Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sandra Fluke Was Not A Fluke: A Secular Crisis of Faith

If I were religious, I'd say I've been undergoing a "crisis of faith" these past couple weeks. But as a rationalist/secular humanist, I can't think of any ready-made phrases to express my mood although there are initials for it: WTF?

Given the major problems facing America today -- our decaying infrastructure, growing rates of poverty, eroding civil liberties and descent into totalitarianism -- how the hell did the majority of the political right wing get the idea "Y'know what's really wrong with the USA? Too many women have too much access to contraception!"

A couple weeks ago, a woman named Sandra Fluke went before Congress to discuss health insurance coverage. Fluke mentioned a friend of hers who'd lost an ovary to an ovarian cyst, because she could not afford the hormone pills necessary to treat the cyst in its early phases, and her health insurance wouldn't pay for it because the woman's employer, who paid part of her health-insurance premiums, cited religious objections to fixing problems with women's reproductive systems.

This inspired Rush Limbaugh to spend three days calling Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute," which did not surprise me at all; I remember when Limbaugh criticized the policies of then-president Bill Clinton by holding up a photo of Clinton's daughter (who at the time was going through her gawky-adolescent ugly phase) and calling her "the official White House dog."

So, no, I don't expect reasoned commentary from someone who, as a middle-aged man, made no distinction between political commentary and insulting pre-teen girls. Limbaugh's rant didn't surprise me at all. Here's what did surprise me: when I'd go on Facebook, or visit various political blogs and forums I'm prone to frequent, all run by people I'd considered political allies of a sort (mainly self-described libertarians who claim to share my mantra "Social liberal and fiscal conservative"), I saw to my dismay how many "libertarians" favor Limbaugh's view of ovarian-cyst treatment over Fluke's.

I saw countless photos of Fluke's face with captions suggesting she wants taxpayers to buy her silk sheets, Barry White albums and vibrating dildos; captions suggesting that only whores want or need healthy reproductive systems. I saw self-described libertarians who view women's hormone pills the same way callous drug warriors view pain medicine for the dying: if there's even the theoretical possibility a drug or medical treatment can be used solely for fun -- a painkiller that can also get you high, a hormone-balancing treatment that can also let you have sex without fear of pregnancy -- then let's pretend these treatments are only used for fun, and furthermore that only irresponsible criminal loser-types would ever use those treatments. Only hopeless-loser potheads would ever use marijuana, only trashy-filth meth whores would ever buy decongestants, and only promiscuous sluts would ever take hormone pills, right?

Fun fact: based on my mother's own medical history -- she's banned for life from donating blood, because once upon a time she needed cancer-of-the-ladyparts surgery -- I'd guess I have a better-than-average chance of one day needing the same type of medical treatments Fluke discussed. If this happens, I'd certainly want my medical insurance company to cover it (assuming I actually had medical insurance at the time, but that's another matter). So, would I then see my photo plastered over the internets, with captions suggesting I'm just a freeloading slut demanding subsidized sex toys?

I posted variations of that question to the people who posted or re-posted sundry Sandra Fluke slurs on their blogs and Facebook pages, but thus far, none have had the balls to give me a direct answer.

I also read various respected libertarianish blogs -- no names mentioned, no links provided, they'd be largely interchangeable anyway -- blogs and comment threads attempting to be dispassionate, when they explained how Fluke wasn't necessarily a "slut" for talking about her friend's ovarian cyst, but was surely a whiny demander of free stuff because women who want their health insurance companies to pay for health problems involving their gender-specific body parts are just a buncha goddamn socialist Commies, or something.

After awhile, it all started to sound like a thread on Stormfront discussing Obama's dismal record of war crimes, TSA molestation policies and similar problems -- yeah, guys, you have a couple legitimate complaints here, but quit pretending your hatred of Obama stems from your principled love of constitution and country. No: you hate the man because he is black, and the fact that he later went on to do things so odious you'd even criticize a white man for it is just a lucky coincidence.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows but some fellows I'd never bed, despite my being the sort of "prostitute" who believes women's medical insurance companies should cover women's medical problems. For example: no matter how bad TSA and NSA get under Obama, I'm still not hooking up with David Duke and the Stormfronters to fight them ... and it looks like I can't hook up with most "libertarians," either. At least not the ones who'd call me a prostitute for opposing any reproductive-organs exemption to medical coverage.


Anonymous smartass sob said...

Fun fact: based on my mother's own medical history -- she's banned for life from donating blood, because once upon a time she needed cancer-of-the-ladyparts surgery --

Oh? I thought maybe it's because she's deceased. At least, you told us she was in your Mother's Day post way back on May 13, 2007 when you posted that you are an orphan.

2:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post

Pretty sorry state of affairs. There are those who want to rub out any fun, spirituality and freedom in this life.

On the other hand, isn't it great the powers that were have the crumbling of western civilization, including WWIII all under control that they have the time to take control of woman's health issues too?

Just kidding.

Bill Kalivas
Broken Arrow OK

5:42 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Good point about the grammatical error, Smartass; the old me would've embarrasedly gone back and fixed it. But the new me -- the irresponsible freeloading prostitute slut WhoreCommie - can't be bothered.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Jennifer, can you really not see a libertarian argument against forcing employers to provide contraception? (hint: it has something to do with the word "force").

And I know you're an atheist, but surely you have some empathy. Catholics believe that providing contraception (not treatment for ovarian cysts, for which I understand will provide birth control pills) is a serious sin. A sin that is so serious that to do so can damn them to hell. So the government is literally telling them to go to hell. I can certainly understand why they're not thrilled with the idea.

Now, I'm an unabashed friend of the vagina, and think birth control is a wonderful thing. But I can disagree with the catholic church on this but still think it's wrong to force people to do something that's against their deeply-held beliefs.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Jennifer, can you really not see a libertarian argument against forcing employers to provide contraception? (hint: it has something to do with the word "force").

First of all, nobody's forcing the employer to buy birth control pills and give them to an employee; it's a matter of whether employers can forbid insurance companies to offer such coverage. Second, the employee in such cases is also paying premiums to the health insurance company. Thirdly, I'd like to see the whole "you get insurance coverage through your employer" bullshit to end, but so long as it does, I value "insurance companies pay to fix health problems" over "employers need the right to tell insurance companies they must not pay for health problems."

There was also that proposed bill in Arizona that would let employers ask employees just why they're taking birth control pills ... I completely oppose that, and don't take libertarian-freedom arguments far enough to say "employers must have the freedom to look at their employee's medical records and ask personal questions about what they find therein."

I've said before, many years ago, when explaining why I consider myself a softcore rather than hardcore libertarian: Governments are not the only organizations, and government agents not the only people, whose power over others must be kept in check to ensure a free society." If you want to believe that makes a freedom-hating totalitarian statist Commie what-have-you .... frankly, my dear, I don't give a rat's ass.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous lakeline said...

This right here is why I'm finding myself turning away from places like Reason that I've enjoyed for years. I'm so glad to see you put it all into words so clearly and accurately.

3:24 AM  
Blogger Windypundit said...

As it turns out, this was a very thought-provoking post. Not so much because of what you wrote, but because YOU wrote it. Hope you get through your crisis soon...

6:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This inspired Rush Limbaugh to spend three days calling Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute"

Your (former?) commentator pals at Reason.com expressed views on the subject of Fluke's (irrelevant) sex life that, by comparison, made Limbaugh's typically crude of-the-cuff utterings seem positively Victorian. With such persistent and vulgar misogyny in that cesspool of halfwits, is it any wonder that there are so few women libertarians? Is that why you finally fled the joint?

7:06 PM  

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