After women’s health advocate Sandra Fluke delivered a speech about reproductive freedom in a primetime slot at the Democratic National Convention in September, a number of prominent conservatives, many of whom are women, attacked her with sexist, personal insults. “Feminism weeps as Fluke and other DNC women get on their metaphorical knees to beg for government to take care of them,” tweeted conservative MSNBC host S.E. Cupp, just after commentator Ann Coulter tweeted, “Bill Clinton just impregnated Sandra Fluke backstage.”
A month later, as Fluke relaxed on an Obama for America bus Tuesday afternoon, she took a few minutes to reflect on the fact that some Republicans can’t stop insulting her.
“I’ve read some of it, but not all of it. Much of it is just as sexist and as problematic as some of the things we saw earlier in the year,” she said in a phone interview with The Huffington Post, referring to the incident in which Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” on his radio show because she advocates for contraception coverage. “It can be frustrating. I certainly don’t want to be a polarizing figure, and I don’t try to say things that are polarizing — I just try to say why these are important to my generation and to me, and evidently that’s upsetting for some people to hear.”
The slurs that are coming from women, she said, are particularly disappointing to her.
“I think, unfortunately, that women are not immune from being sexist or misogynistic,” she said, “in the same way that being a person of color doesn’t mean you’re not racist. It’s unfortunate, and I wish women would stand with each other. I certainly try to stand with other women whether I agree with them politically or not, because when we have a lot of these strong public voices attacking someone personally in this way, it gives everyone else in society permission to do that as well.”
Despite the personal insults, Fluke said the attacks that frustrate her the most are the ones that mischaracterize what she is advocating. When she attended a congressional hearing on the contraception mandate, she was planning to testify on behalf of a fellow law student who needed the birth control pill to alleviate her ovarian cysts, but couldn’t afford it because the school didn’t cover it in its student plan. But Fluke’s conservative opponents have characterized her as the poster child for government dependency and accused her of wanting taxpayers to pay her to have sex.
“Think about this, a 31, 32-year-old law student who has been a student for life, who gets up there in front of a national audience and tells the American people, ‘I want America to pay for my contraceptives,’” Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) said at a campaign event. “You’re kidding me. Go get a job. Go get a job, Sandra Fluke.”
Fluke said the argument that contraception coverage is about taxpayer funding is “factually incorrect and designed to mislead people.”