The debate about contraception going on in Congress and on the campaign trail--who would have thought in the year 2012 we would be having a debate about contraception!--is fascinating for exposing attitudes toward women that haven't been spoken about openly, for the most part, in years. Thanks to Rush Limbaugh, as usual, for making the issue crystal clear. He is now facing well-deserved criticism for calling a law student who publicly demanded that health insurance cover the cost of birth control pills, a slut and a prostitute. She wants the public to pay her for having sex, said Rush.
A lot of the response to these hateful comments has pointed out that birth control pills have many other legitimate uses, and in fact, those uses were the focus of Sandra Fluke's testimony. And that is an entirely appropriate response. But I have to question whether Fluke's defenders should stop there. Anybody who truly believes in equal rights for women has to stand up for more than the rights of women to use birth control pills to treat medical conditions. Let's not dance around the fact that one of the purposes of birth control pills is . . . birth control.
Anybody remember seeing Sean Hannity getting outraged--outraged!--when a
guest on his show questioned whether health insurance should cover
Viagra? That is a medical problem, he said, versus a choice to have sex. Of course it must
In other words, all men must have the right to
engage in whatever sexual activities they choose, casual or otherwise.
Women, on the other hand, traditionally fall into two categories, the
"good girls" who don't, and the sluts, who do. Men definitely want the
bad girls who are willing to engage in casual sex to be available, but men like Rush Limbaugh also want to treat them like dirt in public. That outdated attitude must be put to rest once and for all.
It's time to stop acting morally superior if Sandra Fluke or any other woman demands access to birth control pills because she
might want to have sex once in a while but would prefer not to get
pregnant. If we believe in true equality for women, it's not enough to
make the argument that birth control pills have other legitimate medical
uses, although of course they do. We have to stop stigmatizing women
who want the same freedoms men have.
UPDATE: Cheers to President Obama for calling Sandra Fluke and telling her to tell her parents they should be proud of her. Exactly the right thing to say.