Professor Keck's Reality 101

profkeck

profkeck
Location
Michigan, USA
Birthday
December 31
Bio
Mary Keck is a writer and blogger. Her articles have appeared on Open Salon, The Public Intellectual, and The Huffington Post. She is currently a columnist for The Times Herald where she writes about nature, outdoor recreation, and wildlife.

Editor’s Pick
MARCH 15, 2012 9:44PM

What if Sandra Fluke were a Woman of Color?

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Limbaugh Fluke

In the wake of the Sandra Fluke vs. Rush Limbaugh media frenzy, we’ve begun to ask some very interesting questions. On Aljazeera’s Listening Post, for instance, one viewer noted that while pressuring advertisers to disassociate themselves from Limbaugh was a smart move by Fluke’s supporters, we have to ask if activism through advertising is the best strategy. What about corporate protests? Ad power could be used because a company dislikes commentary about corporate greed. Such queries popping up over the Fluke-Limbaugh controversy have brought a question to my mind: What if Sandra Fluke were a woman of color?

If Fluke were a woman of color would she have been asked to speak in the first place?

Certainly women of color have a sizeable stake in the contraception debate. As writers Arons and Panzy noted recently, “women of color experience much higher unintended pregnancy rates than their white counterparts: Black women are three times as likely as white women to experience an unintended pregnancy; Latinas are twice as likely. This new regulation guaranteeing access to no-cost contraception will give women of color a much-needed chance to close these gaps.” Obviously, Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke is better equipped to discuss female contraception than, say, a panel of men who can’t get pregnant. But what if she weren’t white and couldn’t afford post-secondary education?

While we don’t know for certain why her voice was chosen as the alternative to the all-male panel, a report in Time claims she was picked because of the way she spoke at the National Press Club, a professional organization where membership can cost between $200 and $900. Membership is also based on the applicant’s "professional status." My guess is few of the low-income minorities most in need of reproductive healthcare would be found via a search through National Press Club video clips. This is not because they can’t speak as eloquently as Sandra Fluke but because they’ve been denied access to the privilege that comes from being able to afford membership fees and gain experience in the professional realm.

If Fluke were a woman of color, would Rush Limbaugh have reacted in the same way?

It’s likely that Limbaugh would have been even nastier if Fluke weren’t who she is. As Jonathan Zimmerman noted in The Christian Science Monitor recently, Limbaugh's statement banked on a well established double standard: "female promiscuity was always worse than the male kind." So, Limbaugh was on safe ground with his male listeners who find it appalling that any woman would have sex and lots of it.

It's arguable that Limbaugh would be in even friendlier territory by observing that a nonwhite female was choosing to have as much sex as she wanted due to a lower risk of pregnancy. For ages, nonwhite women have been stereotyped as highly sexualized, so it wouldn’t be too challenging for the radio host to convince his audience that Fluke was a slut if she were black. In that case, Limbaugh could have persuaded listeners using the all-too-familiar caricature of the promiscuous Jezebel.

On the other hand, Limbaugh’s been troubled by accusations of racism in the past. His “get the bone out of your nose and call me back” response to a woman who phoned in to his show has drawn some heat. His comment that the “NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons” wasn’t popular with many people either. He even called President Obama "The Magic Negro." Perhaps if Fluke were an African American, attacking her would have been off limits because Limbaugh wouldn’t have wanted to add another quote to the already lengthy list. However, given his track record and continued popularity, it doesn’t seem like he’s too worried about censoring his racist statements.

If Fluke were a woman of color, would the GOP candidates have responded any differently to Limbaugh's remarks? 

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney

It's worth noting that none of the GOP contenders defended Fluke or her healthcare rights. They didn't say that women shouldn't be labeled "sluts" for having sex or that women who want insurance coverage for reproductive health care aren't "prostitutes." They didn't point out that married women also use birth control. Instead, here's how they reacted: 

All Mitt Romney would say is,"It's not the language I would have used." So, can we assume that if Limbaugh had said Fluke was "regularly sexually active" instead of a "slut" that Romney would have agreed with his analysis? Romney's safe response allowed him to sidestep any support for or opposition to Limbaugh. If Fluke were Native or African American, Romney probably still would have played it safe to avoid reminding voters of his Mormon roots. Romney's been asked to renounce Mormonism by the co-chair of Santorum's campaign on the basis that his religion has a history of racism. So far in this primary race, it seems that his religion is not a subject Romney wants his constituents to worry about or remember. 

Rick Santorum's reply to Limbaugh implied that his statements were what we've come to expect because "you know, an entertainer can be absurd." Of course, when it's Bill Maher, Santorum has higher expectations. Again we see a Republican carefully evade criticism of the right's favorite radio host.

