Meet Sandra Fluke, the Woman Rush Limbaugh Called “Slut”
This February, Georgetown University Law school student Sandra Fluke, 31, testified before Congress about why she believes insurance companies should cover birth control. Soon after, something shocking happened: Radio kingpin Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute” on air, and proposed that if taxpayers are “gonna pay for this, we want something in return…videos of all this sex posted online.” (Not to be outdone, Fox News Radio’s Todd Starnes tweeted she was a “hussy” and “trollop.”) But Fluke has some heavyweight supporters too; President Obama phoned her personally, and Limbaugh, for his part, faced sponsor backlash, losing dozens of major advertisers. Glamour spoke to the amazingly calm Fluke just days after the brouhaha.
GLAMOUR: Why did you decide to get involved in this issue?
SANDRA FLUKE: When you’re a female student at Georgetown Law, you talk about this among your friends. You try to figure out, “Do you know somewhere I can go to get contraception?” We all know it’s a problem. And it’s important to be accurate about what we are discussing here: requiring private insurance, like through employers or schools, to cover contraceptives. It has nothing to do with taxpayer money. It’s basic health care that should be covered by the insurance women pay for.
GLAMOUR: Did you expect the uproar?
SANDRA FLUKE: No. [Laughs.] I expected that there would be individuals who disagreed with my policy points and that we were going to have a legitimate debate. But no, I did not expect the personal attacks. When I first heard what Rush Limbaugh said, I was in D.C., at my computer, and a friend sent me a link to his remarks. My reaction was, “Oh no, he’s talking about my parents.” [Limbaugh had said her mother and father should be ashamed of their daughter.] It wasn’t easy to call and tell them.
GLAMOUR:You told them?
SANDRA FLUKE: I wanted them to hear it from me. They got very quiet and wanted to make sure I was OK–that was their main concern. I don’t want to have to make those kinds of phone calls ever again in my life. But I try to see this for what it is: an attack on women who are speaking out, to silence them. That said, I’m human, and sometimes it hurts more than at other times.
There were other damaging things said–really vulgar. That I was having so much sex that he was surprised I could walk to Capitol Hill. It wasn’t just that someone used impolite terms. It was the thinking that a woman who uses contraception to prevent pregnancy is a slut. It’s stunning that this is controversial in 2012.
GLAMOUR: What have you heard from other women?
SANDRA FLUKE: I’ve gotten a lot of messages–so many that I set up an email account for them, firstname.lastname@example.org–and they are really powerful. Women say, “This is what happened when I didn’t have access to contraception….” That’s what I focus on.
GLAMOUR: Are you worried that after this women won’t want to speak up about controversial issues?
SANDRA FLUKE: We need to make sure that is not the take-home message! I hope this draws young women into policy debates that affect them. Tell the people what you care about. Run for office–we need more women in office. And have faith in the process.
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