Faux-Apology Not Accepted: Fire Rush Limbaugh for His Hateful Misogyny

March 4, 2012
By
By Soraya Chemaly

Rush Limbaugh’s limp quasi-apology to Sandra Fluke isn’t good enough. Clear Channel Communications, the largest radio station owner in the US, should fire him and establish a precedent whereby media commentators understand that misogynistic language and attitudes are unacceptable and career-ending. An apology from Mr. Limbaugh is insufficient and unacceptable if we are serious about women’s rights, equality and ability to participate in civil public discourse. Listening to Limbaugh talk about Sandra Fluke was #Mencallmethings 101.

Why is our nation even having this conversation about this man and his sexist abuse? Replace anything that Rush Limbaugh said with its ugly racist equivalent…Right. Moving right along. The entire planet has spent the last two hundred years coming to terms with the implications of race and class on society. Now some people are having the dawning realization that gender is salient too. Rush Limbaugh and his ilk are rooted in a dying paradigm. It is so time to bid it farewell and this is as good a start as any.

First, Limbaugh did not “just,” as he claims, “illustrate an absurdity with the absurd,” and “choose the wrong words.” He used vitriolic hate speech in an attempt to belittle and degrade a woman, and by extension most other women, while discussing a serious issue in a public forum. Jack DeGoia, president of Georgetown University, said in his letter of support for Fluke, “This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people. One need not agree with her substantive position to support her right to respectful free expression.” The use of the word “slut” to put a woman in her place, the dominant Republican party-theme this primary season, should be as unacceptable as once-but-no-longer-acceptable racist equivalents. Thank god Sandra Fluke is not a woman of color or this could have been even uglier. In addition to the language itself, there was Limbaugh’s request that she videotape sex and share it for his consumption. This, I agree, is absurd – but not in the same way Limbaugh meant it. He actually uses the following phrases in his apology: “What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line?” and not in an “attempt to be humorous.”

Second, he’s not just an “entertainer” he’s an influential “MissRepresenter” and it is causing serious problems for our country. To claim, as Rick Santorum did, that Limbaugh is an entertainer and by extension not important or culturally relevant is disingenuous to say the least. But, Limbaugh is not the only media misogynist out there and firing him would be an important precedent.  Remember Ed Schultz’s “right-wing slut” episode last year?  Media commentators on the left and the right regularly ridicule and insult women in mean-spirited, highly gendered ways and laugh it off as lame attempts at humor.  Consider what happens to women politicians if they have the audacity to appear on television or radio and take strong, confident positions on anything other than domestic work. A recent study revealed the degree to which sexism undid Hilary Clinton’s presidential chances. The sexist ways that women candidates are discussed are endless: Sly jokes about brooms, mops, dusting rags abound; references to nut-crackers, ball-breakers, harried husbands; nags, bitches, ‘hos, bimbos, “boobgate” on and on and on. Widespread acceptance of misogynistic language and public sexist bullying is a serious problem to equality and a deterrent to women’s running for office. Sexist language is as offensive as racist language, but it is still acceptable in our culture. That is unacceptable. Can you imagine what people would say if media commentators, analysts and reporters had, as Jeff Greenfield has pointed out, talked about President Obama shining their shoes the way the joked about Hillary Clinton doing laundry and vacuuming?

Third, Limbaugh only said out loud what lots of social conservatives think about Sandra Fluke and all women who defend women’s rights. (And, if they’re sluts, well, that must make any man that shares their beliefs “gay,” right?) The only way you can celebrate a Momma Grizzly is if you denigrate a Feminazi Slut. Traditional ideas about men, women and their “complementary roles” rely on Madonna/whore stereotypes. Slut-shaming is par for the course in the time-warp, backlash environment that regressive social conservatives want to reinstate. It’s how Herman Cain could believe he hadn’t done anything “inappropriate” and have an entire army of people defend him against allegations of obvious sexual harassment. Limbaugh’s mansplaining is just another flavor of the responses to his assault on Sandra Fluke from the leaders of the Right.

John Boehner: “inappropriate.”

Rick Santorum: “…an entertainer can be absurd.”

Mitt Romney: “not the language I would have used…”

These men, and Limbaugh’s core audience, don’t fundamentally disagree with Limbaugh and are having a hard time drumming up convincing condemnations of his behavior. “Inappropriate” would be if Limbaugh wore blue jeans to a black tie wedding. “Absurd” would be if he’d claimed aliens had used nanotechnology to encrypt his brain with slut-shaming memes and he had no control over what he said. And, as Maureen Dowd asked earlier today, what’s the right “language” to call a woman a slut?  Republicans who understand what the real problem this poses for their party must be thanking god for George Will today.