Because Santorum previously caught heat for alluding to the author of The Bell Curve -- a text which claims black people are genetically inferior to white people -- in the current contraception debate, he would have been smart to avoid criticizing Limbaugh if Fluke's skin were another color.

Another candidate who wouldn't gain from denouncing Limbaugh is Newt Gingrich. While Speaker of the House, he made Limbaugh an honorary member of Congress. Going against his old pal no matter who was attacked wouldn't lend Gingrich the air of consistency constituents like to see in a presidential candidate. So, in response to questions about Limbaugh's comments, Gingrich relied on what's become his favorite tactic: changing the subject by berating the "elite media." Like his response to questions about his desire for an "open marriage" during the debates, he indicated that the media should have better topics to report on like "the trillion dollar deficit" and "rising gas prices." 

I wonder if Gingrich would have left the change-the-subject technique behind if Fluke weren't a white woman. Instead, he may have shrugged his shoulders and said Fluke's desire for handouts is what typically comes of having a Foodstamp President

Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul 

Ron Paul's perspective was that Limbaugh used "very crude language," and he noted that "it's in [Limbaugh's] best interest" to lambast Fluke in such volatile terms because that's why he remains a popular radio personality. On the other hand, Paul thought that's why Limbaugh apologized, not out of sincere regret but because "it was the bottom line he was concerned about."

Like Romney, Paul's response focused on Limbaugh's language rather than the subject of his statements. If Fluke's race were different, Paul might have been less eager to disparage Limbaugh's apology since he's been haunted by the opinions forwarded in newsletters he published in the 1990s, which reveal opinions of African Americans that are not too far off from Gringrich's.   

With our current economic climate in mind, the GOP candidates could have noted how advantageous it is for businesses to insure women in need of birth control pills. Unfortunately, they all missed an opportunity to defend Fluke and showcase their financial savvy.  

If Fluke were a woman of color, would the backlash against Limbaugh’s statements have been as severe?

Most reasonable people would have seen Limbaugh’s attacks as ridiculous, idiotic, and insulting to all women and wouldn’t be afraid to say so. But Fluke’s supporters did more than just speak out about language that, from this radio personality, isn’t all that surprising. They were able to pressure institutions like AOL and Allstate to pull advertising from a popular show – a show they’d been happy to use to promote their ads despite previous inflammatory statements from its host.

Where were all the angry voices when Shirley Sherrod was wrongly accused of racism and Rush Limbaugh celebrated the late Andrew Breitbart's misleading video? Sherrod was not subjected to name-calling. Instead, she was forced to resign from the USDA and was condemned by the NAACP. It didn't take long to discover that the accusations of racism were a lie, but Sherrod was not reinstated nor did Limbaugh offer an apology, though she eventually got one from President Obama

In a recent op-ed, Fluke described some of her supporters as "young women of all income levels, races, classes, and ethnicities who need access to contraception to control their reproduction, pursue their education and career goals, and prevent unintended pregnancy. And they will not be silenced." While Fluke's message is inspirational and her continued activism on the issue of access to contraception is commendable, Americans have yet to face a hard truth. There are those in the U.S. who are silenced because of their ethnicity, race, and socioeconomic status and are offered a limited level of support even though their plight is often more severe. 

A study published in Contraception in September 2011 found that women who experienced racial discrimination were less likely to use effective means of contraception; however, once financial and structural barriers were removed, their use of contraception that assured better protection from pregnancy increased. In light of this study, it seems that those who face the most discrimination are at a higher risk of losing access to quality reproductive healthcare; therefore, they have a need of increased defense. If Fluke had been a woman likely to experience racial discrimination, would she have recieved the same support? I hope so.

All Male Panel on Contraception 

When an all-male panel gathered to discuss the Blunt Amendment, the controversy was over the fact that men were asked to speak on behalf of women. What seems to be at the heart of the question I began with is that those who have the most to lose from our politicians’ poor judgments often are not the representatives heard by our Congress. To truly care for our nation’s people, shouldn’t our government begin by hearing from those who are most in need of help?

Who do you think should have access? 

References 

Kossler, Karla et al. (2011). "Percieved Racial, Socioeconomic, and Gender Discrimination and its Impact on Contraceptive Choice." Contraception. 84. 273-279.

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Answer: We wouldn't even know her name - just like people of color, especially Black men, never get "Editor's Pick" on Open Salon. rated!
What, did you figure out that she is not what you wanted her to be. That she is had a plan to start trouble, and that she is being handled by ex Obama staffers and nobody cares who she is anymore. So now that the "woman card" isn't working for the re-election of Obama you are now trying to double down and place the "black woman card"?

