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Lauren Ashburn Headshot

Rush Rage: Sting of the S-Word

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Watching the YouTube clip of Rush Limbaugh calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut," "a prostitute" and "round-heeled" for her congressional testimony urging her school to amend its health insurance to cover contraception was like reliving a bad dream.

I was instantly transported to my eighth-grade school cafeteria, where the heat from so many sweaty pre-teens steamed the glass doors to the playground. As I walked to the trash can to throw away what was left of my lunch, I watched as a classmate wrote with her finger in the fog. S -- she spelled slowly -- L-U-T. Then she mouthed it to me.

The pain of the unwarranted attack ripped through my insides. My undeveloped emotional control sent me running to the bathroom, making it just in time to close the door and let out a sob. I went home, told my mom, who called her dad and made her apologize. Thirty years later, I can still feel the sting of the word -- a word bantered about so casually by Rush Limbaugh, the man with a megaphone that could reach Mount Olympus.

Whatever I had done to that girl -- talked to her crush or her girlfriend's boyfriend -- I'll never know. But I do know that from that day on, despite my career-long defense of the First Amendment, I abhor name-calling. And when it comes from public figures who ought to know better, it disgusts me. And all of the women who have been subject to this vile language.

This time, Rush, you went too far. What is it with you that you think it's okay to call a woman you never met who is standing up for what she believes a vulgar name? And it seems the marketplace is holding you accountable as one by one your mattress and flower advertisers bid adieu. The pseudo-apology just doesn't cut it.

I believe the direct quote about Fluke was, "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. The johns."

For the last two weeks, I've been watching the media cover the fight over President Obama's health insurance policies that would compel employers and other organizations, including Georgetown, her university, to offer group health insurance that covers birth control for women. Everyone has an opinion: the White House, Congress, the Catholic Church, nuns, doctors, hospital administrators.

Yet no one sunk to the level of Limbaugh, who by his own admission has lived an imperfect life and is on his fourth wife.

Many, including New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who has been on the receiving end of Rush's rage, doesn't mince words when it comes to calling out Limbaugh's bullying ways.

What a shame that it takes women like us to take him to the woodshed for name-calling.