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This was the purpose of Fluke’s initial testimony, which had very little to do with the actual cost of birth control, as is painfully evident by the exorbitant costs she cites. (There are, in fact, several taxpayer-funded Planned Parenthoods in D.C. if Fluke and her peers would ever deign visit one.) These histrionics are necessary, however, in order to frighten the public and to demonize Republicans working against the effort to force religious objectors to pay for contraceptives. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Fluke was compelled to testify not because of financial hardship, but because she views herself as an activist for female empowerment. In a generation of normalized promiscuity and disdain toward marriage, contraception and female empowerment are billed as one and the same.
Last week’s congressional hearing bespeaks the failure of this brand of feminism framing the 21st century. The great lengths the Democratic establishment has gone to champion universal, on-demand contraception as the feminist battle of our time reveals the centrality it enjoys in feminist dogma today. But while Fluke and Nancy Pelosi crusade for the right of every college co-ed to have free contraceptives, they give scant thought to the morally questionable and deeply sexist culture the widespread popularization of contraception has facilitated.
This is not to say that contraception itself is immoral, but there can be little doubt that it has had negative social consequences for women, about which the feminists leading the charge for “free” contraception care very little. There is nothing obviously “feminist” about living in a world in which men can have depersonalized sex with numberless women because they’re all on birth control. Nor is it a tribute to feminism that many women are enthusiastic partners in this culture of debasement.
So let us stop pretending, as Fluke and others do, that the quest for free birth control is a crusade for women’s “health.” Reasonable people can disagree on the merits of the pill in society, but a panacea for misogyny it is not. In many ways, it has engendered a culture that has less regard for women’s rights and sexuality.
Once upon a time, female empowerment meant the right to vote, to seek employment and distinction in a male-dominated world. In its corrupted modern version, it means having someone else pick the tab for one’s sexual indulgences. By this measure, Sandra Fluke is indeed a feminist hero. That is feminism’s shame, not Rush Limbaugh’s.
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