The Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke Ethics Train Wreck is over at last, but unlike with many such debacles, something positive occurred. I believe that an emphatic cultural standard was established that calling a woman—any woman, famous or not, liberal or conservative—a derogatory term designed purely to denigrate her by denigrating her gender will not be considered acceptable in political, quasi-political or arguably-political commentary henceforward. If such rhetoric occurs in a comic or entertainment context, no politician or elected official can appear to endorse the individual who utters the offensive words.
I’m not arguing right now whether this is a good or a bad development, but merely that it happened, and that it is a real change. For this to happen, a conservative radio talk show host had to use the terms “slut’ and “prostitute” to make the botched satirical point that a feminist law student activist who argued that free contraceptives were a woman’s right was the equivalent of women who wanted to be “paid for sex.” If pundits and bloggers had merely declared this statement uncivil and cruel, nothing more would have happened, and the incident would have been quickly forgotten. But sensing political points to be scored in an election year, and with the added incentive of being handed what was seen as powerful ammunition to attempt a frontal attack against a detested partisan critic, Democrats, progressives, feminists, activists, Obama strategists and left-biased journalists decided to cast the Limbaugh’s poor judgment in extreme terms. Continue reading