Childrearing

Sandra Fluke Didn’t Want To Disappear Following Slut-Bashing For The Sake Of Your Daughter

By  | 

Sandra FlukeAt 92Y in New York City last night, a panel of prominent politico ladies such as Sandra Fluke, Amy Holmes, Nicolle Wallace, Stephanie Schriock and Christine Quinn chatted about the unique challenges women face when running for public office. Entitled “Running in Heels,” the discussion was moderated by Chelsea Clinton, who admitted first hand that she was not cognisant of how few women run for office until her own mother ran in 2008. But the “elephant in the room, ” according to Abby Huntsman Livingston, Jon Huntsman‘s daughter, was indeed the media — and more specifically how women and girls consistently get degraded for speaking up…just for being women and girls.

Quite fittingly, Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown student who found herself in the national spotlight after being called a “slut” by Rush Limbaugh, had a few choice observations on the topic. Many of which had to do with with being an example for young girls.

Fluke received a very warm and loud applause as she took her seat that evening, which Clinton mused was in response to her poise and composure following Limbaugh’s noted derogatory attacks. (Clinton shared that Limbaugh had once compared her to a dog when she was 13 years old). Fluke thanked her and the audience before adding that she initially worried what those “slut” and “prostitute” comments would convey to other opinionated and outspoken young girls. President Obama made a similar observation, citing his own daughters Sasha and Malia when ultimately deciding to call Fluke. In his statement to the press, he mentioned that he hoped that his little girls would one day Sandra Flukeparticipate in public discourse – even if he disagreed with their views.

Fluke told the audience that she didn’t want to “disappear” as a result of such misogynistic slander — for fear of the message that would convey to girls. “Slut” and “prostitute,” along with many other sexually-charged diatribes, have historically functioned as lazy ways to shutdown and disengage with women and girls without actually responding to their points. And while that tactic is old as the earth, the tendency for women to fade from the limelight following these attacks is unfortunately just as traditional.

Even though her time in the limelight has been brief so far, Fluke seems to have lingered in the media as a feminist presence not so much because she was called a “slut” by a bombastic radio host, but because of how articulately she has responded. The young woman has been making the TV rounds, suggesting to The View that anti-slut-shaming could become a family value and informing Andrea Mitchell that actually, her parents are quite proud of her. Fluke has successfully helped turn a personal attack into a national conversation surrounding the sexist attacks that are hurled at girls and women everyday, making many Americans and parents perhaps only a little bit more aware of how loaded a term like “slut” really is.

Fluke also reminded the audience to be wary of a term I’ve always resented: “post-feminist.” Leaning forward in her signature dark blazer, she said, “We can’t pretend that we live in a world where gender doesn’t matter.” Clearly, she would know, as if she wasn’t a lady advocating her unpopular opinion, we probably wouldn’t even know who she is.

Following the panel, I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Fluke backstage. When she politely took my hand, I mentioned that following her lambasting, I had rounded up the most sexist Twitter attacks on her as a representation of what opinionated daughters encounter in the public sphere. She nodded with a flash of remembrance, her features shifting.

“It’s a problem,” she said.

(photo: Joyce Culver for 92Y)