Ruminations on apologies in the gender wars

In feminist activist Sandra Fluke’s now famous congressional testimony, she made the following statement, among many others: “Forty percent of female students at Georgetown Law report struggling financially as a result of this policy [that contraception is not covered at Georgetown Law School].”

Note that it’s not the tens of thousands of dollars that go toward crushing tuition debt, housing, and books that cause female law students to struggle financially. It’s the cost of contraception. (Could it also be the Skinny Flavored Starbucks Latte and similar beverages many law students are known to buy on a regular basis?)

Let’s be fair. Fluke’s absurd statement, and others, didn’t justify Rush Limbaugh’s other-worldly assumption that Fluke was fucking her way through law school, and that she wants to be paid to have sex, so, therefore, she’s a slut and a prostitute. Pretty much everyone said Rush’s name calling was wrong, and Rush properly apologized last Saturday, and again Monday.

But, of course, that wasn’t enough for Fluke or her gender warrior friends. They insist the problem goes far beyond Rush’s poor choice of words, even though Rush’s poor choice of words is the sole reason the story is in the news. “I don’t think that a statement like this… changes anything,” Fluke clucked the women on The View. Left-wingers and their web arms, like Media Matters, who loathe and despise Rush’s politics, smelled blood and tried to use Rush’s misstep to bring him down with sponsor boycotts. For his part, Rush claims there are plenty of sponsors waiting to take the places of the ones that jumped ship.

(Speaking of apologies and The View, remember Sharon Osbourne’s giggling apology last year after the ladies of that dismal show guffawed over the news story about a woman who cut off her husband’s penis and threw it in a garbage disposal because he filed for divorce? Sharon Osbourne proclaimed, among other things, that this act of mutilation was “quite fabulous” and “hysterical,” adding that she lights candles by Lorena Bobbitt’s picture. After some people objected to this bizarre and somehow acceptable celebration of gendered mayhem, Osbourne tried her best to keep a straight face and said she was “sorry that I offended people cause that’s not my intention.” No sponsors pulled out.)

Liberal comic Bill Maher, for one, isn’t joining in the Rush feeding frenzy. He took to Twitter to call out liberals for their continuous criticism of the right wing talkmeister. “Hate to defend #RushLimbaugh but he apologized, liberals looking bad not accepting. Also hate intimidation by sponsor pullout.” Mr. Maher may recognize the double-standard where he was largely given a pass for calling Sarah Palin a “tw*t” and a “c*nt.”

Among the more fascinating takes on Rush and Fluke came from two New York female politicians from different parties. Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R,C-Brooklyn/Staten Island) said this: “While I may disagree with Ms. Fluke on some aspects of this issue, I am in complete agreement with those calling on Mr. Limbaugh to apologize to all women for his demeaning comments.” Council Member Debi Rose (D,WF-Staten Island) said this: “I call on the sponsors of his show to call for him to apologize to Ms. Fluke and all women and make it clear to him that the public does not support his hate rhetoric,” said See here.

Rush must apologize to “all women.” Hmm. This reminded me of the time Katie Engelhart, writing in the Huffington Post, said that governments owe women, as a class, an apology on behalf of their men. Of course, men, both as a class and individually, are owed nothing. The oppressors never are, you see.

And we can’t forget the following:

Tiger Woods should apologize to all women, one female newspaper writer wrote, for what he did in his personal life.

Attorney Gloria Allred said that Mel Gibson should apologize to “all women” for telling his partner, “if you get raped by a pack of n*****s, it will be your fault.” (Oh — Allred added that Gibson should also apologize to African American men, but note she puts women first).

Sarah Palin said David Letterman owed an apology to young women across the country for his joke that Palin’s daughter got “knocked up” by New York Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez during a trip to New York.


Whatever trouble Tiger Woods and Mel Gibson were having in their private relationships was just that — private, and all womanhood isn’t victimized by them. Letterman’s lame joke that referenced both a male and a female wasn’t an assault on all things female anymore than it was an assault on all things male. It was just a lame joke.

Not all calls for apologies are informal. A Hamilton County judge ordered a man jailed for his Facebook rant about his wife — or, to avoid the jail sentence, the man was ordered to post on his page an apology to his wife and all of his Facebook friends, something free-speech experts found troubling.

There was a case twenty years ago where a woman’s rape lie led to the following: an innocent man lost his job; his family was harassed; his children were taunted at school; one of his daughters was forced to quit school altogether; his wife got to the point that she hated even going shopping; people in town were buying guns because of this innocent man; and women in town feared him. The rape lie was discovered, and the liar was convicted. The judge’s sentence required her to apologize to the man she falsely accused in half-page advertisements in four newspapers and 10 spot announcements on two radio stations. The judge explained: “. . . the rape charges were all over the papers, but when [the innocent man] was exonerated nobody hears about it. I told [the false accuser] the only way to get it out was to have her do it.” This was a fitting punishment because the principal harm of a rape lie is reputational. Yet the ACLU fought it, alleging, among other things, that an apology constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Rather than appeal, she grudgingly abided by the sentence.

And my favorite apology of all: the infamous case from several years ago at Milton Academy, Massachusetts. A 15-year-old girl engaged in group sex with five teenage boys in the boys’ locker room. They were 16. The boys, and only the boys, were expelled and charged with statutory rape, and the court ordered the boys to publicly apologize to the girl and her family, and to do community service.

Alan M. Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor and criminal defense lawyer whose daughter attended Milton Academy, said this: ”This represents the most senseless use of prosecutorial discretion I’ve seen in a long time.” He added: ”The idea that these youngsters should be branded rapists and the girl should be labeled a victim is preposterous.”

Read on only if you want to get your blood boiling. The 16-year-old boys read their apologies to the girl and her family, in open court, as part of their plea bargain. One boy read this: ”Not a day has passed since the incident that I don’t wish I had shown more respect for you, myself, and everyone involved. I understand that by taking part I put myself in a very dangerous situation with consequences none of us had dreamed of.” Another boy read this: ”Every day I am sorry, so sorry, for what happened. And every day I think of how hurt you must be and how upset your family must be. More than anything in the world I wish that I could turn back the clock. . . . All I can do at this point is truly and sincerely apologize for my actions and wish you happiness.”

The girl and her family sat there stony-faced as the boys were publicly emasculated.

Just another of those wacky, wonderful double standards in the gender wars.

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