People male, female, black, and white have seen thorough this game and the woman vote is starting to slip away. People are tired of political games. This lady needs to go back where ever she came from and pick up her studies again.
Informative post, profkeck. I tend to think we would have heard less about the woman had she been black. The misogyny never ends . . .
Response to Catnlion:

Since hearing Sandra Fluke's name, I've heard 3 types of reaction from the right:

1. She is a slut and a prostitute, and other names which mean the same thing.

2. She is a front woman for a White House directed conspiracy.

3. She is told to shut up, and even prevented from speaking by the likes of Issa.

I've listened to her testimony to the Democratic rump committee twice, and this is what I have heard by way of reply from the right: Nothing on the merits of what she actually said.

Repeating Limbaugh's lies, imagining loony theories about Democratic tricks, and saying she should be silenced do not answer any of the concerns she brought forth in testifying.
"Obviously, Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke is better equipped to discuss female contraception than, say, a panel of men who can’t get pregnant."

How is that "obvious?" I mean, if you're talking about how to install a NuvaRing, sure, I get it.

But Fluke was making primarily a financial argument. Her goal, simply stated, is to have someone else pay for her birth control. Ms. Fluke asks us to believe that women who are enrolled in a $150,000 three-year program potentially leading to a $160,000 annual salary cannot afford to pay $80 per month for birth control during that program. Unless there are different number systems for male and female, it is not clear to me why men cannot also run the numbers.

In effect, Ms. Fluke says that l'amour is such a priority, and she so destitute, that the federal government must force a Catholic school to arrange for free birth control. Even though I'm very moved by her libido and poverty, it seems to me that asking her to be responsible for purchasing her own birth control is not too much of an imposition.

Of course, as a white male (or is it male of white?) I suppose my opinion doesn't matter.
@obtuse666

Yes, it's obvious that a woman has more authority to speak about her reproductive health than a man. What's not obvious is why not one single woman wasn't permitted on Issa's panel (except for the normal douche-baggery of the Republicans, that is)

But it's not like your paramour Lush Bimbaugh would have it: contraception is not just a license for reckless recreational sex--it's also a serious matter of private and public health, but since you're obviously better equipped to talk about women's reproductive health, you already knew that.

And as for Ms. Fluke's financial abilities, you do realize that she's defending the rights of women other than herself, no? And as one who just escaped the clutches of grad school and looks forward to a lifetime of indentured servitude to the student loan Masters of the Universe, I find it uncontroversial to think that Ms. Fluke might balk at the price tag (considerably higher than your conservative estimate, btw).

At any rate, Professor Keck was making an entirely different point than your ill-informed red herring.
Steve,

Okay, I give on number 1. People said stupid things. BTW, did you speak out about the names that Sarah Palin and her daughter were called? Did you speak out about Bill Maher calling people "cunt"? Why not?

On number 2. How many students do you know who have a PR firm that is operated by a President Obama insider? Heck, how many students do you know who have a PR firm working for them? When you were in college did you have a former Speaker of the House come get you for anything? Yup, she is one lucky lady, having all that inside influence. How much did you have? That's what I thought.

Number 3. Let's see, did she have any professional testimony to give before Issa's committee? No she didn't. So why should she testify? Because she is a know BC activist who is attending GT law because their insurance doesn't cover BC and she thinks it should? Because she has anecdotal evidence that people who are smart enough to get into a program where the average starting salary is $160,000 can't figure out how to come up with $90 a month for their birth control pills. Something like asking their boyfriends to pay part of it. Heck they are enjoying half the sex. If it is for a medical condition then she admitted that is covered.

This woman has had an agenda for years and this is just her latest move to push it. Besides, if it was about the money how can she afford to be in California on spring break?
Lance,
"What's not obvious is why not one single woman wasn't permitted on Issa's panel (except for the normal douche-baggery of the Republicans, that is)"

Let me guess, you want a woman on the panel only as long as it's a woman who agrees with you. Other than that, they don't count. I see now.
Please, stop making this woman a "Wonder Woman" of the birth control era. Now you brought a race into this. What if she was a muslim women? She wouldn't see a light of the day the moment she's out of that hearing. What if she was an Indian woman? We would talk how oppressed Indians are, wouldn't we? What if she was... The whole topic is so incredible silly. This woman was somebody set up to testify for one reason only: not to let this issue to die out. Last summer she traveled all over Italy with her rich boy friend. Her pictures from that trip are all over internet. I really was a little bit skeptical listening to her testimony (oversceptical, to say the truth) that she and/her girl friends could not afford birth control pills that costs around $40 backs a month. My neighbor (on foodstamps and public assistance) can afford them, but she couldn't? Oh, please, give me a break!
what if spartacus had an airplane?
@Catnlion

How big will your sad be when Barack Obama is reelected to the presidency of the United States? How many conspiracy theories will you be able to spin when Sandra Fluke is awarded a political appointment in the second Barack Obama administration?
See you in the funny papers.
@catnlion
@ingaz

Are you aware that you agree with the Prof?
From Wikipedia:

"The magical Negro is an archetype which was first applied to presidential candidate Obama by movie and culture critic, David Ehrenstein, in a Los Angeles Times op ed column of March 19, 2007. According to Ehrenstein, the magical Negro is a non threatening black hero in the popular media, usually the cinema, who was invented to ease feelings of white guilt over slavery and racial injustice. He is noble and devoid of sexual motives, and appears suddenly, out of nowhere, to magically solve the problems of white people.

