I was raised half-Catholic and half-Southern Baptist in Texas, so Rush Limbaugh made an auditory appearance now and again in my car growing up. One of my early memories was discovering a new term: “feminazis.”
These dangerous women were unkempt, outspoken, and downright ungodly, if you believed Limbaugh. Then I reached about age 14. I was actually going to be a woman and maaaaybe this was kind of insulting. I realized that Limbaugh was often self-admittedly absurd—a shock-jock. I stopped taking him seriously.
So when he spit out his latest attack on women and outrage followed, I wondered whether I should even be surprised. What came out of his mouth was disgusting, but this is a man who doesn’t believe in the existence of sexual harassment.
The scary thing about Limbaugh is not necessarily the “insulting word choice” he admits to using, but the impact of those words. Depending on whom you ask, Limbaugh could have upwards of 15 million listeners across the country—a point conservative leaders know too well. They understand his sway among conservative voters, and it seems some are wary of publicly condemning him.
But shouldn’t our collective moral compass come out on top at least this time? Whether we agree with Sandra Fluke and the administration’s position on contraception coverage, can we at least shout from the mountaintop that it’s not OK to call a woman a “slut” or a “prostitute” for voicing her ideals?
Conservatives among us in many situations seem particularly concerned about “class and decency”—values Sarah Palin invoked when denouncing rap artist Common’s invite to the White House last year.
There is nothing classy or decent about a man who suggests that if a woman chooses to use contraception, she should at least post her sexual encounters online for him to view. That is not a poor choice of words; it is a demeaning caricature of women and their role in society.
Limbaugh is beginning to see the consequences of his “wrong words.” Eight advertisers (and counting) have now pulled spots from his show. He’s become the whipping boy of the moment, and Democrats are using the situation for political gain.
But this isn’t about politics. It’s about drawing the line of responsibility in public discourse. It’s about common decency and respect for others. It’s about the tenor of conversation among those who would claim the mantle of morals and values.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. – Psalm 19:14
Sandi Villarreal is Associate Web Editor for Sojourners.