A Letter To Mr. Limbaugh About Why He Is NOT Sexist Or Misgynistic

March 8th, 2012 | Categories: Gender

Dear Mr. Limbaugh,

As your controversy over your recent language has permeated the media, I have struggled to understand your comments about Sandra Fluke, a student who testified before a House committee on the use of contraception for women’s health issues. I wondered why a celebrity such yourself would make such obviously offensive comments. As a stereotype guru, I am loathe to attribute these to merely stupidity, your sexism, your class-ism, or your psychological dysfunction, although some have. I am writing to help you grapple with your own use of the stereotype, which no doubt even you in retrospect, are confused about.

Although you inundated the public with many sexist and misogynistic comments, I would argue that this was neither your intent nor your real opinion of women. Rather you communicated the stereotype as a poor communication choice in order to make an otherwise non-stereotypical point.

Just to refresh our memories, recall that you said the following:

What does it say about the college co-ed Susan (sic) Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? Makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps. . . . So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.

All of your comments boil down to one stereotype: women are not supposed to want to have sex. If they do then according to you they are sluts, prostitutes, and pornographers. So can we say you are sexist for these comments? Well, let’s look at it further.

Your stereotype is an extension of a thought. We know this because the stereotype itself makes no sense in the context of this discussion on Sandra Fluke. She is talking about health issues and contraception and you are saying women shouldn’t want to have sex. The connection seems tenuous. However, your thought is intimately connected to the issue at hand, women and contraception. If women aren’t supposed to have a desire for sex, then what is the “take way” for women from the sex act? Because the comment was issued in response to a woman’s testimony on contraception, the answer is clear. Women are supposed to want to have sex for procreation, and only procreation.

So, can we say you are sexist because you assume women, but not men, should have sex only for reproduction? Well, let’s consider this further. Did you choose the topic of gender? No. Actually, the topic of gender was chosen for you in that the House testimonies were related to Women’s health issues. So, your point might have been broader than it sounded from your comments: sex should be for procreation, regardless of gender. While this point represents a conservative viewpoint both on sex and heterosexuality, it does not suggest sexism or misogyny.

Mr. Limbaugh, you are a celebrity whose shtick is that of conservative talk radio host. Your talking point to me is clear: sex is for procreation. Had you said just that point without using stereotypes, this would not have garnered media attention. But, you communicated this point in a poor way by invoking a stereotype unnecessarily. Although you clearly had the impression that the stereotype would help you illustrate your point, you were mistaken. Even your republican compatriots understand this.

The most significant political figure to come to your ‘defense’- a potential presidential nominee- has been Mitt Romney. However, even George Will criticized him for not more aggressively responding against your comments. What Will and others don’t realize is that when Mitt Romney said, “It’s not the language I would have used,” he was not demurely agreeing with the stereotype as in the phrase “I wouldn’t go that far.” Instead Mitt was legitimately saying he would not use those words as in he would not have communicated that stereotype to make the point. That being said, he probably would be willing to state the same talking point: sex is for procreation.

Rush, don’t be too worried about the backlash you have been facing. You are not the only celebrity to have been busted by the media and its public for communicating stereotypes. My celebrity gallery, where you too will someday be honored, represents others who have inadvertently used stereotypes to make their otherwise non-stereotypical points. An article about my work (pp. 22-23) discusses how people do this in everyday conversation as well. This suggests that ultimately your biggest problem is not that you communicated a stereotype but rather that you were a celebrity who did so.

Your comments will be forgotten at some point in the not too distant future as is often the case when celebrities communicate stereotypes. The few who remain interested after that will have to locate them online in places like my celebrity gallery. That being said, Mr. Limbaugh, in the future if you want to make a point I recommend you refrain from using stereotypes to do so.


The Stereotype Guru

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