Lastly, Limbaugh’s apology appears, to say the least, cynical. In the first place, I agree with Pat LaMarche, who made the point that all this press is good for Limbaugh and Clear Channel. But, in terms of the apology – no one takes it seriously and that’s a slap in the face to all women. Did no one ever teach him as a child how to apologize?  It is arguable that what saved Ed Schultz job last year was his apparently genuine unqualified remorse for what he called his “terribly vile” behavior.  Not only does Limbaugh seem to feel no remorse, but he continues to defend himself. As pointed out by writer Rachel Larris at the Women’s Media Center: “In a statement of 192 words long Limbaugh uses only 55 words to say he was sorry and the other 137 to continue to argue that he’s actually right.”

I am not in favor of the “take him down” approach to people or problems. And, as a woman feminist writer I am particularly careful about how easy it is for my words to be turned against me by a media culture steeped in 30 years of backlash against feminism. But, this man and his attitudes are not just harmless entertainment. Even if the senior management of Clear Channel doesn’t understand what the big deal is, they must have at least one person in their Marketing Department that can explain what the future looks like and Rush Limbaugh is not it. So, even if it’s for selfish profit reasons, do the right thing and fire Rush Limbaugh. It would give “Pink Slip” a whole new meaning.

_______________________________

Soraya L. Chemaly writes about gender, feminism and culture for The Huffington Post, Fem2.0, RHReality Check, BitchFlicks, The Good Men Project and Alternet.  Her work focuses on pushing academic feminism into mainstream critiques of popular culture, through satirical humour and news analysis.  She is particularly interested in how systems of bias and oppression are transmitted to children through entertainment, media and religious cultures. She holds a History degree from Georgetown University, where she founded that schools first feminist undergraduate journal,  and studied post-grad at Radcliffe College.

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36 Responses to Faux-Apology Not Accepted: Fire Rush Limbaugh for His Hateful Misogyny

  1. Koritha Mitchell on March 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    What an excellent and important piece! Yes, american public discourse often seems to rely on the denigration of women. It's so pervasive that noticing it can become challenging. Or, at least, we are discouraged from noticing it because it's so common that doing so can be exhausting. Like this author, I prefer the idea of working to reform people rather than banishing them, but Chemaly is right to call for Limbaugh's termination, especially given that he's not the least bit interested in changing. And this is so key: "But, Limbaugh is not the only media misogynist out there and firing him would be an important precedent." Thank you for your rigor, your courage, and your voice, Soraya L. Chemaly!

    • Soraya L. Chemaly on March 5, 2012 at 4:06 am

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm not sure what it takes to illustrate the obvious wrongness of this situation….

  2. Koritha Mitchell on March 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    What an excellent and important piece! Yes, american public discourse often seems to rely on the denigration of women. It's so pervasive that noticing it can become challenging. Or, at least, we are discouraged from noticing it because it's so common that doing so can be exhausting. Like this author, I prefer the idea of working to reform people rather than banishing them, but Chemaly is right to call for Limbaugh's termination, especially given that he's not the least bit interested in changing. And this is so key: "But, Limbaugh is not the only media misogynist out there and firing him would be an important precedent." Thank you for your rigor, your courage, and your voice, Soraya L. Chemaly!

    • Soraya L. Chemaly on March 5, 2012 at 4:06 am

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm not sure what it takes to illustrate the obvious wrongness of this situation….

  3. Koritha Mitchell on March 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    What an excellent and important piece! Yes, american public discourse often seems to rely on the denigration of women. It's so pervasive that noticing it can become challenging. Or, at least, we are discouraged from noticing it because it's so common that doing so can be exhausting. Like this author, I prefer the idea of working to reform people rather than banishing them, but Chemaly is right to call for Limbaugh's termination, especially given that he's not the least bit interested in changing. And this is so key: "But, Limbaugh is not the only media misogynist out there and firing him would be an important precedent." Thank you for your rigor, your courage, and your voice, Soraya L. Chemaly!

    • Soraya L. Chemaly on March 5, 2012 at 4:06 am

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm not sure what it takes to illustrate the obvious wrongness of this situation….

  4. Koritha Mitchell on March 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    What an excellent and important piece! Yes, american public discourse often seems to rely on the denigration of women. It's so pervasive that noticing it can become challenging. Or, at least, we are discouraged from noticing it because it's so common that doing so can be exhausting. Like this author, I prefer the idea of working to reform people rather than banishing them, but Chemaly is right to call for Limbaugh's termination, especially given that he's not the least bit interested in changing. And this is so key: "But, Limbaugh is not the only media misogynist out there and firing him would be an important precedent." Thank you for your rigor, your courage, and your voice, Soraya L. Chemaly!

    • Soraya L. Chemaly on March 5, 2012 at 4:06 am

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm not sure what it takes to illustrate the obvious wrongness of this situation….