"Ehrenstein opined that 'Obama's fame right now has little to do with his political record or what he's written in his two books, or even what he's actually said'. Rather, Obama was a popular contender for the presidency because whites were projecting their 'fantasies of curative black benevolence' on him.'

By the way, Ehrenstein is black, and a liberal.

Back to the library, Professor.
Lance writes: "Yes, it's obvious that a woman has more authority to speak about her reproductive health than a man."

They why does she do such a poor job of it?

Fluke's testimony was of no value. She throws a few figures out, but doesn't give any details. She relates a couple of anecdotes about women who need hormone therapy (aka "birth control pills") for medical problems, says that the Georgetown student health insurance PAYS for that, and then says that for some mysterious reason it didn't. That's interesting, but I'm not sure what kind of national health policy we're supposed to take away from that.

More importantly, she had nothing of value to say about health insurance in general, and almost nothing about her student health insurance. Perhaps she doesn't know how health insurance works.

For example, according to the Georgetown web site, individual student insurance premium is $1900 per year. But according to the Kaiser Foundation's Employer Health Benefits 2011 Annual Survey, "the average annual premiums in 2011 are $5,429 for single coverage and $15,073 for family coverage." (I'm happy to do the research for you, but if you don't believe me, look it up for yourself.)

Ok, so the student health premium is $1900, and the average individual employer health premium is $5,429. This tells us immediately that the student health insurance is not intended to provide comprehensive, full-featured, all-bells-and-whistles coverage. One of the ways that insurers keep the cost of insurance down is by not providing things such as contraception. You want contraception? That will cost more. You want a compressive policy instead of a basic, discounted policy? That will cost more. Of course, the Obama administration wants birth control provided at no additional cost. But the world doesn't work like that. Somewhere, someone is going to pay the additional cost.

Catholic church and religion aside, there is absolutely NO reason to think that the features of a comprehensive policy (e.g., contraception) that costs ALMOST THREE TIMES as much as a student policy will be included in a student policy. Sandra Fluke had nothing to say about that. Her level of analysis doesn't go beyond "Hi, I'm Sandra Fluke, and I think female students should get free stuff."

Lance: "And as for Ms. Fluke's financial abilities, you do realize that she's defending the rights of women other than herself, no?"

Yeah, she talks about a couple of other students covered by the same policy, going to the same school, paying the same tuition, all aiming for law degrees. The only difference is that the other students were taking hormone therapy covered by the school's insurance.

Lance: "I find it uncontroversial to think that Ms. Fluke might balk at the price tag (considerably higher than your conservative estimate, btw)."

Now we hear that Ms. Fluke travels to Italy and Spain with her boyfriend. She didn't balk at that price tag.
Don't bother too much with the message....better to just kill the messenger as quite a few of the commenters are doing......
Mr Robinson - Fyi, Chancey de Vega has been posted a few times on EP
The larger point is that Sandra has actually become a woman of color, a victim of prejudice, and any identity other than the one that made her original testimony so blatantly silly and politically manipulated.

Talk about dial back! She completely rewrote her original testimony. We know her sponsor is a master of ignoring facts and hypocricy. She's following in his footsteps.

It's astonishing how the simple fact that contraception should be the choice and cost of the individual regardless of race, color, and creed can spawn reams of speculative and meretricious prose.
It's sad. I try to describe someone by what they have done. I learned this quite a while ago and it will never leave me. Nobody knew who I was talking about when I discussed the previous nights performance until I described her as "That Tall Black Woman" that was amazing in her Olympic performance.
Her name is Flo Hyman and she changed my outlook on life. RIP Flo ♥
http://www.volleyhall.org/hyman.html
@obtuse double-down

--you continue to miss the point. The Professor's post was all about whether Fluke merited the access and attention. Her essay speaks of exactly the knee-jerk, fact-free tribalism you are exhibiting. Well-played.
I have to agree with Ron Robinson: The same thing happens with missing children and unarmed folk shot by police and white citizens using their Second Amendment right to bear arms. Missing blonde white girls get hours of cable coverage while we rarely see or hear anything about black or Hispanic kids. Cops and white citizens are rarely prosecuted and even more rarely convicted of shooting black or Hispanic folk.
Catnlion,

1. I didn't know that if you want to complain about an injustice, you are obligated to go back in history and complain about every other similar injustice. If so, comments on columns like these would all be as long as "War and Peace."

