News & Politics

The 11 Dumbest Things Conservatives Have Said About Women

From Rush Limbaugh to the Pope, it's been one of the worst months ever for verbalized sexism.

In Congress this week, the GOP attempted to push through the vile Blunt amendment, which would allow any employer to deny insurance coverage to employees for services deemed immoral. While couched in "religious freedom" terms, this move is a direct attack on women's health, a backlash to the president's birth control mandate and a chance for men to impose their will on women. The amendment failed by three votes in the Senate on Thursday, but not without wasting time, energy and attempting to move the discourse on women's health further into the past.

This time around, the GOP and its allies in the right-wing media aren't even pretending bills like this are pro-women. In fact, if we put all conservative pundits' thoughts on gender from the past month together, we'd see women as truly dismal creatures, oversexed rape-bait dummies who don't understand themselves and their own needs. 

This month, as we've been documenting at AlterNet, any facade of faux-feminism espoused by the right wing has fallen away. Instead, women have been posited, publicly, as everything undeserving under the sun -- from the same old virgin-whore dichotomies to insults far beyond. Even worse, we've been told, public policy should be reflective of this natural inferiority. Hence, the Blunt amendment, the patronizing mandatory ultrasound bills, the push to define a fertilized embryo as a person.

But the verbal assault that has accompanied this ongoing legislative assault may have the unexpected benefit of prompting a backlash due to its outrageousness. Our loose-tongued friends on the right may have done us a favor with some of this bile, exposing the true sentiments that go along with the bills restricting abortion and contraception access.

Here are some of the less noted but equally heinous things said about women in 2012 alone--with video and transcripts where available.

1. "Sex-Crazed Co-Eds..." thus begins the headline on a piece by right-winger Craig Bannister, about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown student who was denied the ability to testify by Darrell Issa. The hot and bothered Mr. Bannister, by interpreting Fluke's testimony by the price of condoms rather than the hormonal birth control that she actually referred to, uses the word "sex" so many times throughout the piece you'd think it was on his mind. A lot. A small sampling:

"A Georgetown co-ed told Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s hearing that the women in her law school program are having so much sex that they’re going broke, so you and I should pay for their birth control...Apparently, four out of every ten co-eds are having so much sex that it's hard to make ends meet if they have to pay for their own contraception, Fluke's research shows."

As we know, contraception has little to do with how much sex a woman is having, but instead with how protected she is when she has it. Hormonal contraception can be used to regulate menstruation, control pain and acne, and protect against unwanted pregnancy no matter how often and when its user has sex. Unlike condoms, hormonal contraception puts the control for pregnancy prevention in women's hands -- and many couples prefer to combine oral contraceptions with condoms to avoid both STDs and pregnancies.

Rush Limbaugh echoed, and one-upped Bannister on his show of the 29th, calling Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" for wanting contraceptive coverage:

What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke [sic], who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps.


2. "Lavishly contracepted.""By any reasonable standard, we are one of the most lavishly contracepted society in the history of the planet," Rich Lowry wrote earnestly in his New York Post column. (h/t to Irin Carmon). This phrase led to a spate of online jokes about diamond-encrusted IUDs and gold-plated condoms (not to mention birth control pills spiked with designer drugs). But Lowry's words underscore the fallacy that is so common to conservative perspectives on the issue: that legality equals availability. For abortion and contraception, cost is a genuinely prohibitive barrier--as Fluke's testimony shows.

A right is a right in name only if it's not combined with access.

3. "What do you expect from a woman driver?" You know you're hearing a throwback back to another era when a complaint about those darn women drivers assaults your ears. But king of the misogynists Rush Limbaugh (yep, him again) wasn't criticizing race car pro Danica Patrick for her driving chops, of which she has some of the world's best, but for sticking up for the president on contraception. And for the runner up, this one is just pathetic: denying the existence of "birth control moms," as though any woman who has ever had a child would be against birth control.

4. Women in the military should "expect" to be raped. Why, exactly? This gem came from Fox News talking-head Liz Trotta, who in addition to asking "what do they expect?" when confronted with the upsurge of rapes in the military, criticized the money spent on dealing with those rapes:

And the feminists have also directed them, really, to spend a lot of money. They have sexual counselors all over the place, victims' advocates, sexual response coordinators... So, you have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much.

Trotta later refused to apologize, that class act.


Meanwhile, Rick Santorum said: "When you have men and women together in combat, I think men have emotions when you see a woman in harm’s way.’’ 

As Jon Stewart asked: which of these dueling instincts kick in, right-wing? Rape or protect?

5. In my day, "gals" used to put an "aspirin between their knees" [for contraception]. This misguided attempt at nostalgia may be one of the most egregious examples of the kind of talk that's circulating about women in right-wing circles. It came courtesy of Rick Santorum super PAC sugar-daddy Foster Friess whose retro recommendation for contraception is pretty much in line with the candidate's. 

Here's the key transcript, with Andrea Mitchell's shocked response:

This contraceptive thing, my gosh it's such inexpensive, back in my days we used Bayer aspirin for contraception, the gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly.

Mitchell: Um, excuse me, I'm trying to catch my breath from that Mr. Friess, frankly...


6Dana Loesch: Women already consented to be penetrated when they got pregnant. When discussing the Virginia bill that would have mandated certain kinds of invasive ultrasounds for women, Loesch seemed unable to process the idea that consent is needed every single time a person's body is penetrated. "They had no problem having similar to a transvaginal procedure when they engaged in the act that resulted in their pregnancy," she said. Fortunately, Loesh was not alone -- her words were echoed by a legislator working on the provision.

7. Booing birth control at the GOP debate. In response to a rather mild question from a voter about "which candidate believes in birth control?" the GOP audience burst into emphatic booing. Whether these Bronx cheers were due to the question or to birth control itself is sort of irrelevant. The GOP, after all, politicized the birth control mandate issue.

8.Democrats and Republicans sitting together is "like date rape." From Stephen A. Moore of the Wall Street Journal, responding to the State of the Union address's unorthodox seating arrangement. As Kelsey Wallace notes in a sharp rejoinder to Moore: "Jokes like these contribute to rape culture and trivialize the experiences of victims of actual date rape. Having to sit next to someone you don't like is something we all learn to live with starting in kindergarten...."

9. My wife won't sleep with me because of this ultrasound provision. Isn't that hilarious? It came from lawmaker Dave Albo of Virginia, who went on a long comedy-like routine about how he couldn't get laid thanks to the "transvaginal" (which he called trans-V) provision. It was one of the frattiest moments ever filmed in a long history of fratty lawmaking moments. I'll let Erin Gloria Ryan's takedown stand on its own: "Telling a story about the implications of abortion legislation on your personal dick is completely tone-deaf and assy, not to mention a disturbing testament to just how unaffected by abortion restrictions the middle-aged men who make laws actually are. For Virginia women, it's a matter of having something inserted into their vaginas...for the men making the laws, it's just another catalyst for a hilarious anecdote told over a game of golf."

And two bonus round comments. 10. and 11. The Pope says couples who conceive using in vitro fertilization are arrogant while a DC blogger notes that lady journalists who are nice-looking in their Twitter avatars can't be serious.  


The silver lining to all this obnoxiousness? "Pro-women" posturing from the GOP's extremist members has gone out the window. The fact that they hate us, and that underlies their policy, is now out in the air for all to see.

Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published at the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Jezebel and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @fellowette and find her work at