Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘“Battle of the Sexes”’

When 30 year-old Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke tried to testify in favor of health insurance-covered contraception at a Congressional hearing (and, after being blocked by Rep. Darrell Issa R-CA, then had to issue her extremely articulate testimony via YouTube), Rush Limbaugh had this to say in return:

[She] 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. The johns.

Maureen Dowd – herself a past target of Limbaugh’s name-calling — took him down in the New York Times Sunday Review, point by point, starting with the fact that he implies that birth control is a “welfare entitlement,” when, of course, it’s not: employers and insurance companies would cover contraception, not tax dollars. And

Mother Jones pointed out that Rush, a Viagra fan, might be confusing the little blue pill and birth control, since “when and how much sex you have is unrelated to the amount of birth control you need.”

But let’s assume he wasn’t confusing the two little pills. Let’s assume he was well aware that his “welfare entitlement” remark was factually inaccurate. Let’s assume he knew exactly how wrong he was. No, wait! Let’s assume he really believed he was right – and still, rather than laying out a rational argument — he instead took the desperate-for-attention, cowardly bully’s way out. Slut! Neener neener.

Pretty much every single time we write about feminism on the HuffingtonPost, at least one or two commenters will appear, calling us ugly. Fat. Man-hating. Feminazis. Yet rarely do these haters bother to address the issue at hand, whatever we happened to be writing about on that particular day. That’s because it’s not about the issues. Tossing Pee-Wee Herman-caliber barbs is easy. Ridiculous as they may be, taking them is a little harder. I mean, I don’t think I’m ugly (calling all haters, here’s your chance to disagree!), but that doesn’t really matter. It still stings. And Limbaugh and Internet commenters and schoolyard bullies and others like them count on that: if a woman knows that standing up for, say insurance-covered birth control will have her publicly labeled a slut, she’s probably that much more likely to keep mum (and to continue shelling out for it, out of her own pocket).

It all reminds me of something I wrote about a while back, about a conversation I’d come across between journalists Joan Walsh and Gail Collins, ahead of the release of Collins’ book “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women From 1960 to the Present.”

I was struck by some of what Collins said in the final clip, when Walsh asked her about Billy Jean King, who Collins frames in the book as a real-life feminist hero. Talking about the much-hyped “Battle of the Sexes,” in which King wiped the court with a not-at-the-top-of-his-game Bobby Riggs (who, even when he was at the top of his game, wasn’t all that threatening), Collins said the following:

The importance of it to me was that women who fought for women’s rights in the 60s and 70s did not get hosed down, or attacked by snarling dogs, or thrown in jail; they got laughed at. And humiliation and embarrassment was the great huge club that people used to keep women in line.

How much has really changed?

Some of Rush’s advertisers have dropped off, and President Obama himself gave Fluke a call, telling her that her parents should be proud. The Senate (barely) voted down a bill that would allow insurers and employers to deny contraception coverage based on any “religious or moral” objection. Rush “apologized.” So, that’s progress.

There are those who say Limbaugh’s whole schtick is to be outrageous. It’s about ratings, they argue. So I guess real progress will happen when grown-ups no longer choose to listen to grown men behaving like children, or defend grown men behaving like children on the grounds that it’s “entertaining.”

It’s not entertaining. It’s pathetic. And to those who may disagree, I’d love to hear it. And to those who may disagree but will instead insult me, I say: I know you are, but what am I?

Read Full Post »

Yesterday afternoon, with Barbara’s post simmering in my mind, I came across a piece that struck a chord: part written synopsis, part video Q&A (yay, Internet!) between Salon.com’s Joan Walsh and Gail Collins, author of the new book “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women From 1960 to the Present,” which Barbara wrote about a while back, it’s a must read (and watch).

And, given the gist of yesterday’s post–about the impossibility of shucking your seventh grade skin, and the eternal tyranny of the mean girls–I was struck by some of what Collins said in the final clip, when Walsh asked her about Billy Jean King, who Collins frames in the book as a real-life feminist hero. Talking about the much-hyped “Battle of the Sexes,” in which King wiped the court with a not-at-the-top-of-his-game Bobby Riggs (who, even when he was at the top of his game, wasn’t all that threatening), Collins said the following:

The importance of it to me was that women who fought for women’s rights in the 60s and 70s did not get hosed down, or attacked by snarling dogs, or thrown in jail; they got laughed at. And humiliation and embarrassment was the great huge club that people used to keep women in line.

And, right after that, stars clearly in full alignment, I came across this piece from the Cornell Daily Sun, called “Where’s My Post-Feminist Manifesto?” In it, Julie Block writes:

As an American, fairly privileged girl in this day and age, admitting that you are a feminist and that you believe it’s still necessary to fight for women’s rights even among other fairly privileged girls can sometimes leave you high and dry in the popularity department.

While Block’s talking about coming to own the label “feminist” (which I wrote about some moons ago), the fact remains: That club Collins talks about? It’s pretty powerful. No one wants to be laughed at. We care what other people think, whether we’re talking about being dissed by those who believe that to be a feminist is to be a man-and-razor-hating lesbian, or being snubbed by the mean girls from seventh grade we’ve reconnected with and hope will be impressed enough with the way we’ve chosen to live our life that they’ll want to be our friend this time around, or our real friends, who’ve made different choices–and might or might not be dropping some snark about our own when our backs are turned. Oh sure, we say we don’t care, but Collins has done her research. The woman has chronicled fifty years of womanity. And I daresay, when it comes down to our choices, the fear that, to quote the Jerky Boys, they’re all gonna laugh at you–well, it’s a lot more powerful than we’d care to admit.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom. Far from it. In fact, among the many rays of hope Collins offered, this bit caught my ear:

If you look back in our history, the times that women tended to do best in the sense that they had more opportunity and more room to maneuver are always the kind of chaotic times.

Why would that leave me hopeful? It seems to me, the current world is nothing if not chaotic. (In fact, I wrapped a birthday present today in newspaper and had my choice of headlines: War. Unemployment. Swine flu…. God bless you, Tiger Woods.) So here’s to a chaos loud enough to drown out the laughter, and the strength not to care, to pick up the racket and serve it up anyway–exactly the way we want to–even when we do hear it. And then we’ll see who’s laughing.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 229 other followers