2. True, Ms Fluke has been working a long time, including before law school, on such issues as sexual freedom, reproductive rights and women's health. So what. Are you really surprised that activists in any field would get to know and help or be helped by other activists in that field? Are you shocked that liberals network with liberals, and conservatives with conservatives? You are just trying to make a common practice by all activists across all spectrums sound like some evil conspiracy. Weak.

3. A point I made in another comment that was not published for some reason (I'm new and don't know all the rules), was about the fact that Ms Fluke's testimony did not refer to Ms Fluke's sex life but to a friend who needed a certain kind of birth control to treat an ovarian cyst. This specialized medicine cost about $1,00 a month and Ms Fluke's friend could not afford it, or even the co-pay, and as a result lost the ovary.

There's a lot about this entire controversy that puts the lie to the right wing "principle" that no one should come between a patient and his/her doctor. Seems like the right want a lot of people to come between Ms Fluke's friend and her doctor -- the Catholic Church, the Republican Party, radio talk show hosts who lie to make a point, and low-information folks who don't know the basic facts but want to emphasize irrelevancies. Ms Fluke's "wealth" (she has been working profesionally for years) and her vacations with her boyfriend are totally irrelevant.

The point was that Ms Fluke's friend needed a $1,00/month medicine, according to her doctor, and asking insurance to pay for it is not out of bounds. Attempts by Darrell Issa, Rush Limbaugh, Sen. Blunt and you to interfere with this doctor-patient relationship is totally outof bounds.
Steve writes: "This specialized medicine cost about $100 a month and Ms Fluke's friend could not afford it, or even the co-pay, and as a result lost the ovary."

Fluke said "Her prescription is technically covered by Georgetown’s insurance because it’s not intended to prevent pregnancy." Then she says that for some reason the insurance didn't pay for it. But Fluke presented no documentation of any kind. She said nothing about WHY the insurer didn't pay for it, whether the lack of payment was an error or intentional, whether her friend appealed the decision, or whether her friend complained to the state insurance commissioner's office. We don't know what the medication was. We don't know if the medication might have been available from a different pharmacy for less money. Since this is all hearsay, we don't even know if what Fluke's friend told her was accurate. And to be blunt, we don't even know of there really was a friend, a doctor, or a prescription. In short, there's no way to evaluate this anecdote, and yet we're asked to base a nationwide health policy on it.

Steve: "Seems like the right want a lot of people to come between Ms Fluke's friend and her doctor -- the Catholic Church, the Republican Party, radio talk show hosts who lie to make a point, and low-information folks who don't know the basic facts but want to emphasize irrelevancies."

No one is coming between her and her doctor except for the insurance company. And that's the nature of insurance. More importantly, even if all schools and employers were required to include free birth control in their policies, it wouldn't be "for free."

As I noted in a previous comment, the average annual cost of a full-featured health insurance policy is $5429, not including deductible. The insurance I have, for someone Ms. Fluke's age, is $4800 per year -- and that policy has a $750 deductible and does NOT cover contraception. But Georgetown's student policy is only $1900 per year. It is an absolute fantasy to think that a student policy that cheap is going to cover birth control prescriptions "for free" for all female students. The ONLY way that can be covered is if the insurance premium is increased.

So let's say that Georgetown is forced by the federal government to arrange for "free" birth control. Ms. Fluke will have a big smile on her face -- until she sees how much her health insurance premium has increased. And then next year she'll be in front of congress again, this time saying "My health insurance premium went up by 50 percent!!!" And then Open Salon members will be writing posts about how the evil Catholics are trying to price students out of the health insurance market.

Steve: "The point was that Ms Fluke's friend needed a $100/month medicine, according to her doctor, and asking insurance to pay for it is not out of bounds."

Fluke's point was that all women should get contraception for free. She thinks that insurance is going to cover the full cost of contraception for potentially all female students at no additional charge to them on a policy that only costs $158 per month to begin with.

As far as I can tell, Sandra Fluke lives in a fantasy world. In her world contraception is so expensive that it's unaffordable for students, at the same time believing that it's so cheap that an insurance company can pick up the full tab at no additional cost to the students.

It's good that Fluke went to law school, because she sure as hell has no aptitude for accounting.
Let's look at recent history:

The Blunt amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act tried to allow employers to wriggle out because of religious excuse. The PPACA required insurers to cover the contraception of their clients (evidently a minor cost according to some commenters here).

The right wing didn't go after the economics, however; instead they turned this into a religious liberty issue. But allowing an employer to opt on religious grounds is what tossed the debate into a quagmire, because where does employer's religious scruples end and how can they be weighed in a secular society?

The religious exemption argument has now fallen on deaf ears, as is witnessed by the commenteriat here who still wish to make this issue about Fluke, notwithstanding the fact that many not as privileged as she will be denied basic health benefits for which they have paid, and which insurers are required by law to cover. Let me repeat that last bit: employees work for their benefits--it's part of the compensation package, and thus is certainly not "for free."

Now for something obvious: the issue is not about Fluke's math nor her morality (or lack thereof). The furor is all about hurting women in an attempt to inflict political damage on sitting president.

Of course, Professor Keck's post is about none of this; instead, she wonders how Fluke gains voice, why we are all listening and talking about her, and how others do not get an audience and similar access, sympathy, and in some cases vitriol (i.e. attention). Some commenters, however, insist on evading the topic at hand, opting to ignore the inequality endemic in our culture.

There are thus a few levels of ignoring the issue--one: women's health doesn't count if political hay can be made; two: we wouldn't know Fluke, wouldn't be talking about her at all if she weren't a member of a class that gains access to our media and political elites.
What if Sandra Fluke were a Woman of Color?

In the last administration she might have been Sec of State or a trusted advisor.
It's a very interesting question and thoughtful analysis. Since she was proxying for other voices and I don't know who those are, for all I know she was (or could have been) proxying for women of color. And it must be a hard question for whoever was setting that up. Consider that they might have known that a black or hispanic woman would have been at risk of more forms of dismissive volleys in return. That must be a very hard thing to decide tactically because on the one hand you maybe get more victories by involving white women who are perhaps seen as “more deserving” or “more typical” by some who have racial prejudices, perhaps even some they aren't aware of, and yet over the long run the use of such a device in order to gain support has to bias the overall conversation, and that argues for perhaps taking some losses on the tactical front in order to set up a more representative overall landscape. There's a kind of paternalism that comes of biasing who may speak on whose behalf and that paternalism itself is an issue. Still, one is in any given moment usually down in the trenches just fighting the battle of the day, so it must be tough to allow the big picture its due when it might put local gains at risk. I'm totally speculating here, but then I assume it was your intent to provoke such speculation. Good job.
Speculation is what I had in mind when I wrote this, Kent. We'll never know the answer as my essay is based on a hypothetical.

I'm especially interested in why Sandra Fluke was picked to speak. As some commenters have already noted, she isn't a doctor or a financial guru. While I've read that she's done some work to help struggling women in the past, it seems like there could have easily been a much more qualified person to speak about the need for insurance coverage for contraception. As my post suggests, I wonder if a person who has a more dire need for the coverage might have been more appropriate. If Congress wants to take this issue seriously, they ought to look to those who take it seriously too. As many have already noted, Sandra Fluke is probably able to afford birth control -- how about talking to one of the many women who can't?

I'm particularly intrigued by what you wrote here, Kent:

That must be a very hard thing to decide tactically because on the one hand you maybe get more victories by involving white women who are perhaps seen as “more deserving” or “more typical” by some who have racial prejudices, perhaps even some they aren't aware of, and yet over the long run the use of such a device in order to gain support has to bias the overall conversation, and that argues for perhaps taking some losses on the tactical front in order to set up a more representative overall landscape.

Sandra Fluke was given access to our political leaders. Despite Jay's comment which seems to imply that women of color have equal representation, the fact of the matter is, they don't. If you look at our representatives in Congress, you'll see that overwhelmingly white men dominate the landscape. Would Fluke have been given the same access if she were a woman of color? I'm going to have to side with Robinson and JMac. I don't think we would have heard from a woman who wasn't white because the conversation is already biased just like every congressional conversation is because discussions in America's political sphere are had with few people of color present to share their two cents. The majority of our laws and all of our founding documents were written by white men. How can we ever expect a landscape that isn't biased?

Would it have been harder for people to rally to Fluke's defense had she been a woman of another race? I think so. Because of the prevalent conscious and unconscious racism in the U.S., I think it's likely that a Latina, for example, would have been passed up. For one thing, she would have been easier for the right to attack because of the view that women with a darker shade of skin are more promiscuous and want hand-outs. For another, as we've seen, people see Fluke as a political weapon (and this may be true) of the left; wouldn't a Latina have seemed even more politically-charged? Because Latinas are not heard when it comes to our political process and the mainstream media, it's likely that Fluke (if a Latina) wouldn't have received headlines, which would have worked against the Democrats. If you think we hear from all races evenly in the news, just consider JMac's comment. How often do you hear about a dead or missing blonde girl as compared to a dead or missing black girl? Imagine if Casey Anthony weren't white.

