I hear a lot of men (and some women) now asking, "Why are you still so upset over what Rush said, anyway? He apologized! It was a joke/absurdity/etc."
You asked. I have an answer. It isn't a short answer.
Last year I watched as a state lawmaker in Georgia put forth a bill that would have made it necessary for criminal investigation in the case of miscarriage.(1) Having suffered a miscarriage myself, I know how mentally and emotionally devastating it is and how you already feel like you must have done something wrong, how it is hard to accept that things like loss just happen. To have women presumed guilty until proven innocent in the case of miscarriage? That would be hell.
Then as the year went by I watched state after state making it harder for women to have access to the services they need - rural women are now having to drive HOURS to get to a women's health clinic for affordable screenings and access to birth control.(2)(3) These laws that are supposed to be stemming the tide of abortions are making it so that more and more women are unable to get basic care. As a student at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, my student health coverage, paid for out of my tuition, did not cover contraception. I had to go to the nearby Planned Parenthood for my exam and to have access to contraception. I had to face questions and accusations by people lined up outside the clinic when all I wanted to do was to protect my reproductive health (I was having serious problems with cysts at the time). Oh, and, yes - to have safe sex. Because I was a legal adult who wanted to engage in a legal adult activity with the utmost safety.
States have recently been proposing laws that would require, without question, that a woman have a trans-vaginal ultrasound before an abortion.(4) I'm one of those women who loves motherhood (as may be noted by my username) and I believe with all my heart I would never desire to have an abortion (however, as the mother of two already, I know that if it was a dire circumstance before the 24-week-gestation viability age, I would choose my life over the life of the child, to ensure my other children were not robbed of a mother), but I know that abortion is legal in America and making women who are already in unique, sometimes horrific situations jump through medically unnecessary hoops to receive legal medical care is astounding.
Now we get to the point where the idea of birth control being deemed a medically beneficial preventative service has opened the dialogue in this country once again to where men can allude to or outright say that sexually active women are sluts or prostitutes, and to have a congressional committee hear testimony from five MEN (5) on the subject of woman's health (yes, I do realize they were there to discuss religious freedom, but it was still regarding a matter that specifically affects women only).
Many men of influence (i.e. those who make laws and have voice on the airwaves) might not have used the same words as Rush,(6) but Rush said it loudest and clearest when he called Ms. Fluke a slut and a prostitute because she supports the notion of birth control being deemed a preventative medicine and a health benefit to the nation (just like childhood vaccines are deemed a national preventative health benefit, just like some medical screenings for men are deemed a national preventative health benefit..)(7). And then to say: "Miss Fluke, and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch" (8) - he may have said he was speaking to Ms. Fluke, but his words struck a chord with many woman who have struggled with their reproductive health. In that moment, he might as well have been speaking to any number of us.
The fuel has been poured on for months and months and months. Rush was the spark that lit the fire.
My mother's generation was the We Are Women Hear Us Roar generation. The one between was the Women and Men Are The Same generation. My generation has been the I Am generation. Gender is important, but we see ourselves more as whole individuals. To suddenly have such a profoundly basic and yet important aspect of ourselves dragged into the national spotlight and debated by men who would dare call us names or negatively label behavior we see as ordinary and not harmful and a part of who we are (sex, SAFE sex, with as few or as many partners as we choose) is alarming and upsetting. The men of my generation are by and large as upset by what is going on, seeing their friends, lovers and wives called horrible names and being accused of criminal behavior for simply having sex.
Rush ignited the anger that has been building. His words sum up a great deal of oppressive behavior toward women that has been seeping back into our national dialogue. And we're not happy about it.