Nemesis List: America’s Undeclared War on Women

Blowhards and strategists position women’s rights as a wedge issue.

Sandra Fluke believed she was a citizen of a country where ideological disagreements are explored through reasoned discourse. Then she was reminded that she is a woman living in America. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty)

Mar 6, 2012
Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

Subject: Media and legislative marginalization of women.

Occupation: Using gender slurs, invasive laws and cultural wedge warfare to discredit the views of “uppity” women and to limit a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.

Crime: Undermining hard-won cross-gender respect fought for by generations of American women, such as Bella Abzug and Dagmar Wilson’s Women Strike for Peace (WSP). On November I, 1961, 50,000 WSP members walked out of their kitchens and off their jobs to protest nuclear weapons.

Cold War Nemesis Target: In December 1962, for the crime of wanting to “end the arms race instead of the human race,” the Women Strike for Peace leadership was called in front of the all-male House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and accused of being secret Communists. Attacking women and peace as un-American was a public-perception blunder that the HUAC never recovered from. Score one for women. Women Strike for Peace is credited with helping to end a Congressional inquisition that had been reigned for more than a decade.

In March 2009, Limbaugh was detained at Palm Beach International Airport, returning from the Dominican Republic. Customs officials had found a bottle of an erectile enhancing drug.

Nemesis Target 2012: Third-year Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, former president of Georgetown’s Students for Reproductive Justice, testified during a February 23 hearing before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. Fluke favors birth-control medications being covered by employer insurance policies.

Nemesis Blowhard One: On February 29, radio personality Rush Limbaugh responded to Fluke’s reasoned discourse, but not in kind. “What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke [sic], who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right?” reasoned (loose use of word) Limbaugh. “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. What does that make us? We’re the pimps…. Pimp’s not the right word. Okay, so, she’s not a slut. She’s round-heeled. I take it back.”

Blowhard One, Outburst Two: On March 1, Limbaugh clarified his position: “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. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Blowhard One’s Personal History With “the Pill”: In March 2009, Limbaugh was detained for three hours at Palm Beach International Airport, returning from the Dominican Republic. Customs officials had found a bottle of the erectile enhancing drug Viagra in Limbaugh’s luggage. The label on the pills indicated the drug had not been prescribed to Limbaugh. The Dominican Republic is a notorious sex tourism destination. “I had a great time in the Dominican Republic,” said Limbaugh. “Wish I could tell you about it.”

“Slut Shaming,” Male Style: In 1999, former presidential candidate Senator Bob Dole appeared in a television commercial marketing Viagra and was widely lauded for encouraging “men to deal with a tough problem.”

Nemesis Blowhard Two: In May 2011, MSNBC commentator Ed Schultz called conservative talk-radio host Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut” and a “radio slut.”

Nemesis Blowhard Three: In October 2009, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann described Fox News personality Michelle Malkin as a “mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick.” 

Nemesis Blowhard Four: Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi also weighed in on Malkin: “When I read her stuff, I imagine her narrating her text, book-on-tape style, with a big … in her mouth.”

Nemesis Blowhard Five: MSNBC’s Chris Matthews’s political analysis of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concentrates on the issues “she-devil,” Nurse Ratched,” “witchy,” “anti-male” and “uppity,” along with the insight that Clinton only won her Senate seat because her “husband messed around.”

Nemesis Blowhard Six: Bill Maher has tossed both the C-word and the T-word in the direction of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and commented on the harassment of a woman breast-feeding at an Applebee’s with an incisive, “Don’t show me your tits.”

Legislative War on Women Exhibit A: On February 16, 2012, California Representative Darrell Issa convened an all-male panel on birth control. He claimed to be addressing an issue of “religious freedom,” not a right of women's health.

Legislative War on Women Exhibit B: In Texas, as mandated by law, a woman seeking an abortion must submit to vaginal insertion of an ultrasound probe and monitor the audio of the fetal heartbeat. After listening as a doctor graphically details the fetus’s formative organs, the woman is told to come back in 24 hours to undergo the procedure.

Legislative War on Women Exhibit C: Voters in Mississippi rejected a proposal that would have defined life as starting at the moment of conception, outlawing all abortions and many forms of contraception. Conservative members of both parties had championed the measure.

Legislative War on Women Exhibit D: Virginia lawmakers, reacting to public outcry, modified a pre-abortion gauntlet law to eliminate mandatory invasive vaginal ultrasound, but retained the 24-hour waiting period.

Compounding its reluctance to grant women access to birth control, America’s ruling establishment has seen fit to deny guaranteed paid maternity leave to U.S. women.

Ultrasound Reasoning: National Right to Life’s Mary Spaulding Balch argues that placing an ultrasound screen in front of the patient’s eyes and requiring doctors to describe the fetus gives women information they need—without forcing them to decide if they want it.

Nemesis Irrational: Presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum demonized contraception as “dangerous” and leading to “libertinism.”

Woman on Woman Nemesis: Alaska Senator Lisa Murakowski voted “yes” on a measure that would have allowed any employer, not just religious institutions, to cite “moral reasons” in denying birth control under health insurance coverage.

Legislative War on Women Exhibit E: Compounding its reluctance to grant women access to birth control, America’s ruling establishment, unlike governments in 178 other countries, has seen fit to deny a guarantee of any paid maternity leave to U.S. women and their newborns.

Sources: Media Matters | CBS News | New York Times | Anchorage Daily News

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