Commentary Media

Faux-Apology Not Accepted: Fire Rush Limbaugh for His Hateful Misogyny

Soraya Chemaly

Rush Limbaugh’s limp quasi-apology to Sandra Fluke isn’t good enough. Clear Channel Communications, the largest radio station owner in the US, should fire him and establish a precedent whereby media commentators understand that misogynistic language and attitudes are unacceptable and career-ending.

Cross-posted with permission from the Feminist Wire.

Rush Limbaugh’s limp quasi-apology to Sandra Fluke isn’t good enough. Clear Channel Communications, the largest radio station owner in the US, should fire him and establish a precedent whereby media commentators understand that misogynistic language and attitudes are unacceptable and career-ending. An apology from Mr. Limbaugh is insufficient and unacceptable if we are serious about women’s rights, equality and ability to participate in civil public discourse. Listening to Limbaugh talk about Sandra Fluke was #Mencallmethings 101.

Why is our nation even having this conversation about this man and his sexist abuse? Replace anything that Rush Limbaugh said with its ugly racist equivalent…Right. Moving right along. The entire planet has spent the last two hundred years coming to terms with the implications of race and class on society. Now some people are having the dawning realization that gender is salient too. Rush Limbaugh and his ilk are rooted in a dying paradigm. It is so time to bid it farewell and this is as good a start as any.

First, Limbaugh did not “just,” as he claims, “illustrate an absurdity with the absurd,” and “choose the wrong words.” He used vitriolic hate speech in an attempt to belittle and degrade a woman, and by extension most other women, while discussing a serious issue in a public forum. Jack DeGoia, president of Georgetown University, said in his letter of support for Fluke, “This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people. One need not agree with her substantive position to support her right to respectful free expression.” The use of the word “slut” to put a woman in her place, the dominant Republican party-theme this primary season, should be as unacceptable as once-but-no-longer-acceptable racist equivalents. Thank god Sandra Fluke is not a woman of color or this could have been even uglier. In addition to the language itself, there was Limbaugh’s request that she videotape sex and share it for his consumption. This, I agree, is absurd – but not in the same way Limbaugh meant it. He actually uses the following phrases in his apology: “What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line?” and not in an “attempt to be humorous.”

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Second, he’s not just an “entertainer” he’s an influential “MissRepresenter” and it is causing serious problems for our country. To claim, as Rick Santorum did, that Limbaugh is an entertainer and by extension not important or culturally relevant is disingenuous to say the least. But, Limbaugh is not the only media misogynist out there and firing him would be an important precedent. Remember Ed Schultz’s “right-wing slut” episode last year? Media commentators on the left and the right regularly ridicule and insult women in mean-spirited, highly gendered ways and laugh it off as lame attempts at humor. Consider what happens to women politicians if they have the audacity to appear on television or radio and take strong, confident positions on anything other than domestic work. A recent study revealed the degree to which sexism undid Hilary Clinton’s presidential chances. The sexist ways that women candidates are discussed are endless: Sly jokes about brooms, mops, dusting rags abound; references to nut-crackers, ball-breakers, harried husbands; nags, bitches, ‘hos, bimbos, “boobgate” on and on and on. Widespread acceptance of misogynistic language and public sexist bullying is a serious problem to equality and a deterrent to women’s running for office. Sexist language is as offensive as racist language, but it is still acceptable in our culture. That is unacceptable. Can you imagine what people would say if media commentators, analysts and reporters had, as Jeff Greenfield has pointed out, talked about President Obama shining their shoes the way the joked about Hillary Clinton doing laundry and vacuuming?

Third, Limbaugh only said out loud what lots of social conservatives think about Sandra Fluke and all women who defend women’s rights. (And, if they’re sluts, well, that must make any man that shares their beliefs “gay,” right?) The only way you can celebrate a Momma Grizzly is if you denigrate a Feminazi Slut. Traditional ideas about men, women and their “complementary roles” rely on Madonna/whore stereotypes. Slut-shaming is par for the course in the time-warp, backlash environment that regressive social conservatives want to reinstate. It’s how Herman Cain could believe he hadn’t done anything “inappropriate” and have an entire army of people defend him against allegations of obvious sexual harassment. Limbaugh’s mansplaining is just another flavor of the responses to his assault on Sandra Fluke from the leaders of the Right.

