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Rush Limbaugh, Contraception, and Male Insecurity

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) March 10, 2012: We've endured twenty debates among the Republican candidates who are running for the nomination as Republican candidate to run against President Obama in the 2012 election. Ho hum.


Then the Catholic bishops decided to get into the news by objecting to the Obama administration's initial contraception mandate. Under pressure from the Catholic bishops, President Obama caved in and agreed to change the mandate so that Catholic-affiliated institutions would not have to pay for their employees to have contraception coverage in their insurance plans. Sounds like a victory for the Catholic bishops, eh? Wrong. The Catholic bishops were not satisfied with having Obama cave in under their pressure. So they escalated their attacks on the entire idea of contraception coverage in insurance plans. The Catholic bishops claimed that employers should have the right to exercise their freedom of religion NOT to pay for their employees' contraception coverage in their insurance plans. Ho hum.


Next, a Republican Congressman held a hearing about the freedom of religion issue. But only male clergy-types were allowed to testify at his hearing. A third-year law student at Georgetown University, a Catholic university in Washington, D.C., named Sandra Fluke was not allowed to testify at the hearing. Ho hum.


Next, Republican Senators introduced legislation to block contraception coverage in the Affordable Care Act, which is popularly known as Obamacare. But their proposed legislation went down to defeat by a narrow margin. Ho hum.


However, along the way, Rush Limbaugh interjected himself into the discussion of contraception coverage in Obamacare. On three different days, Rush Limbaugh broadcast his vile remarks about Sandra Fluke. The first day he broadcast his vile remarks, ho hum. The second day, ho hum. But the third day, enough already!


Of course Rush Limbaugh is not the only misogynist in the country. At the high end of the spectrum of defenders of male patriarchy and male dominance, we have the Catholic bishops. And Rush Limbaugh may not even be the lowest at the low end of the spectrum of defenders of male patriarchy and male dominance. However, on a scale rating loudmouths defending male patriarchy and male dominance, Rush Limbaugh arguably tops even the outspoken Catholic bishops. He may be beloved among his regular conservative listeners, just as the Catholic bishops are apparently beloved among conservative Catholics. But he is loathed by many other people. As a result, we have had an outpouring of commentary criticizing his vile remarks about Sandra Fluke.


Let me repeat something. After the first day of Rush Limbaugh's vile remarks about Sandra Fluke, ho hum. After the second day, ho hum. But after the third day, enough already! At first blush, the delayed anger seems to illustrate the saying about giving him enough rope to hang himself with. But the delayed anger in this case also raises the question as to why there has not been more anger aroused at Rush Limbaugh over all the years that he has been broadcasting. After Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin was allowed to run amok, he was confronted at long last. "Have you no decency, sir?" The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd published a column titled with a variation on the rhetorical question that was used at long last to confront McCarthy: "Have you no shame, Rush?" Indeed, Rush Limbaugh does not have a healthy sense of shame. Why not? Read John Bradshaw's book HEALING THE SHAME THAT BINDS YOU (rev. ed. 2005). When our emotions are bound by toxic shame, we do not have a healthy sense of shame.


To be sure, the episode involving Rush Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke and the Catholic bishops on contraception is not over yet. Nevertheless, I want to offer some reflections here about the outspoken defenders of male patriarchy and male dominance. I am well aware that conservatives are not the only misogynists in the country, even though they are prominent in the contraception discussion. So let us keep this in mind.


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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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