Dear Reader, Recently, Rush Limbaugh, a radio talk show host, came under fire for his comments about Sandra Fluke. Ms. Fluke is a 30-year-old Georgetown law student who chose to attend this college because of her beliefs as a women’s rights activist. At the time, providing insurance coverage for female contraception was being debated in Congress, so she spoke up and was brought to testify. Why is this important? For all the talk of how far we have come in women’s rights, the issue of contraception puts us right back at the start. According to Fluke,
“[W]ithout insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school.”
What of those who cannot afford it? As Margaret Sanger wrote in her 1920 essay, “The Right to One’s Body,” denying a woman birth control means she loses control over her own body, for she cannot do what she wants without having to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. These rights to her own body were the ones Fluke tried to defend in front of Congress. However, Rush Limbaugh, the aforementioned host, made fun of her, saying,
“[S]he’s having so much sex, she’s going broke buying contraceptives and wants us to buy them… [W]hat would you call someone who wants us to pay for her to have sex — what would you call that woman? You’d call them a slut , a prostitute .”
So Limbaugh does not support paying for contraception, and says women who cannot afford it are sluts. Does that mean that any woman who wants sex for a purpose besides pregnancy is a “slut” or “prostitute”? This thoughtless comment has turned Limbaugh back to the mindset of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, a period when women had no rights and were controlled almost completely by their male caretaker. In order to completely understand what being a woman meant at that time, we may examine works inspired by authors like Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edith Wharton, and Willa Cather. Thus, by looking back at history, we may help prevent comments like Limbaugh’s and learn from past mistakes.