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Policy provokes me to think and write. I currently work in ivory towers inspiring people to engage in their world. I am a student of the human condition and my classroom is the world. I don't need credentials to have an opinion but I've got paper to prove I know a few things about public health, social welfare and economics. I'm coming out of the tower and taking the words to the people and hope you will send some words back at me.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rush Limbaugh and the reputation of women

Patriarchy and Women's Sexuality

It's an interesting artifact of patriarchy that women's sexuality is prized. Thus ruining it in any way ruins the woman. The words whore and slut  become weapons that have no equivalent in the sphere of males. In honoring a woman's 'honor' we revisit the impact that this honor has on the reputation of a family. In the most extreme cases a woman is killed in order to protect the honor of her family and rape during conflict is not just about the violation of self and person but of reputation that ruins a woman's life chances.

Rush Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke

So Rush Limbaugh understood that there was no power in attacking Sandra Fluke's intelligence or her looks. Instead, he went for what would be the most inflammatory: an attack on her sexual 'purity'. Some anachronistic notion that should women have many sexual partners they are morally inferior and less worthy. Or that should they accept money for sexual pleasure then they are less than. Attitudes that prevent women from seeking recourse in the criminal justice system for sexual crimes. Attitudes that women reinforce by continuing to be outraged by 'accusations' that are no longer 'accusations' at all. The more we reinforce these social scripts that oppress us the more power these scripts have, despite slutwalks and campaigns to legalize the marketing of sexual favors.

A Woman's Reputation and the Sexual Revolution

To pressure sponsors to withdraw support from Rush Limbaugh we acknowledge that these notions about the 'sanctity' of a woman's sexual purity are indeed correct. And that calling women these names impunes their reputation, a 'false' reputation reinforced by white wedding dresses and the giving away of brides.

That Mr Limbaugh goes beyond the pale to rile up audiences and get ratings has never been in dispute. But that he went for a woman's sexual expression was not simply a factor of the context of the discussion of contraception but a social context in which a woman is still expected to restrain herself sexually. So much for the sexual revolution.

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