I think the main reason a non-white woman wasn't chosen (and why few people of color are chosen for leadership in general) was because choosing a woman of color would have stirred up a conversation about race. We don't like talking about race in this country because it forces us to confront our past (and present) and acknowledge that some people aren't getting a fair shake. The Democrats definitely don't want to get into that subject right before President Obama is up for reelection. I'm guessing that we'll continue to see them carefully avoid race as the campaign goes forward.
mishima666:

You based a lot of your reply to me on a typo, but that was my fault. Ms Fluke's friend needed medicine that costs more than$1,000 a month, not $100. I believe a more exact amount was $1,200. I apologize for the error and otherwise stand by my comment.
Ms Fluke simply needs to decide what she wants. Her fancy eduction or BC. She is a whiny child that wants everything.

I just sent about 6K out of pocket last year to get the best outcome I could get for cataract surgery, and other things. Even my very good and expensive insurance did not pay for everything medical service/technology available.

I decided where to spend my money, I think that 6K could have gone along way to dating women and getting my sex life enhanced and vacationing.

Too damn bad for her that some in society aren't worried about her BC expense. She probably spent more on her unnecessary clothes , hair and makeup than the cost BC.

When she has no money to spend on fun, I will pay for her BC. Until then, technically she is asking me to pay for her unnecessary life expenses. Not just her sex life, all of her recreation.
Professor Keck writes: " . . . it seems like there could have easily been a much more qualified person to speak about the need for insurance coverage for contraception."

Professor, insurance can potentially pay for anything and everything -- if you are willing to pay the premium.

If you look at the details of the Georgetown law school health insurance policy (available on the web) you will find all sorts of things that aren't fully covered or aren't covered at all. In fact, the vast majority of services are not fully covered. (By the way, Viagra and other similar drugs for men are not covered either.) You will find that the maximum out of pocket ($5,000) is also rather high. You will also see that the cost is only $1900 per year, or $158 per month.

This should tell you that the Georgetown policy is NOT a full-featured, comprehensive insurance policy. It is a low-cost policy designed primarily for young people who are generally in good health. While students are required to have health insurance, they are not required to have the Georgetown health insurance; they are free to purchase their own insurance. If a student wants health insurance comparable to what an employer would provide, then the cost will probably be $500 per month or more.

Sadly, tragically lacking on the "Fluke side" of the debate, is any discussion of the cost of health insurance. I invite you to discover ANY health insurance policy costing $158 per month and targeting women of childbearing age, that will offer ALL contraception methods at NO COST to the subscriber. I cannot imagine that such a policy would exist, because it would be financially impossible.

It's not enough to talk about the need for contraception without also taking into account the cost of contraception. If a woman cannot afford to pay for her own birth control, then she's also not going to be able to afford the premium of an insurance policy that pays for her birth control.

Steve writes: "Ms Fluke's friend needed medicine that costs more than$1,000 a month, not $100."

Steve, I think your original number was correct. Here are all the numbers that Fluke mentioned in her testimony:
$3,000: possible cost of contraception during three years of law school. Equals $83 per month.
$100: monthly cost of Fluke's friend's medication.

Those are the only numbers mentioned in her testimony. There is no $1,000 per month mentioned.
Profkeck, thank you for even thinking to bring up this discussion.

Having a bi-racial president has forced this country to begin to discuss race. Look at what happened in Tampa last week, the shooting of an unarmed black teen for walking down the street.

I have asked the question what if the occupy wall street folks were black? How would NYPD handled a huge group of black people camping out in a park on Wall Street playing music and chanting, protesting the Government?

If a black woman of the same social class as Fluke were chosen to speak, I believe it would have been worse.

The disrespect of black women in this country is blatant. Think of all of the insane comments by the right, most recently a FOX reporter calling Congresswoman Maxine Waters a "crack head".

The media on both sides is flawed. There are single teenaged mothers of all races and this birth control issue is connected to class as well.

Guess what America... there are black women out there who are single without children, with careers, not in the system. We are professional, educated.

The issue is an employer providing birth control as an option even if the employer is a faith based organization. Anyone who can get pregnant has a say in this issue. Think about that.

Also... Bill Maher talked about Palin in his COMEDY act, not on his political show. He is a professional comedian. Rush is not a comedian.
Didn't think about it that way, but I suspect you're largely correct.
i thought everything that could be said about limbaugh/fluke had been said -- and then you came up with an important question and interesting perspective. thanks! (and i'm not reading the other comments, mostly because reading comments about this particular controversy has a tendency to erode my faith in humanity).
Calling Bill Maher a Comedian and not a voice of th progressive movement is convenient-His HBO show is 100% political-His prior show was call "Politically Incorrect". He has all the major pols of the Dem party on his show weekely. Every appearence he makes on tv is a about political causes he believes in.
Rush blew it but he is on the air live 15 hours a week. You do a show for 25 years and count how many times you slip up. Do not agree with all he says but, he rarely give people the ammo he just did and that is impressive. Ang btw, he is an entertainer and a commentator
If Sandra Fluke was a Black woman Obama would have never called her, and in public he would have told her to take off her house slippers and get to work. On the other hand if Sandra Fluke was a Jew he would have called her 'your highness'!
"When an all-male panel gathered to discuss the Blunt Amendment, the controversy was over the fact that men were asked to speak on behalf of women."