John Boehner: “inappropriate.”

Rick Santorum: “…an entertainer can be absurd.”

Mitt Romney: “not the language I would have used…”

These men, and Limbaugh’s core audience, don’t fundamentally disagree with Limbaugh and are having a hard time drumming up convincing condemnations of his behavior. “Inappropriate” would be if Limbaugh wore blue jeans to a black tie wedding. “Absurd” would be if he’d claimed aliens had used nanotechnology to encrypt his brain with slut-shaming memes and he had no control over what he said. And, as Maureen Dowd asked earlier today, what’s the right “language” to call a woman a slut? Republicans who understand what the real problem this poses for their party must be thanking god for George Will today.

Lastly, Limbaugh’s apology appears, to say the least, cynical. In the first place, I agree with Pat LaMarche, who made the point that all this press is good for Limbaugh and Clear Channel. But, in terms of the apology – no one takes it seriously and that’s a slap in the face to all women. Did no one ever teach him as a child how to apologize? It is arguable that what saved Ed Schultz job last year was his apparently genuine unqualified remorse for what he called his “terribly vile” behavior. Not only does Limbaugh seem to feel no remorse, but he continues to defend himself. As pointed out by writer Rachel Larris at the Women’s Media Center: “In a statement of 192 words long Limbaugh uses only 55 words to say he was sorry and the other 137 to continue to argue that he’s actually right.”

I am not in favor of the “take him down” approach to people or problems. And, as a woman feminist writer I am particularly careful about how easy it is for my words to be turned against me by a media culture steeped in 30 years of backlash against feminism. But, this man and his attitudes are not just harmless entertainment. Even if the senior management of Clear Channel doesn’t understand what the big deal is, they must have at least one person in their Marketing Department that can explain what the future looks like and Rush Limbaugh is not it. So, even if it’s for selfish profit reasons, do the right thing and fire Rush Limbaugh. It would give “Pink Slip” a whole new meaning.

Commentary Abortion

Passionate Engagement: Two Doctors Speak About Their Activism for the Right to Safe Abortion

Carole Joffe

I suggest that that these doctors’ statements point to a paradox of the abortion conflict in the United States; whether abortion provider or supporter, engagement with this issue introduces these clinicians to a diverse group of allies, with a shared sense of mission, that is rare elsewhere in medicine.

Cross-posted with permission from

 “I thought I might get in over my head and I might have done so! But I’m glad I did it anyway and in the process got connected to some folks I might not have met otherwise, it is definitely worth doing.”

Speaking is Dr. Pippa Abston, a pediatrician in Alabama, recounting for a journalist her decision to become involved in the fight against Alabama’s forced ultrasound law—an involvement that has included interviews with local media, making a Youtube video condemning the law, speaking at a pro-choice rally, and drawing up a new “right to medical judgment” bill that stipulates health care providers should not be forced to perform medically unnecessary or unwanted procedures.

Dr. Abston is not herself an abortion provider. Moreover, besides being a busy pediatrician and medical school faculty member, she is already deeply involved in other areas of medical politics—she is the coordinator for her local chapter of Physicians for a National Health Care Program, and she also is an advocate for improved mental health services in her state. She told me in an interview that her initial involvement in the mandatory ultrasound issue was “accidental”—when the television station called her clinic looking for comment, “no one from ob/gyn was around and they knew I was outspoken!”

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When I read Dr. Abston’s words, quoted at the beginning of this piece, they sounded eerily familiar to me. I then recalled another physician talking to me, in quite similar terms, about the social consequences of her decision to publicly engage with the abortion issue. Dr. Jane Hodgson was a very prominent ob/gyn in St. Paul, Minnesota in the 1950s and 1960s, with a thriving private practice and a faculty position at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. She was the first woman elected president of the Minnesota Obstetrical/Gynecological Society.

Hodgson’s conventionally successful career in medicine—and her personal life—took a dramatic turn as she grew increasingly frustrated by the lack of access to legal abortion for her patients. As one of the few women ob/gyns in practice in her community, she received numerous requests from desperate women for abortions—some of whom she knew would end up in the hands of inept illegal abortionists. She was particularly enraged at the cruelty shown by her colleagues at her hospital, who often denied the procedure even for those very sick patients who theoretically could qualify for medically approved abortions.

