subscribe: Posts | Comments

Sandra Fluke, birth-control rights activist and “slut”, speaks at DNC

0 comments

Ed Knight
WVoN co-editor

In a Democrat move to strengthen their claim to being the party supportive of women’s rights in the US, Sandra Fluke was asked to speak at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on Wednesday.

In January of this year, the Obama administration instigated a rule demanding that all employers, including powerful US religious organisations, must include contraception as part of their health insurance schemes.

Fluke, then in her third year of law school, spoke before a February congressional committee in favour of this rule. She then gained notoriety in the US when conservative polemicist Rush Limbaugh labelled her a ‘slut’ during a verbal tirade against her on his radio show.

Limbaugh – one of the highest-earning syndicated radio hosts in America – claimed Fluke said ‘she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.’

He went on to offer an ultimatum: ‘So, Miss Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.’

Republican nominee Mitt Romney, also commented on Limbaugh’s remarks, ‘I’ll just say this, it’s not language I would have used’. This response is common to some in the Republican party, who, though quick to criticise Limbaugh’s language, were rare in criticising his sentiment.

Fluke’s subsequent public support for Obama’s re-election campaign raised her profile and notoriety further, and her speech at the DNC bolstered the Democrat’s strength in women’s votes.

Referencing the “slut controversy”, Fluke, now a 31-year-old Law graduate, called for ‘An America in which our president, when he hears a young woman has been verbally attacked, thinks of his daughters, not his delegates or donors, and stands with all women’.

Conservative commentator Sarah Elizabeth Cupp tweeted of Fluke’s speech, ‘Feminism weeps as Fluke and the other DNC women get on their metaphorical knees to beg for government to take care of them’.

With this comment as with others, the use of sexualised imagery is rarely far from the point being made: ‘Bill Clinton just impregnated Sandra Fluke backstage…’ reads a tweet from Ann Coulter, another conservative commentator.

Limbaugh’s original abuse was called an act of “slut-shaming” by the Washington Post’s Jamilla Bey. ‘Any woman who dares admit that she is anything other than a virginal “Madonna” is rebuked and intimidated into silence and shame. And this tactic is profoundly dangerous in this context of helping to ensure women’s health.’

It appears that slut-shaming, both when literally using the word “slut” or using subtler terms, is arguably alive and well.

As to whether movements such as SlutWalk have the power to reclaim such words and recast the sexualities inferred, and whether such reclamations are even a fruitful way of proceeding, remains to be seen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *