Confession: I missed most of Sandra Fluke’s speech when it aired Wednesday night (I was on an evening slushie run). Fortunately, I have DVR and the interwebs to help me out, and I’ve already watched it twice. Both times, I got teary eyed, because this woman is just so awesome. Many of you may remember her from earlier this year, when she gave testimony to House Democrats on the religious exemption to the birth mandate of the Affordable Care Act and was subsequently attacked by conservative D-Bag extraordinaire Rush Limbaugh.
You may remember that for this testimony, Limbaugh called Fluke “a slut” and a “prostitute” and displayed that he had no knowledge whatsoever of how birth control works. Unlike his boner pills, ladies don’t pop BC right before they hit the sheets; it’s a continuous thing. Since then, Fluke has been pretty popular in liberal and feminist circles.
Her speech (transcript available here and video available here) was a glass of cold water in the face for anyone not paying attention to reproductive healthcare issues. Sadly, I have a feeling that’s a lot of the Democratic Party, given this year’s focus on economics. Yes, that’s incredibly important, but reproductive rights have fallen somewhat by the wayside. Wednesday night reminded the DNC of these issues not just with Fluke, but also with Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards (daughter of the spectacular former Texas governor Ann Richards), who gave a powerful but somewhat tired speech about reproductive rights. No wonder they saved Sandra Fluke until towards the end, because she did what Cecile Richards did not – she gave a stark, realistic look at what women have to look forward to with the Romney/Ryan team in office.
In that America, your new president could be a man who stands by when a public figure tries to silence a private citizen with hateful slurs. Who won’t stand up to the slurs, or to any of the extreme, bigoted voices in his own party. It would be an America in which you have a new vice president who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms. An America in which states humiliate women by forcing us to endure invasive ultrasounds we don’t want and our doctors say we don’t need. An America in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it; in which politicians redefine rape so survivors are victimized all over again; in which someone decides which domestic violence victims deserve help, and which don’t. We know what this America would look like. In a few short months, it’s the America we could be. But it’s not the America we should be. It’s not who we are.
What stands out to me about Sandra Fluke is that, like she said at the beginning of her speech, she’s just like one of us. She is a normal, albeit highly educated, citizen of the United States who dared to speak out and to not be silenced in the face of truly disturbing opposition. She took that silencing and those insults and not only fought back, but fought back publicly. In a world where there are very few public figures I can consider role models, I’m happy to say that I can count Sandra Fluke among those few. One of feminism’s biggest fights, not just against patriarchy but against ourselves, is speaking out and holding our ground. Every time I see a woman out in the open, refusing to be silenced and speaking the truth, it makes me proud to be a feminist. More than that, it inspires me to be a better one not just for myself, but for those I speak out for.