lo, a low dose birth control pill in order to try to balance out the hormones. Since she has been on the hormones, her periods have become regular, 4-5 days of normal menstruation with less cramping and no more violent, raging PMS

The girl went on a 5 day trip by the school band, where student medications were handed out by a parent chaperone who is also a physician. During the trip, word was spread throughout the school that the girl was taking  Ortho Tri-cyclen Lo, and the bullying began. High school can be a rough place at the best of times, but in this instance, the bullying was fuelled by the attitude promoted by Limbaugh.

It all began with a note in her locker,

Little miss innocent, huh? Whatever slut- you take birth control pills so you can f*&# every guy in school! What a joke- u are nothin but a whore! Pretty bad when some guy on the radio who isn’t afraid to tell the truth has to break it down for everybody- if u on the Pill u are nothing but a skank ass ho! My mom said girls on the pill are tramps who just wanna get laid and don’t care about nothin- is that how u are?

and continued in the cafeteria:

They lined up behind my daughter to get their lunch tray and started in on her. “Birth control whore”, “I told my mom you were on the pill and she said you were nothing but a little tramp” “My mom said some guy she listens to on the radio was just talking about girls like you- he even said you were a slut!” “Yeah, my mom said the same thing, said it’s about time people spoke up and weren’t afraid to tell the truth”! They laughed, they harassed, they said so many things my daughter couldn’t begin to remember it all- she walked back to her table without food and told her friends what was going on.

It didn’t end with the students. Her history teacher, albeit inadvertently, abetted the abuse.

The last class of the day, however, was the final straw- it’s her history class and 2 of these little monsters are in the class with her. They start the class off by talking about current events. One of the little witches brought up Rush Limbaugh and the (male) teacher said that he was an American Icon- sometimes he says things that can be construed as insensitive but overall, he was one of the few people left in today’s media who was not afraid to speak the truth!

When  her mother asked her what was wrong, she received the following question in reply.

“Am I a slut because I take a prescription birth control pill? I don’t take it because I am having sex, I take it to help my periods- am I a bad person, Mom?”

It is easy to put this down to the type of bullying that many students suffer through at the hands of their peers. However, as adults who supposedly know better, it is up to us to do our best to minimize both the incidence and the degree of bullying. Rush Limbaugh is the number one radio host in the US with somewhere between 3.5 and 20 million viewers per day. This makes him an incredibly influential individual. Limbaugh is well known as having a strong voice in right wing politics. His endorsement or denouncement of a conservative politician can make or break a campaign.

Like many outspoken critics of  modern values, his hypocrisy is easily demonstrated. He has been divorced 3, and married 4 times, and his concept of sexual freedom is only extended to males. Although democratic males such as Bill Clinton, will also draw his ire.

It is impossible to draw a direct line between any public figure and any sort of violence or abuse unless there is a direct call to action. In this case, Limbaugh did not do that, but his words and actions certainly aid in providing an environment where abuse is permitted and tolerated. There are two issues here. As indicated in the story above, oral contraceptives, despite their common name, are used for much more than contraception. The other point is the entire concept of slut shaming.  The term of ‘slut’ or ‘Jezebel’ has been used since Biblical times as a way to control women, while giving men license to fuck. Many women have bought into this patriarchal concept and have been ostracized by their female peers, even though estimates suggest well over 90% of American women have used contraption at some point in their lives. Limbaugh, as an admitted user of Viagra , is in no position to criticize of the users of medication that MAY be used in levelling the sexual field.

Limbaugh is now paying the price for his  words, unfortunately many innocent young women may pay a price as well.

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