In 1970, wanting to provoke a test case, she openly performed an abortion on a patient with rubella (which had recently been shown to cause severe fetal anomalies) and became the only U.S. physician ever to become convicted of performing an illegal abortion in a hospital. Her Minnesota medical license was suspended, and was only restored to her after the Roe v Wade decision in 1973.

In the three years between her arrest and the Roe decision, Hodgson became immersed in abortion provision and abortion politics. She became the medical director at the Preterm clinic in Washington, DC (where abortion was legal) and wrote some of the first articles demonstrating the safety of legal abortion. After her return to Minnesota, she helped establish some of the states’ first abortion clinics, and became active on the legal front as well, serving as lead plaintiff in several cases challenging that state’s restrictions. She published a textbook and numerous articles on abortion. Up to the time of her death in 2006, she was a board member of the Center for Reproductive Rights and involved in numerous other abortion rights activities.

Dr. Hodgson paid a price for her visibility on the abortion issue. She lost some longtime friends, her favorite nurse quit her practice, her faculty appointment was threatened, and when she went to deliver a paper at the medical society of which she had formerly been president, a number of the attendees shunned her. Like many abortion providers, she was periodically targeted by picketers at her office and home.

But Jane Hodgson never regretted her decision to get involved in the abortion issue, feeling she had gained far more than she lost. As she said to me, “The people I’ve known who are involved in this issue are on the whole more interesting to me—I’ve made friends I never would have made.”

Thankfully, Pippa Abston has so far received only minimal negative reaction to her quite visible involvement in abortion politics. Unlike Dr. Hodgson, she reports no loss of patients or personal acquaintances. Both however, in strikingly similar terms, cited as a benefit of their abortion-related activity the connections made with those they otherwise would not have encountered. What should we make of this?

I suggest that that these doctors’ statements point to a paradox of the abortion conflict in the United States. The constant legal and legislative attacks on abortion that started shortly after Roe, not to mention the physical attacks on abortion providers themselves, have helped create a vibrant pro-choice community that draws actors from many different social worlds, and whose members often forge very deep bonds with one another. Dr. Abston spoke with admiration about the “passion” she had seen among the abortion rights activists she had met. Similarly, Dr. Hodgson said to me of her involvement with the abortion issue, “I think I’ve been lucky to have been part of this… If I hadn’t gotten involved, I would have gone through life probably being perfectly satisfied to go to the medical society parties, and it would have been very, very dull.”

There should be no misunderstanding. I am not arguing that it is a “good” thing that abortion has been under such siege because this opposition has, in turn, contributed to building to a strong pro-choice community. Rather, Jane Hodgson’s and Pippa Abston’s reflections align with what I have heard from so many other physicians over the years: that whether abortion provider or supporter, engagement with this issue introduces these clinicians to a diverse group of allies, with a shared sense of mission, that is rare elsewhere in medicine.

Roundup: A Not So Silent Night

Robin Marty

It's two days until Christmas, and today is "Health Care Vote Eve." Tomorrow morning the senate will be wrapping their bill with a pretty little bow. But today, let's see what sort of carols are being sung while folks are decking the halls...

It’s two days until Christmas, and today is "Health Care Vote Eve."  Tomorrow morning the senate will be wrapping their bill with a pretty little bow.  But today, let’s see what sort of carols are being sung while folks are decking the halls…

Rather than being pleased about the embarrassment of riches that Sen. Nelson has provided them, the anti-abortion factions are lamenting their loses in a soulful rendition of "The Twelve Anti-Family Gifts from Congress."   They have their twelve drummers drumming and eleven pipers piping morosely about the loss of abstinence only education and more funding for Planned Parenthood.  

The Christmas season is a time when
Americans celebrate life, family, and community. Unfortunately, the 12
unwelcome Christmas gifts in the omnibus bill, signed into law by
President Obama last week, undermine these pillars of American civil

Guess the ten lords didn’t leap through enough hoops to make them happy.

