The Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke controversy not only won’t go away, it’s spinning off new mini-controversies at a rate that would make Dick Wolf envious. Media Matters is obsessively tracking his dwindling advertisers, veterans are trying to get his show removed from Armed Forces Radio Network, and the hubbub has gotten so loud that even lefty Bill Maher (he of Sarah Palin “c—t” fame), tweeted that he didn’t like “intimidation by sponsor pullout.”
And now we have Randi Rhodes. The liberal talk show host yesterday took issue with comments that Fox News contributor Monica Crowley made about Fluke’s testimony. Rhodes played a clip by Crowley where Crowley questioned Fluke’s assertion about how much birth control cost (Crowley did incorrectly claim that Fluke said birth control is $3000 a year, when Fluke actually said it was $1000 a year, but that is neither here nor there.) And then Rhodes said:
“You know, these women, somebody really needs to go repossess their ovaries. … Really, truly, they have no right to them. They are fabulous, little organs and they have absolutely no right to be estrogen-bearing beings. Okay? Just cut ‘em off, let ‘em go through the hot flashes, let ‘em just sit there and complain about hormone therapy, okay? Just take the ovaries and get it over with. Because they don’t deserve to have estrogen. They really don’t. It’s a privilege.”
(Go listen to the audio if you’d like—it sounds even worse than it reads.)
On one hand, this is just another tedious entry into which side can out-misogyny the other side (see also Bill Maher, Ed Schultz, Foster “Aspirin Between Your Knees” Friess, and others). On the other hand, this treads less-familiar ground in that Rhodes is actually advocating violence against women, and this call for violence is coming from a fellow woman. On the surface, this would appear to be hypocritical. Say what you want about how vile and crass Rush’s comments about Sandra Fluke were: They were at least representative of his belief in personal responsibility, that people should take of their own birth control needs. Rhodes dislikes Crowley’s attitude toward Sandra Fluke, so she says, essentially, that Crowley is not fit to be called a woman. That she doesn’t deserve to be a woman.
However, this is not the first time that Rhodes has trashed women with whom she’s disagreed and done so in gender-bashing terms. In 2008, Rhodes called Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton “whores” and was suspended from Air America.
I’m not going to delve into whether it’s worse for men or women to use vile language against women with whom they disagree. I will say that it can be hard to be “different”—whether you’re a liberal living in a red state, or a conservative woman surrounded by liberal colleagues. Well-publicized cases of people shouting down their opponents in an effort to silence them—like with Rush Limbaugh and now Rhodes—generally tend to backfire and create MORE attention. But by and large, such disregard and calls for violence can tend to make people think twice before speaking up, and can stunt healthy debate.
And as a colleague mentioned today when we were discussing this, “Happy International Women’s Day!”