We moms raise our kids to demonstrate common courtesies, to respect their elders, to not “sass.” If a bully were calling our kids names, we wouldn’t hesitate to go to the principal, the Board of Education, whoever, and whip up a dose of mama bear’s wrath for them. And we have to stand up for ourselves just as well.
During the last few days we have heard a woman, Sandra Fluke, referred to as a “slut” and even a “prostitute” for sharing her perspective.* Hearing women spoken of in these terms is not a matter of ugly politics or where’s-your-sense-of-humor entertainment. It is not okay.
Of course, it’s hardly the first time a personality (Rush Limbaugh this time) has played the sex card. The bully insult of first resort – when it’s directed toward women, anyway – is always related to sex. Call us anything except sluts; that’s our kryptonite. Since time immemorial, we’ve allowed ourselves to be intimidated by even the slightest insinuation that we are loose or “round-heeled,” as the round man said.
Why are we for one moment intimidated by the name-calling, particularly when it seems to be coming from oldish white men? Who are they to us anyway? WE make spending decisions for over 80% of the family purchases. WE make healthcare choices for our kids, spouses, and even our aging parents. And come to think of it, WE decide what’s an aspirin (for a “not tonight” headache) vs. Viagra event.
Limbaugh has since written that his “choice of words was not the best.” This was only after several advertisers dropped out under pressure. For heaven’s sake, who did they think was buying the mattresses or hinting for flower delivery?
Speaking of the men in our lives, what would your father, brother, or husband do upon hearing you called a “slut” or similar pejorative? How would your son react?
How can we demand any less respect for ourselves? WE hold the real kryptonite.
* It’s worth pointing out that Fluke’s point had to do with a friend who had contraceptive pills prescribed due to a medical condition, not birth control per se. Who hasn’t had friends who’ve been prescribed some version of hormone therapy, if not personally affected? I’ve known girls who were doubled over in pain during their menstrual cycles.
Growing up, I remember being struck by how often girlfriends would emphasize that their pills were for this or that condition and “weren’t strong enough to prevent pregnancy.” I always wondered whether that was true or whether that was just something their mamas and complicit doctors told them lest they get any ideas about unintended benefits of their prescription. Since then, I’ve known a few moms who got themselves another baby while on the low-dose versions.
For the record, the American Academy of Family Physicians notes that women using low dose birth control pills do so for the benefits of regulating menstruation, protection from ovarian or uterine cancer and prevention of bone loss. Most of us know contraceptive pills are hormones. They’re recommended even for perimenopausal women.