It seems to me that it was all drama, and the left ate it up. Pelosi and Carolyn McCarthy had their plan and nothing was going to stop them from bringing a community activist, a woman who went to Georgtown solely with the objective of creating an "event" that was a full frontal attack on the Catholic Church.
This outcry was never about contraceptives or the accessibility of woman to contraceptives. Ms. Fluke cried in a public statement that she had to pay for her own birth control pill. Well, la de da, so do tens of millions of other women in the country. If you can't afford them, you can get them for free at most clinics.
If you can afford about $10 a month, you can get them with a scrip at any CVS or Revco.

At a time when almost half the population are living at the poverty level, a middle class, white, Protestant woman, attacks Georgetown University, and is joined in her attack on the principles that the Bishops of the Catholic Church believe in by Nancy (I want my own plane) Pelosi, and Carolyn McCarthy, two women who are going to have to make a strong case before a higher authority than SCOTUS one day.
If it were as simple as you make it sound, Joe Z, then women wouldn't be seeking aid to have access to birth control.

Unfortunately, before a woman can get birth control she must go to the doctor and get a pap smear -- if you have insurance, that's not so expensive. If you don't have insurance, well, you probably aren't going to the doctor. It isn't as if they hand out the same kind of birth control to everyone. Depending on the results of the pap smear, your age, and your medical history , they'll give you a prescription for a certain kind of birth control. Unfortunately, every different kind does not cost the same. So, while getting birth control pills from Planned Parenthood may be $10, if you are purchasing a different kind because of your particular health needs and can't get to PP, it can cost more (even at Revco or CVS). While Fluke may be able to afford birth control, she spoke up for women other than herself who can't afford it, which is admirable in my opinion.

Getting back to the point in my blog -- most of the women who are in serious need of this medical care aren't likely to have insurance in the first place because they are piecing together part time jobs that don't offer benefits. There are numerous reasons why they may not have access to full-time jobs. One reason is race. Here's one example of how one's race keeps her from getting a full time job that offers benefits: if a potential employer sees a name like Jamilla or Collelia on the top of a resume, (a name many would associate with black women) that employer is less likely to call the applicant back for an interview. Her qualifications may be the same as the resume with Emily at the top, but Emily will get the call.

So, while Fluke's activism may help some who have insurance coverage, it ignores the large population of women who don't have insurance and therefore don't have access to birth control. These women who don't have insurance are arguably more in need of access to medical attention.
"With our current economic climate in mind, the GOP candidates could have noted how advantageous it is for businesses to insure women in need of birth control pills. "

Actually, many businesses (about 80%) do include birth control in allowable charges in their company's healthcare plan.In addition, about 33 States mandate insurance companies provide insurance for birth control scrips, according to Kaiser. Many colleges provide discount pricing for pills, and Costco, Target, and other markets provide some pills for as low as $9 a month. If a women cannot afford to pay, Planned Parenthood should be able to provide free pills, but check this out.

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"He (Rush Limbough) even called President Obama "The Magic Negro."

Excuse me?

"The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. "He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist," reads the description on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_Negro .

He's there to assuage white "guilt" (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest."

No, it wasn't Rush who I quoted, but the guy who actually used the term "Magic Negro",but the LA Times back in 2007, and Rush has always credited his source on-air when he was attacked for "inventing" this description.
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-ehrenstein19mar19,0,3391015.story


"Romney's been asked to renounce Mormonism by the co-chair of Santorum's campaign on the basis that his religion has a history of racism. So far in this primary race, it seems that his religion is not a subject Romney wants his constituents to worry about or remember."

I wonder if Mitt Romney would renounce his religion because of past racism. I don't think he would ever renounce his religion for any political advantage. Let me ask you, would you renounce the democratic party that kept black people in slavery, that fought a civil war to preserve the ability to maintain slaves, the same democrat party that tried to block LBJ's Civil Rights Act with their Speaker of the Senate, KKK organizer Sen. Robert Byrd. During WW2, Byrd wrote:

"I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side ... Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.
— Robert C. Byrd, in a letter to Sen. Theodore Bilbo (D-MS), 1944

This same racist was "honored" by democrats when he went to his final reward.

So please, don't argue that Romney should repudiate his religion for crimes committed by others before he was even born when bigoted democrats like Byrd were lauded by followers of the party and senior politicians.
Mitt Romney is a human and is not perfect, but I would challenge anyone to argue he is a racist.