  5. Dennis on March 4, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Limbaugh should be treated like Imus was for his nappy headed hoe comment. Or Howard Cosell's jumping monkey. Being a Republican voice doesn't make a drug addict special.

    • Soraya L. Chemaly on March 5, 2012 at 4:07 am

      it just goes on and on and on – I'm hoping that there will be a serious aging out soon…

  6. Dennis on March 4, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Limbaugh should be treated like Imus was for his nappy headed hoe comment. Or Howard Cosell's jumping monkey. Being a Republican voice doesn't make a drug addict special.

    • Soraya L. Chemaly on March 5, 2012 at 4:07 am

      it just goes on and on and on – I'm hoping that there will be a serious aging out soon…

  7. Dennis on March 4, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Limbaugh should be treated like Imus was for his nappy headed hoe comment. Or Howard Cosell's jumping monkey. Being a Republican voice doesn't make a drug addict special.

    • Soraya L. Chemaly on March 5, 2012 at 4:07 am

      it just goes on and on and on – I'm hoping that there will be a serious aging out soon…

  8. Dennis on March 4, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Limbaugh should be treated like Imus was for his nappy headed hoe comment. Or Howard Cosell's jumping monkey. Being a Republican voice doesn't make a drug addict special.

    • Soraya L. Chemaly on March 5, 2012 at 4:07 am

      it just goes on and on and on – I'm hoping that there will be a serious aging out soon…

  9. Tanisha King-Taylro on March 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    This is very well said. Firing him would definitely set precedent as he has been utilizing his freedom of speech to degrade women for quite some time. Furthermore, they fired a black actor from the TV show grey's anatomy due to offensive language to a white homosexual so this should be no different. I enjoyed reading this, Tanisha King-Taylor

    • Soraya L. Chemaly on March 5, 2012 at 4:07 am

      All KINDS of double standards being used in these discussions…it's really disconcerting.

    • Fantomex12 on March 18, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      Firing him would be stupid, and is problematic in that we'd be depriving him of his right to free speech.

      I don't love Limbaugh, and think that he's nothing but a racist moron with a big mouth and a small willy compensating for said defect by doing what he does. But to deprive him of his right to free speech by having him fired sets a deadly precedent of other people, male or female, left or right, be fired for saying something that somebody would find offensive (like what happened to this commedian for being against the Iraq War.) It could also be used against any left-leaning person who has a public voice, and also against any feminists as well. Do we all want to see that happen? If people press for this to happen to Limbaugh, that's the precedent that will be set.

  10. Tanisha King-Taylro on March 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    This is very well said. Firing him would definitely set precedent as he has been utilizing his freedom of speech to degrade women for quite some time. Furthermore, they fired a black actor from the TV show grey's anatomy due to offensive language to a white homosexual so this should be no different. I enjoyed reading this, Tanisha King-Taylor

    • Soraya L. Chemaly on March 5, 2012 at 4:07 am

      All KINDS of double standards being used in these discussions…it's really disconcerting.

    • Fantomex12 on March 18, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      Firing him would be stupid, and is problematic in that we'd be depriving him of his right to free speech.

      I don't love Limbaugh, and think that he's nothing but a racist moron with a big mouth and a small willy compensating for said defect by doing what he does. But to deprive him of his right to free speech by having him fired sets a deadly precedent of other people, male or female, left or right, be fired for saying something that somebody would find offensive (like what happened to this commedian for being against the Iraq War.) It could also be used against any left-leaning person who has a public voice, and also against any feminists as well. Do we all want to see that happen? If people press for this to happen to Limbaugh, that's the precedent that will be set.

  11. Tanisha King-Taylro on March 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    This is very well said. Firing him would definitely set precedent as he has been utilizing his freedom of speech to degrade women for quite some time. Furthermore, they fired a black actor from the TV show grey's anatomy due to offensive language to a white homosexual so this should be no different. I enjoyed reading this, Tanisha King-Taylor

    • Soraya L. Chemaly on March 5, 2012 at 4:07 am

      All KINDS of double standards being used in these discussions…it's really disconcerting.

    • Fantomex12 on March 18, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      Firing him would be stupid, and is problematic in that we'd be depriving him of his right to free speech.

      I don't love Limbaugh, and think that he's nothing but a racist moron with a big mouth and a small willy compensating for said defect by doing what he does. But to deprive him of his right to free speech by having him fired sets a deadly precedent of other people, male or female, left or right, be fired for saying something that somebody would find offensive (like what happened to this commedian for being against the Iraq War.) It could also be used against any left-leaning person who has a public voice, and also against any feminists as well. Do we all want to see that happen? If people press for this to happen to Limbaugh, that's the precedent that will be set.