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Meanwhile, pro-choice feminists have given up on getting two front teeth, and are asking for a more important gift: health care.  But they aren’t waiting for Santa Baby to stick a present under the tree.  Instead, they ask everyone to demand it.

The next two weeks are critical for pro-choice activists. It’s the
middle of the holiday season, but we have to remain focused. Call your senators directly,
rather than by calling the Senate switchboard, and tell them that you
demand equal health care access for all Americans. Requiring women to
purchase additional insurance for abortion coverage is
unconstitutional. We shouldn’t have to pay twice as much as men for
health care.

Can’t start caroling yet because you are too busy looking for last minute gifts?  Sounds like there is a senator you can pick up for cheap.

I can respect those who are pro-life out of conviction and those who
are pro-choice out of conviction. It is more difficult to respect
politicians willing to use their deepest beliefs — and the deepest
beliefs of others — as bargaining chips.

In a single evening, Nelson managed to undermine the logic of
Medicaid, abandon three decades of protections under the Hyde Amendment
and increase the public stock of cynicism. For what? For the sake of
legislation that greatly expands a health entitlement without reforming
the health system; that siphons hundreds of billions of dollars out of
Medicare instead of using that money to reform Medicare; that imposes
seven taxes on Americans making less than $250,000 a year, in direct
violation of a presidential pledge; that employs Enron-style accounting
methods to inflate future cost savings; that pretends to tame the
insurance companies while making insurance companies the largest
beneficiaries of reform.

And, yes, for $100 million. It is the cheap date equivalent of Taco Bell.

But don’t bother getting a gift receipt for that – once you buy him, you’re stuck with him.

With all of the debate, blustering, and posturing, I personally am looking forward to a silent night in the near future.


Mini Roundup: Contraception stocking stuff extra: Depo can cause bone density loss,  the pill can help with menstrual pain and migraines, and this may be a potential new form of birth control all together.


December 23, 2009

good enough
Catholic Daily

Wilson: From Right to Wrong: Daycare,
Huffington Post

looms as possible health bill deal killer
The Associated Press

health-care reform

family planning is headed for crash

Houston Chronicle

funding may revive sex education debate
Waterbury Republican American

ads causing Catholic controversy


December 22, 2009

Victory: Baltimore Crisis Pregnancy Centers

‘Pill’ Offers Benefits Beyond
Birth Control


option has doctors watching women’s bone health
WWAY NewsChannel 3

Growth and Global Warming
New York Times

Anti-Family Gifts from Congress

Clears Second Health Care Hurdle 60-39


Roeder’s Defense
CBS News

Carolina High School Had Denied
Pro-Life Student Free Speech, Backs Down

deal is a radical change

Democratic Congressman, Doctor, Switches to GOP Over Health Care

Legal, and Subsidized
The American

Calls RNC Chief’s Comments on Health Care “Delusional”
ABC News

Challenge Health Care Bill Section Making Death Panels Permanent

Nelson Abortion Compromise No Better Than Stupak

I Want For Christmas is Some Health Care
Feminists for Choice

– Nelson Compromise Not Materially Different From Stupak Amendment

shot may harm bone health

votes nudge health care bill forward Tues.
The Associated Press

moves closer to healthcare passage

Los Angeles Times

Is Abortion Fundamentally
Street Journal

won’t change venue in Kansas
abortion trial
USA Today

Dirty Little Secret on
Abortion and Healthcare Reform

differences in House-Senate health bills

Scarlet Letter Revisited: Sen. Nelson and
Abortion Shaming
Huffington Post

rejects `necessity defense’ in
abortion case
The Associated Press

doctor George Tiller’s accused murderer will go on trial in Kansas
Los Angeles Times

says accounting ‘procedure’ ensures ‘everybody’ funds
Kansas Liberty

healthcare bill may be hard to reconcile with House’s
Los Angeles Times

Sale: One senator (D-Neb.) No principles, low price.
Washington Post

Health Care Reform Bill is an
Abortion Bill
Catholic Online

views on
have moved on

Human Reproductive Hormone Could Lead to Novel Contraceptives
Science Daily

Marriage Blog Draws Thousands to Discuss Sexuality, Natural
Family Planning
Catholic Online