Beginning in late February, the bombastic right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh went on a three-day tirade against Fluke, who had testified in favor of insurance plans being required to include coverage for contraception. Limbaugh repeatedly called the 30-year-old woman a “slut” and a “prostitute,” and suggested that if the taxpayers were going to pay for her contraception, “And thus pay for you to have sex, we want you to post the videos online, so we can all watch.”
In all fairness to Mr. Romney, not a single GOP candidate wanted to attack the issue head on or call out Mr. Limbaugh for a serious error in judgement. Rush Limbaugh commands a huge Republican base, and politicians who have messed with him in the past have paid a serious price. So when cornered, Romney responded with (an almost inaudible) “It’s not the language I would have used.” Katz points out in his article,
Democrats and progressive pundits had a field day with Romney’s weak reply. Senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said he thought it was a cowardly answer, a test of leadership, and one that he [Romney] failed.
Wherever we stand politically, many of us, particularly women, felt polarized by Rush Limbaugh’s words. We are often intimately acquainted with the way media shapes and fuels unhealthy and damaging attitudes about gender. Not just about women. But about who a man should be. That a potential future leader of the United States would ignore such an opportune moment to reinforce the importance of media and its impact was distressing. I think many of us hoped for more. But the truth educators know and understand is that
“There are numerous reasons why men don’t speak up even if they are displeased or offended by the actions of their peers.”
Reasons like losing social status, political weight, friendship. There’s some kind of camaraderie that exists where some men feel uncomfortable or unable to call out another man for sexist and inappropriate language about or treatment of women. This situation with Rush Limbaugh got a lot of media attention and coverage. It could have been a powerful opportunity as Katz says,
…to encourage peers — young men and women — to challenge or interrupt abusive behavior before, during or after the fact, or to support friends who are the targets. For men in particular, the idea is to help them develop the skills to challenge the sexist attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of their peers along a continuum that ranges from telling sexist jokes with no women present all the way to relationship abuse and rape.
Because men do have a lot of power. When they stand against this type of language and action they make a significant impact in the attitudes and opinions of other men.
“Romney’s Response to Rush’s Misogyny Underscores the Need for Bystander Education” by Jackson Katz;