Yes, I know this isn’t the first horrible thing Rush Limbaugh has said. Trust me, if anyone knows that, it’s me. I grew up listening to my father listen to Rush. I remember when Limbaugh had his own television show and I remember sitting on my father’s lap at age 4 or 5 and laughing at the show’s silly caricatures of Bill Clinton.
I remember singing along with the parody songs he played on his show long before I was old enough to actually know what they meant. I remember learning at a young about “feminazis” and “environmentalist wackos,” and I remember the shame and fear I felt when I finally got old enough to realize that I was the kind of person that Rush Limbaugh made fun of while my father laughed along.
So, no, I wasn’t surprised when Rush Limbaugh accused Sandra Fluke of “wanting us to pay for her to have sex.” I wasn’t shocked when he called her a prostitute and a “slut.” Hell, I really wasn’t even shocked when he demanded over the air on public radio that she send him sex tapes of herself.
But this case felt personal, for some reason. Perhaps it was because Sandra Fluke spoke up for millions of women when she tried to testify at Issa’s all-male congressional hearing on birth control. Perhaps it the gross inaccuracies of Limbaugh’s remarks. Or perhaps it was just the fact that I’ve been called “slut” over and over by an exboyfriend, who used my “slut” status to justify sexually assaulting and raping me.
But I know I’m not alone. This felt personal to many women.
When Limbaugh attacked Fluke, he attacked us all. As Fluke herself said in response to this:
No woman deserves to be disrespected in this manner. This language is an attack on all women, and has been used throughout history to silence our voices
Some of us have had enough of being silenced.
We’re signing petitions.
And yes we know that our efforts to get Limbaugh off the air are likely futile. He’s too big and too powerful and makes his sponsors and networks too much money. We probably won’t even hear an apology from him.
But that doesn’t mean that our efforts are worthless.
You see, we live in a culture where people choose not to recognize words like “slut” as the derogatory slurs that they are–where people continue to throw around this word used to dehumanize and to justify/excuse rape, harassment, and abuse like it’s nothing.
We live in a culture where it is socially acceptable to sexually harass a woman in public. Where a woman can hardly go out in public without hearing awful things yelled at her from behind the half-rolled up window of a car. Where if a woman is harassed, it is her fault.
And Rush Limbaugh has been perpetuating this culture for years.
By standing up to Rush Limbaugh, I am making a statement to my friends and family that still listen to the man that his behavior was not acceptable.
I am making a statement to society that women should not be treated this way.
I am making a statement to my fellow women that they do not deserve to be treated this way.
I am making a statement to Limbaugh’s sponsors that such behavior does not go unnoticed.
And, maybe, just maybe, if we’re all reeeeeally loud, that statement will reach ears that are important enough to take care of the problem. And hey, if not, our statement was not in vain.
We still challenged rape and abuse culture. We still told the world that sexual harassment and gendered slurs are wrong. We have to start somewhere.
If you haven’t heard the story yet–WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!?!–I give you permission to read that story on Rush’s website but ONLY that story! (I know it’s tempting to rage-read but DON’T DO IT! Save yourself the agony! Come back here and look at my adorable kittens instead!) And then consider standing up to Rush Limbaugh by using one of the methods I mentioned above, or come up with your own creative form of activism and share it in the comments.
You don’t have to contribute. I understand that we all need to pick our battles and maybe this one isn’t yours and I get that. But I’d like to ask for your encouragement and support. I’m already getting some pretty hurtful backlash.
But despite the dissenting voices, I’ve picked my battle. After almost 20 years of letting his harmful words bounce around in my head, I’m finally standing up to Rush Limbaugh. I’m finally letting my family and friends know that when they laugh at his jokes, they enable abuse and silence the voices of survivors. I’m finally directing my anger into positive energy.
Who’s with me?
Update since I wrote this last night: Some of Limbaugh’s sponsors have already pulled out thanks to our efforts! Maybe this isn’t as hopeless as we thought!