Why Limbaugh's Apology To Fluke Doesn't Matter
Limbaugh claimed that Fluke’s testimony in the contraception debate indicated that “she’s having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth control pills” and therefore “essentially says that she must be paid to have sex – what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.” He carried the analogy to its logical conclusion, that if Fluke wants the American taxpayer to pay for her contraception, she, in reality, wants the American taxpayer to pay for her to have sex, and by doing so, the American public becomes her pimp.
Wow. Talk about unfairly attacking a woman's character while at the same time completely misrepresenting her views.
In actuality, as reported by the LA Times,
“Fluke said she advocated for a woman’s right to contraceptives as a part of health insurance coverage. She did not argue that the government should pay for contraceptives, but said employers and universities that offer health insurance plans should ensure such coverage is included in those plans.”
Limbaugh’s insulting comments attacking Fluke’s personal character, simply because she advocates contraception coverage, outraged figures across the entire political and commercial spectrums. Two radio stations dropped The Rush Limbaugh Show, and 33 companies, including JCPenny, Netflix, AOL and Allstate, among others, all pulled their advertising from the show. Meanwhile, President Obama called Fluke to express his support for her; John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Newt Gingrich all said Limbaugh owed Fluke an apology; and a conservative pundit, David Frum, ripped Limbaugh with the following statement:
“This was not a case of a bad ‘word choice.’ It was a brutally sexualized accusation, against a specific person, prolonged over three days.”
Frum’s comments regarding Limbaugh’s “word choice” refer to the “apology” Limbaugh offered to Fluke on his show, an apology Fluke has rightly dismissed as insincere. His apology:
“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.”
"Word choice"? Does he really think his insulting "word choice" encapsulates the error of his comments about Fluke?
He reiterated his "apology" a few days later…
“I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for using those two words to describe her. The apology to her over the weekend was sincere. It was simply for using inappropriate words.”
“‘I don't think that a statement like this, issued saying that his choice of words was not the best, changes anything. Especially when that statement is issued when he's under significant pressure from his sponsors, who have begun to pull support from his show,’” Fluke said.”
Since she expressed her opinion that Limbaugh only apologized as a result of the financial backlash of his comments, many more advertisers have left his show. Perhaps, in continuing to pull their support from Limbaugh, they too realize that the issue is not simply Limbaugh's "word choice," but something much bigger than that.
“I believe that what it is [his original insults] is an attempt to silence me, to silence the millions of women and the men who support them who have been speaking out about this issue and conveying that contraception is an important health care need that they need to have met in an affordable, accessible way.”
Limbaugh’s apology does not matter. It does not matter not only because it was insincere, but it also does not matter because it has not changed the fact that women do not have the same rights as men, and that when strong women advocate for their rights, men like Limbaugh react the way they do only because they are threatened.
The debate about contraception is not a debate about “religious freedoms” or about government overextension; it is a debate about women’s rights. Why should Viagra be covered by health insurance when birth control is not? Why should men be the only ones to decide birth control policy? Why should women be refused a voice in issues regarding their own health? Are men really afraid of granting women the power to govern their own bodies?
The issue at stake, the fight for women’s rights, will not disappear because a man who insulted a woman, who is taking a stand for women everywhere, “apologized” for his “word choice.” The issue is one that is reinforced by such an apology. The fact that Limbaugh believes the only thing wrong with his comments were his choice of words, and not his underlying attitude towards women, demonstrates that women’s liberation has a long way to go. Values are important, and Limbaugh's comments illustrate that his values lie far from respecting women and their rights. It is too much to ask for Limbaugh’s attitude to change right away, but that does not mean that the demand should not be made.