Commentary Magazine


The Real War on Women

Women’s groups were right to be offended by Rush Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke, which were nasty, sexist and unfair. And their concern that Rush was trying to “silence” female free-birth-control activists with the vulgar attack was not unreasonable.

But if Rush’s intention was to silence his opponents, he didn’t succeed. Politicians and pundits have denounced his comments across the spectrum. He’s lost advertisers. And he eventually caved to pressure and apologized, admitting he was wrong for saying what he did.

Yet, instead of getting back to discussing the birth control policy debate, Democrats and liberals in the media have continued to rage against Limbaugh. Maybe because it’s easier to argue against an indefensible comment by a radio host than to try to convince the public that your right to pay less for birth control should override the religious rights of Catholic employers. But for the most part, the news stories on the birth control mandate have been substance-less variations on the “Limbaugh Still Under Fire for ‘Slut’ Comments” theme. And Democrats continue to use the controversy to claim the Republican Party is waging a “war on women.”

A little perspective would be useful here. A radio host with a history of saying offensive things called a birth control activist some really nasty names. He later apologized. By what standard does that amount to a Republican “war on women,” or something that should be dominating the news after two weeks?

But Democrats aren’t the only ones keeping this in the news. On the other side, conservatives have been pointing out that liberal pundits and comedians have made plenty of comments about women that are just as vulgar and offensive as Limbaugh’s. Greta Van Susteren even called for journalists to skip the White House Correspondent’s Dinner because she thinks the host, comedian Louis C.K., has made sexist remarks about female politicians.

It’s important to highlight the hypocrisy of the White House and Democratic Party when it comes to civil discourse, but this is turning into a futile competition about which side can act more offended. Getting so worked up over the words of comedians and radio shock jocks – people whose job descriptions practically require them to be offensive – is a little ridiculous.

On a partially related note, Wednesday was International Women’s Day. In Egypt, women spent it wondering whether the Islamist-majority parliament will take away their right to work when the new constitution is drafted. Female activists took to the streets in protest, all at great personal risk. That’s a real war on women, and it’s something to think about if you’re an American who’s still hyperventilating over Limbaugh’s grievous insult today, 15 days after he said it and nearly a week after he apologized. Maybe you should ask yourself whether your unappeasable outrage is based on rational concerns, or whether it’s driven by something a bit more partisan.