Just in time for International Women’s Day, American radio shock jock Rush Limbaugh set off a firestorm of protest in response to his latest’s misogynistic rant against “feminazis” The fact Limbaugh is a controversial buffoon is not really news, but this time he may have gone too far…much too far. After Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke was denied an opportunity to testify before an all male Republican congressional committee convened to discuss whether contraception should be included in women’s health care coverage, she received an invitation from the Democrats. Ms. Fluke’s testimony included the reality that these expensive medications are valuable and necessary for many reasons including the treatment of gynecological disorders such as ovarian cysts, and endometriosis. Mr.Limbaugh promptly responded by slandering her a prostitute and a slut who would accept government money to have sex. He railed on that since this makes Sandra a prostitute, therefore in return, she should repay the taxpayer by posting her sex videos on line so that we can all watch. If that wasn’t toxic enough he characterized this sincere young woman as a greedy nymphomaniac who parents should be ashamed. There was quite a bit more of this vile rhetoric which has gone viral on the internet along with familiar anecdotes of the much married, childless, radio host’s obesity, prescription drug addiction , fondness for Viagra and 54 million dollar a year salary.
While there have been calls to remove Rush Limbaugh from the airwaves, this will not solve the problem. From a systemic perspective, Limbaugh is not the problem, but rather the symptom of a problem which is larger than one media personality. Consider the reality that his top rated “angry white guy” show boasts tens of millions of listeners who apparently share and support his blatantly misogynistic values. He has complained of the presence of “lard-ass women in politics” and boasts a belief that “women are basically cats that can walk.” (Sady Doyle,http://inthesetimes.com/04/08/2012). The overblown Limbaugh serves as an ongoing spokesman for the Christian right wing sexual fundamentalists who equate contraception with promiscuity. These mostly Republican folks are drawn to punitive absolutes and promote faith based abstinence programs as the solution to unwanted pregnancy. While Limbaugh’s initial response to the outrage provoked by this sexist rant was to find it all “absolutely hilarious”, his tune soon changed as commercial sponsors began leaving in droves. He then scrambled to issue a half-hearted, fingers crossed, apology in hopes of staving off some of the financial backlash.
One long time sponsor has made it clear that they are sticking with Rush; our American military. His programs are broadcast world-wide over taxpayer supported Armed Forces Network owned and operated by the Department of Defense. It seems that they share similar values given that over 30% of women in our military report sexual assaults by commanding officers and fellow service members. Many of these assaults remain unreported for reasons that are not difficult to imagine. VoteVets, a coalition of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, have released a letter from female veterans requesting that the Armed Forces Network drop Limbaugh’s show from its programming. In part, the letter reads:
Our entire military depends on troops respecting each other – women and men. There simply can be no place on military airwaves of sentiments that would undermine that respect. When many of our female troops use birth control,for Limbaugh to say that they are “sluts” and “prostitutes” is beyond the pale. It isn’t just disrespectful to our women serving our country, but it’s language that goes against everything that makes our military work. Again, we swore to uphold our Constitution, including the freedom of speech, and would not take that away from anyone – even Limbaugh. But that does not mean the AFN should broadcast him. In fact, it shouldn’t.
Pentagon spokesman George Little responded with a statement that the military network will continue to air Rush Limbaugh and is “unaware of any plans to review that decision”. (Faiz Shakir , http://thinkprogress.org/2012/03/05).