Rush Limbaugh has recently found himself in some pretty hot water. In response to her testimony before congress, Rush called Sandra Fluke a “slut,” a “prostitute,” and a “feminazi” because she thinks that birth control should be covered by a woman’s insurance. To date, at least 140 advertisers have left the Rush Limbaugh radio program after these comments. Unfortunately, this kind of sexist language is not new for Mr. Limbaugh. He is famous for saying, “Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.” He has a long history of misogyny.
In response to calls to repudiate Rush’s comments and to distance themselves from him, many on the political Right have responded, “But the left has Bill Maher, and he’s crazy sexist too!”
The problem with this tit-for-tat approach to dealing with sexism is that it presumes that sexism is a problem of the political Left or the political Right. Sexism has nothing to do with politics. Sexism has everything to do with patriarchy and misogyny (which, in turn, affect politics).
Is Rush Limbaugh a sexist asshole? Yes! Is Bill Maher a sexist asshole? Yes! Should they both be repudiated and held to account for their history of misogynistic language? ABSOLUTELY!
It’s time for men to hold other men to account for sexism, whether they are people we agree with politically or not. We need to pressure the pro-Obama pac to return the money Bill Maher has donated just like the Limbaugh advertisers were pressured into withdrawing their support for Rush.
We live in a country founded upon free speech. People can generally say whatever they want (within certain limits) and get away with it. However, just because someone can say whatever they want doesn’t mean they should, and we have the power and right to withdraw our support for public figures who are blatantly sexist. In much the same way, we can express to our friends that it’s unacceptable for them to talk about women in ways that objectify them; we can hold our friends to account for the use of sexist language; we can work to build more accountable, anti-sexist relationships across difference.