Rush Limbaugh, my missing breasts and his contribution to the ‘war on women’


Radio host Rush Limbaugh

He did, however, see me on TV, and decided that I am living confirmation of his theory that feminism was created “to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.”

On the other hand, I possess extraordinary powers in Rush World: “And, believe me, she speaks for the Maureen Dowds and Gloria Borgers of the world, that whole crowd.” So what does Maleficent do for an encore, anyway?

The background, such as it is: On Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” host Bob Schieffer asked what I thought of the Time cover of the nursing 3-year-old. Unlike my fellow panelist Bay Buchanan, who called it “child porn,” I had no strong feelings about the image, which mainly just made me think, “Oh, poor Time magazine.” So, I joked that it wasn’t a very nice Mother’s Day present to ask us to compare ourselves to the gorgeous woman on a cover that wants us to wonder, “Are You Mom Enough?” I am all for breastfeeding as long as possible and certainly have no beef with the cover mom, whose appearance I think I just complimented.

On Limbaugh’s show the next day, however, I learned that the sight of her was actually eating me up inside. First, Limbaugh pronounced me “a classic inside-the-Beltway feminist, classic professional feminist. You know what that means.” I do?

In his view, the TIME cover was intended to bolster Obama’s case about the Republican ‘war on women’ but fell short. And here I thought it was just supposed to sell magazines.

“See, TIME Magazine blew it,’’ Limbaugh explained. “You know why it’s not working with the feminist women? Because the woman on the cover of TIME Magazine was too pretty. I call your attention once again to Undeniable Truth of Life Number 24. Dare I speak it again? Brian’s nodding his head yes. Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream. Here is Melinda Henneberger, who’s somewhat trying to be funny here, but in all comedy, there is a grain of truth, and she’s quite upset. And, believe me, she speaks for the Maureen Dowds of the world and the Gloria Borgers, the whole crowd.”

He went on: “She’s upset that the woman on the cover of TIME was too pretty, was too attractive. Not the concept, but that she was too pretty. Embarrassed all these other women by having a woman on the cover that’s too pretty. Should have had somebody not as pretty on the cover, and then it would have been more effective. I’m dead serious…And this was a story designed to appeal to women on behalf of Obama and the War on Women, and the thing apparently has totally backfired.’’


Phyllis Schlafly introduces Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) of Indiana during the Conservative Political Action Conference dinner in Washington last year. (JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS)

On one of the conservative blogs that picked up and cheered on Rush’s thoughts on my appearance, commenters joined in the fun by speculating that I probably have ugly breasts and so cringe at the sight of a beautiful woman nursing. Actually, they are wrong about that; I have no breasts, after cancer in 2002 and 2003. But beauty comes in many forms, and I am so glad to be alive that I thank God for my scars.

As I’ve written before, I am not a big fan of the rhetoric of the ‘war on women’-- for one thing, because there is a literal war on women going on in so much of this world, where girls get acid thrown in their faces on the way to school, are made to marry their rapists and forced to have abortions in the ninth month of their pregnancies because the Chinese state says they must.

But every time El Rushbo goes after a woman for her looks, calls a young woman a “slut,” for disagreeing with him, or spews anti-woman nonsense for exactly the same reason TIME published that cover – because ad sales aren’t what they used to be – it convinces people that there sure as the world is a Republican war on women, and that he is one of those leading it.

What’s conservative about woman-hating? Nothing, and many conservative women see themselves as feminists these days. Which is why Mitt Romney would be helped, not hurt, by standing up to any one of the many half-baked tartlets the radio host offers up on a daily basis.

At this point, it would barely take any courage at all.

Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors ‘She the People.’ Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.

Melinda Henneberger has been writing about politics and culture for the Washington Post since 2011.

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