why I don’t care about Sandra Fluke.

Look, I’m about as pro-choice as you can get without actually being an abortion doctor or having an abortion. (Thankfully, I’ve never been pregnant.) I support totally unrestricted access to abortion for people of all ages. I support unrestricted access to contraception for people of all ages and believe that it should be covered at the same rates as other forms of prescription medication or other minor surgeries under all insurance plans. (I also support single-payer health care, but that’s really neither here nor there at this time.) As a 25-year-old sexually active cis woman with no plans to have children who has used hormonal birth control and currently uses a more long-term method for which I paid out of pocket, I am the target of all the recent Republican rhetoric around birth control access. And I am completely sick of hearing about Sandra Fluke.

Of course I think it’s appalling that the right refused to allow any women to testify in the recent hearings on birth control. Of course I find Rush Limbaugh’s statements about Ms. Fluke disgusting (though not quite as disgusting as his ignorance of how birth control works). But I just can’t get excited about this particular woman’s manufactured plight. This was a Congressional hearing. That is a pretty serious matter! The Democrats could have found any number of female reproductive health experts, female physicians, or female religious authorities (if we’re going to accept the rules of the right’s game and beat them at it) to testify on the importance of free access to birth control for cis women’s (and many trans men’s) health, and women’s liberation. But they didn’t. They found a law student with a compelling story.

We are living in a time when states are trying to define a fertilized egg as a person, in a move that could criminalize in vitro fertilization treatments and many forms of hormonal birth control. States are trying to legislate arbitrary and arduous waiting periods before people can obtain abortion care; many already have. OB-GYNs who perform abortions often have to go to their clinics in bulletproof vests, and after the murder of Dr. George Tiller, late-term abortion services are functionally impossible to obtain for most people. And the state of Virginia is trying to make an unnecessary and physically invasive procedure that many are equating to medical rape a requirement to receive abortion services. (I’ve had a transvaginal ultrasound and it was not a big deal, but I am not a rape or sexual abuse survivor, nor am I squeamish or modest in general. Not that any of those things are necessary to not want to undergo an uncomfortable and unpleasant procedure.) This is not the time to be making ideological gestures or scoring rhetorical points by using a law student to demonstrate that even she has more weight to talk about reproductive health than the old men on the panel, or something. And this certainly isn’t a time to be calling on my legislators to condemn Rush Limbaugh in yet another rhetorical move that has little on-the-ground impact on my bodily autonomy or access to health care. I want my legislators to get their asses in gear and, through their actions, condemn and demolish the staggeringly sexist and dangerous legislation coming out of the right wing. And I want them to realize that this is not a political game in which they can score points by being more clever than the other guys. This is real life. This is my body as a bargaining chip. This is Sandra Fluke’s body as a bargaining chip, and she deserves better. We all do.

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About Sara

I like to talk about media, food, and gender.
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9 Responses to why I don’t care about Sandra Fluke.

  1. Bonnie says:

    Yes. Yes, yes, yes. And yes.

  2. WAKnight says:

    Other than tactically, does the decision to have Fluke be the person called the testify (and the only one, I think) strike you as problematic? I’m wondering because it seems like it might portray women as victims (though of course this crap does victimize women) rather than more active agents who can be ‘experts’ as well, no matter how narrowly you define it. That said, I’m a guy so while the whole ‘controversy’ pisses me off I am not as immediately effected.

    Also, as an episcopalian I’m wondering why they didn’t call Bishop Jeffords Shorey or another female cleric.

    • Sara says:

      I mostly think the decision to have Fluke testify is stupid tactically. I think your read is an interesting one and certainly ideologically sound, though it’s not a perspective that I personally hold. I would support you if you wanted to argue it.

      I am fucking STUNNED that they didn’t call Bishop Jefferts Schori.

      • SWNC says:

        I really wish they would have. I’m a godless heathen myself, but I hate that the debate is framed as “feminists versus religious people.” Most Protestant denominations have no problem with contraception; most Jewish folks don’t; as far as I know, the LDS church and Muslims are okay with contraception–but it’s the Catholic bishops and a small minority of Protestant extremists who are assumed have the final say when it comes to religion and contraception. F*ck that noise.

  3. red jenny says:

    That’s what we’re calling a quick word these days?

  4. Darth Thulhu says:

    I disagree with your tactical assessment, mostly because I feel that, tactically, the entire hearing was obviously partisan media-baiting from the start.

    The whole point of the choreographed exercise was for a House committee run by Republicans to lob a bunch of misleading softball questions at an array of hardcore religious literalists, who would then proceed to smash those questions out of the ballpark.

    The Democratic interest isn’t in playing that game. Eff that noise. Don’t give it oxygen. Don’t treat it like a legitimate, neutral inquiry, because it isn’t remotely.

    If the Democrats put up other religious authorities, no matter who, Republicans win. The debate is suddenly about religious liberty, not about women’s health care, because every one-hand-other-hand lazy piece of MSM dreck will quote one priest on one side and on the other and report it as a debate between different clergy about religious liberty. Republicans outright win in framing the media narrative. The end.

    Like I said: Eff that noise.

    Putting up a Woman Who Is Not a Priest who attends a Catholic university makes the burning point that needs to be made: any woman seeking health care, anywhere, is the full equal to these prattling priests.

    Either the Republicans let an educated non-clergy woman affected by the policy speak, or they don’t.

    It they do let her speak, the media narrative isn’t “one group’s thoughts on religious liberty versus another group” but rather “one sect’s thoughts on religious liberty versus all female student’s thoughts on personal liberty”. The contraception/health care view is one full half of the lazy media narrative. Democratic Victory.

    Or, if the Republicans refuse to let the woman speak, the Democrats have every pretext to walk out en masse and complain how the committee refused to let a single woman testify about the effect this would have on women’s health care. The news coverage is now entirely about contraception and health care, unless it is about male Republican efforts to silence women. The entire “religious liberty” news-cycle charade is upended for at least one day. Double-plus Democratic Victory.

    As an often-conservative social liberal, I am usually disgusted and appalled at the complete lack of competence wafting from the Democratic Party. So let me unequivocally disagree with you:

    I believe inviting Ms. Fluke was the smartest tactical move the congressional Democrats have pulled off this year. They immediately stopped the accelerating Republican spin cycle in its tracks. Strong work!

    I

    • Sara says:

      Don’t treat it like a legitimate, neutral inquiry, because it isn’t remotely.

      Right, except it’s an illegitimate partisan inquiry undertaken by people with the power to make laws.

      The news coverage is now entirely about contraception and health care, unless it is about male Republican efforts to silence women. The entire “religious liberty” news-cycle charade is upended for at least one day.

      This is an excellent point.

      Putting up a Woman Who Is Not a Priest who attends a Catholic university makes the burning point that needs to be made: any woman seeking health care, anywhere, is the full equal to these prattling priests.

      A lot of people who disagree with me seem to think this, and I just do not think that’s the case.

      I could go point by point with you, but the bottom line for me is this: I don’t just want us to win, I want us to beat them at their own game. Because we can. Maybe this is naive of me – RedJenny definitely thinks it is – but I don’t want us to play partisan games, I want us to take their weapons, snatch them out of their hands and smack them in the heads with them.

  5. Pingback: further thoughts on Sandra Fluke, or Sandra Fluke Part II: The Flukening | Ends and Leavings

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