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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What Rush hath wrought

On the Daily Show clip in my previous post, Jon Stewart begins (after introducing the show) by noting that Rush Limbaugh's profession is to be a loathsome human being. It's just a matter of fact-- he's good at it, and has done it for over two decades with considerable success. But it's easy to forget that there are people who think otherwise. People who actually take him seriously. People who think that he has things of value to say. People who pass such messages on to their children. Who then pass them on to other children.

A Daily Kos member going by the name "beantown mom" posted an account entitled "I've spent the past two days trying to convince my 16 y/o she is not a slut." Long story short: her daughter had to go on hormonal birth control due to menorrhagia and secondary dysmenorrhea. Her daughter then went to a five day camp for band members, during which any prescription medicine had to be kept by supervisors and distributed at the beginning of each day to those who required it. Pretty standard procedure, right? Here's what happened next:
Thursday, my daughter came home from school and seemed to be a little out of sorts. I chalked it up to being tired and trying to get caught up on homework and such; however, I did ask her if everything was alright and she said yes, she thought so- it was just that at lunch there were some girls whispering and pointing at her in lunch and then they would break out into little fits of laughter. She couldn't figure out why they were singling her out but admitted that a couple of the girls were ones she had once had a problem with. They were the "popular" girls, 2 of whom were cheerleaders, and last year they had singled her out calling her names and such when they got bored and, in my daughter's words, "ran out of girls to harass and make fun of in lunch". I gave it no further consideration- we went on about our business of getting homework done, etc. Friday morning, I took my kids to school and headed off to my mother's to do some errands and such for my family. With the impending storms and bad weather bearing down on us, I sent my daughter a text that I would pick her up from school. My son had baseball so I only had to worry about her getting home. 
I pulled into the parking lot and saw that she was standing inside the doors at school, her head down and shoulders shaking- I thought she was laughing at something someone said or was looking at her phone reading something funny. I honked and waived [sic] to motion her out, not sure if she saw me. She never looked up, just pushed open the door and practically ran to the car. She flung open the door and I started to say something about the wind and rain, but stopped mid sentence because of the look on my child's face! She was sobbing, face streaked with tears, cheeks red and eyes so swollen I could hardly see her beautiful brown eyes- I slammed the car into park right in the middle of the parking lot and asked her what was wrong.
Apparently I'm a slut- a whore- a bitch who is screwing every guy in school! 
She was speaking but it wasn't making sense- who said this? What are you talking about? For a minute we were talking over each other and finally I said just get in the car and tell me what is going on! She handed me a wrinkled piece of paper. I could tell it had been opened and closed, folded and unfolded wadded up and straightened out so many times it almost looked like it was going to fall apart in my hands. 
Little miss innocent, huh? Whatever slut- you take birth control pills so you can f*&# every guy in school! What a joke- u are nothin but a whore! Pretty bad when some guy on the radio who isn't afraid to tell the truth has to break it down for everybody- if u on the Pill u are nothing but a skank ass ho! My mom said girls on the pill are tramps who just wanna get laid and don't care about nothin- is that how u are?
I thought I was going to throw up! I was crying- crying for my sweet daughter who was in a puddle on the front seat of my car, crying because I was so angry I didn't know what to do first! I drove home with one arm around my daughter and one hand on the wheel; I was saying things but for the life of me I can't remember any of what I said now. I just wanted to take the pain away from my child! I wanted to make her stop crying, wanted to erase all the horrible pain that she was feeling.
I read about this at Pandagon, where Amanda Marcotte has a pointed and optimistic essay about the ridiculous effort to portray the vast majority of American women as somehow shameful because they have or will rely on birth control at some point in their lives. That group which, statistically speaking, almost certainly includes both the bully who wrote the note above and her mother. Amanda describes such shaming as "backsliding" in a culture where hormonal birth control has been a realistic option for three generations:
These kinds of attacks on individual women---in this case, a 16-year-old girl in high school---are only effective in an environment where the bullies can imply that using contraception and/or being sexually active is deviant. The idea is to isolate the victim, make them feel weird and different, and terrify them for it. But when you have the President in the White House talking about contraception as a normal part of health care for pretty much all women, it becomes clear that being sexually active and using contraception is the national norm, as wholesome and American as apple pie. The high levels of support for the HHS mandate suggests that most Americans are already there. This panic reaction is the last gasp of the old order trying to turn back the clock, to a time where it was scandalous for people to live together without being married, to when women who have sex with their boyfriends worry about their reputation, and when contraception was seen as embarrassing, and so some people tried their luck without getting any, and usually failed.  
The thing is, as this example above shows, backsliding is possible. (If anyone in my high school was bullied for using contraception, I don't remember it.) Which is why it's more important than ever to talk about sex, and specifically how normal it is, how universal it is, what the benefits are, and to shame anyone who would say otherwise. We have the numbers on our side. We just need the courage. Remember, the people who think there's something bad about women just because they fuck are the weirdoes [sic] here. Don't be afraid to really believe that and act on it. 
Hear, hear. The word that keeps coming up for me is "irrelevant." Birth control is normal, uncontroversial, and necessary for men and women, married and unmarried, with children or without, young and old. People who try to pretend otherwise in the name of sexual propriety and are attempting to use this issue as a means to shame American women in general (and specifically) are badly out of touch, have nothing of value to say on this vital topic, and have shown themselves to be truly...irrelevant.

If you still need some levity after the above (I sure do), check out the Mother Jones "Are You A Slut" flow chart. It's ridiculous in its accuracy and accurate in its ridiculousness.

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