Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Women's Day:
Pro-Women or Poseurs?

by Libby Sternberg

How serendipitous--a week after conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh called reproductive rights activist Sandra Fluke a "slut" for her advocacy for free contraception, we have arrived at... International Women's Day. 

I'm sure all those who steamed with outrage over Rush's offensive remarks will now be hurrying to champion other women's issues--say, their right to drive or hold office in places like Saudi Arabia; oh, or maybe their right not to be stoned for adultery in Iran; or, perhaps, in a desire to "act locally" with their support of women, condemning misogynist remarks from all high-profile individuals whenever they occur.

My guess, however, is that the Outrage Herd has moved on. They achieved their goal with Rush. No, not his apology. Rather, his loss of advertisers.

Because that was really the point, wasn't it? Not so much to protect a woman's right to speak out but to put the kibosh on Rush speaking out on anything.

Yes, that's a cynical view, but it's grounded in history. As Democrat Kirsten Powers has pointed out so well, liberal commentators such as Bill Maher, Ed Schultz, and Keith Olbermann have spewed far worse, far more ugly remarks about conservative women to virtually no reaction from the current "pro-women" crowd.

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin has a stomach-churning column on what she has been called over the years by notables and quotables, everything from the relatively mild "Manila whore" to the utterly base comment of a Rolling Stone writer that he likes to imagine her with male testicles in her mouth every time he reads her columns. (I apologize--he used far more colorful language, but there's no polite way of describing his comment.)

And, although this won't be popular with the Sarah Palin-hating crowd, the former Alaskan Governor was the victim of the biggest double standard of them all--her utterances on public policy were mocked relentlessly while her opponent in the 2008 campaign, now Vice President Joe Biden, made gaffe after public gaffe and received the standard "good old boy" reaction: That's just good ole Joe; he's one of us, you know.

Yet the response to these calumnies against women from the Outrage Herd: crickets.

Actually, the reaction is far worse, in my opinion. It's not just silence, it's both implicit and explicit endorsement. After all, if folks like David Axelrod, the president's senior campaign adviser, feel free to condemn Rush Limbaugh in one breath and book an appearance on Bill Maher's show in the next, what does that tell us about his true views on women? Isn't he saying, with a cynical wink, "Uh, I'm with you, ladies, except, you know, when a  misogynist benefits me and my pal here. And anyway, that's just good ole Bill; he's one of us, you know."

Okay, so he's a guy. He doesn't get it. What about women leaders, feminists? Can they muster even a scintilla of anger at these problems on the left? Guess not.

I grew up in an era when, during a grade school debate, the boys in the class argued a woman wasn't qualified to be president. I grew up in a time when some women hid the fact that they could type from their bosses, knowing if they revealed they had that skill, they'd be doing the grunt work in the office and nothing more. I came into adulthood when you could bet money on the fact that a woman was being paid less than a man for the same job. And I worked in some situations where a woman's voice in a strategy meeting wasn't heard until a man repeated what she said.

So, while I'm not a placard-waving feminist--there are many issues on which I disagree with my sisters--I'm keenly aware of women's ongoing struggles.

But I'm not fooled by the current uproar over Rush's remark about Sandra Fluke. If he had said the same thing about a conservative, today's new pro-women warriors would be hiding in the tall grass, chirping softly away.
Libby Sternberg is a novelist. When she lived in Vermont, she served on the Vermont Commission on Women.


  1. The partisan silence of the left in general and feminists in particular regarding slurs against conservative women reflects badly on them and undercuts what they purport to stand for. Which makes you wonder just what it is they do stand for.

  2. Great article. It's so true--these people are not pro-woman; they are pro-their own agenda, regardless of how many women are hurt to achieve it. It's sick and wrong, and all women should be disgusted.