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Posted by on Sep 6, 2012 in Politics, Society | 14 comments

Twitter Reveals an Ugly Underbelly of Misogyny

Sandra Fluke @ DNCSandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student shoved onto the national stage earlier this year when Rush Limbaugh hurled vitriol at her through the airways, took the mike at the DNC to remind voters of the stark difference between the parties on women’s health.

As speeches go, it was short (6 min) and it was focused. There were a few good (read -> zinger) lines. There was no hysteria, no whiny voice, no stridency.

Her words reminded me of the dystopian world of Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, a future where America is run by a totalitarian Christian theocracy. For example:

During this campaign, we’ve heard about the two profoundly different futures that could await women—and how one of those futures looks like an offensive, obsolete relic of our past. Warnings of that future are not distractions. They’re not imagined. That future could be real…. [It could be an] America in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it…

Listen to the speech:

Fluke got Limbaugh’s attention because she testified before a Democratic hearing on women’s health. The Republicans — leaders of the House — had no women testify at an earlier hearing.

One of the more infamous lines from Limbaugh’s tirades (there were several) follows:

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.

But he was just warming up:

What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, 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? 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. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.

That’s a deliberate — read that as intellectually dishonest — mischaracterization of her testimony. As I wrote at the time:

She reminded everyone (Rush wasn’t listening) that birth control pills are often prescribed to treat medical conditions such as ovarian cysts. Once-upon-a-time they were prescribed to help with debilitating monthly cramps (personal experience) and excessive bleeding (friends’ experiences).

But that didn’t stop Limbaugh and others of making up their facts, “facts” churned out of their own libidos.

As a warm up for the DNC, Bill O’Reilly weakly channeled Limbaugh last week during the RNC:

“When Sandra Fluke speaks next week, I wonder what they’re gonna drop from the ceiling?” He continued, “There’s only one reason this woman is speaking … so if you’re gonna drop something… ,” his voice trailed off, leaving the “something” hanging in the air, as it were. Um, was he implying the Democrats would drop contraceptives?

None of this is acceptable behavior.

But it was the reaction on Twitter after her speech that caused my stomach to knot.

We cannot remain silent in the face of such hateful rhetoric.

As I type this, I don’t know what we can do other than speak out and say “it’s wrong.”

WARNING: what follows is distasteful. Hold your nose. And if you have been a victim of sexual assault, just turn the page.


S.E.Cupp, “Co-host of MSNBC’s The Cycle at 3pm ET, author of Losing Our Religion.” NYC; 2,107 followers.

@AnnCoulter, “author.” 182K followers.

Benjamin Perkins, “Kicking coach… afl writer tipster.” Australia; 651 followers.

Nick Chaires, “Astonishingly clever, witty, hilarious & yet humble twitter-er-er.” Hollywood Hills, CA; 206 followers.

James M. Holland, “professor of political science at the Univ of Akron.” Ohio; 158 followers.
@purelyfrank, “I’m a mans man…love chicks in heels.” 406 followers.

@ItsThatBriGuy, “Math is hard. Bankruptcy is harder.” Scottsdale AZ; 1,519 followers.

@ToddKincannon, “A lot of people hate me, which I genuinely enjoy.” South Carolina; 21K followers.

@Political Poo-Poo, “If you don’t like vulgarity & humor w/ ur news, then don’t follow.” 399 followers.

@TxMike254, “We don’t need politicians in Washington DC – we need patriots.” Texas; 2,587 followers.

This problem — online and media-driven misogyny — is not insignificant. And it’s much bigger than Sandra Fluke.

Channel Howard Beale, but instead of yelling in frustration, speak up forcefully. Do not silently let these words lie uncontested, seeping ugliness until it becomes ubiquitous and an accepted norm.

Update 10:45 am Pacific
Cited in Slate: Sandra Fluke’s Speech Made Republicans Crazy. Which Is Just What the Democrats Want.

Update 11 am Pacific
A different sort of hateful rhetoric is on display in this editorial cartoon from March. No, I do not condone death threats; that’s not the way to combat misogyny.

Update 11:40 am Pacific
Here are some more tweets, including a few that express frustration.

I will continue to monitor and share. The pull is like watching a train wreck, I’m afraid. But these need to be preserved in infamy.

Part of me wants to point out grammatical errors and part of me remembers how poorly I can sometimes type on the iPad. But I would NEVER ever type “your” for “you’re.”