  12. Tanisha King-Taylro on March 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    This is very well said. Firing him would definitely set precedent as he has been utilizing his freedom of speech to degrade women for quite some time. Furthermore, they fired a black actor from the TV show grey's anatomy due to offensive language to a white homosexual so this should be no different. I enjoyed reading this, Tanisha King-Taylor

    • Soraya L. Chemaly on March 5, 2012 at 4:07 am

      All KINDS of double standards being used in these discussions…it's really disconcerting.

    • Fantomex12 on March 18, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      Firing him would be stupid, and is problematic in that we'd be depriving him of his right to free speech.

      I don't love Limbaugh, and think that he's nothing but a racist moron with a big mouth and a small willy compensating for said defect by doing what he does. But to deprive him of his right to free speech by having him fired sets a deadly precedent of other people, male or female, left or right, be fired for saying something that somebody would find offensive (like what happened to this commedian for being against the Iraq War.) It could also be used against any left-leaning person who has a public voice, and also against any feminists as well. Do we all want to see that happen? If people press for this to happen to Limbaugh, that's the precedent that will be set.

  13. sharon on March 5, 2012 at 4:19 am

    Rush Limbaugh should be fired. We don't need hate mongers on our air waves who target the ignorant people in our country.

  14. sharon on March 5, 2012 at 4:19 am

    Rush Limbaugh should be fired. We don't need hate mongers on our air waves who target the ignorant people in our country.

  15. sharon on March 5, 2012 at 4:19 am

    Rush Limbaugh should be fired. We don't need hate mongers on our air waves who target the ignorant people in our country.

  16. sharon on March 5, 2012 at 4:19 am

    Rush Limbaugh should be fired. We don't need hate mongers on our air waves who target the ignorant people in our country.

  17. Nancy Lee Garrett on March 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    I am tired of women being subjugated. Lincoln freed the slaves. However, women
    of all colors are not truly free. Women are not free to earn decent living salary. We are not free from spousal abuse and other violent acts perpetrated by men. We are not free to choose what we can do or not do to our own bodies. I want Rush Limbaugh fired because; he denigrates women and is a racist. I want Limbaugh fired so he can be an example to others like him, that we will not tolerate this kind of misconduct.
    Every day in every American city you will find and article in your local newspaper or on your local TV News; about a women being raped, battered or killed by men, most of the time it was perpetrated by a spouse or boyfriend. Did you know that women commit less than 10% of the crime rate? Also, around 50% of the women in jail for murder; these women killed their spouse or boyfriend to protect themselves or their children. What does that say about men?

  18. Nancy Lee Garrett on March 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    I am tired of women being subjugated. Lincoln freed the slaves. However, women
    of all colors are not truly free. Women are not free to earn decent living salary. We are not free from spousal abuse and other violent acts perpetrated by men. We are not free to choose what we can do or not do to our own bodies. I want Rush Limbaugh fired because; he denigrates women and is a racist. I want Limbaugh fired so he can be an example to others like him, that we will not tolerate this kind of misconduct.
    Every day in every American city you will find and article in your local newspaper or on your local TV News; about a women being raped, battered or killed by men, most of the time it was perpetrated by a spouse or boyfriend. Did you know that women commit less than 10% of the crime rate? Also, around 50% of the women in jail for murder; these women killed their spouse or boyfriend to protect themselves or their children. What does that say about men?

  19. Nancy Lee Garrett on March 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    I am tired of women being subjugated. Lincoln freed the slaves. However, women
    of all colors are not truly free. Women are not free to earn decent living salary. We are not free from spousal abuse and other violent acts perpetrated by men. We are not free to choose what we can do or not do to our own bodies. I want Rush Limbaugh fired because; he denigrates women and is a racist. I want Limbaugh fired so he can be an example to others like him, that we will not tolerate this kind of misconduct.
    Every day in every American city you will find and article in your local newspaper or on your local TV News; about a women being raped, battered or killed by men, most of the time it was perpetrated by a spouse or boyfriend. Did you know that women commit less than 10% of the crime rate? Also, around 50% of the women in jail for murder; these women killed their spouse or boyfriend to protect themselves or their children. What does that say about men?

  20. Nancy Lee Garrett on March 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    I am tired of women being subjugated. Lincoln freed the slaves. However, women
    of all colors are not truly free. Women are not free to earn decent living salary. We are not free from spousal abuse and other violent acts perpetrated by men. We are not free to choose what we can do or not do to our own bodies. I want Rush Limbaugh fired because; he denigrates women and is a racist. I want Limbaugh fired so he can be an example to others like him, that we will not tolerate this kind of misconduct.
    Every day in every American city you will find and article in your local newspaper or on your local TV News; about a women being raped, battered or killed by men, most of the time it was perpetrated by a spouse or boyfriend. Did you know that women commit less than 10% of the crime rate? Also, around 50% of the women in jail for murder; these women killed their spouse or boyfriend to protect themselves or their children. What does that say about men?

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