I didn't realize we were still talking about Sandra Fluke, but if she's still in cultural conversation, okay, I want to know more. Remember the whole contraception, Georgetown, Rush Limbaugh slut thing? Yeah, I remember it too, I guess.
Without getting into the nitty grittiness of the contraception debate, it's worth just looking at the jaw-dropping interview with Fluke from the New York Times magazine. I want to focus on the reporter's questions and the piece's framing, not on the content of or arguments behind Fluke's answers.
First, there's the headline: "Our Lady of Contraception: Sandra Fluke’s Rocky Path to Feminist Superstardom"
Hey, could you be more in-your-face about it? Let's pretend in a headline to get all religion angle about the interview as a trick for the reader but not explain her faith at all.
In the actual interview, there's the first
hard-hitting question from the reporter:
After testifying before House Democrats in February about the limited contraceptive coverage in Georgetown University’s insurance plan, Rush Limbaugh referred to you as a “slut” on his radio show. He said you were “having so much sex” that you couldn’t afford all the birth-control pills you needed. Do you suppose he doesn’t understand how the pill works?
Keep in mind, this piece has been edited, so the launching question is pretty purposeful even in the resulting piece (it's not just to cozy up to her). Fluke says, "There is real hate and sexism within our society that we have to do something about." The
important follow-up question?
But what exactly can you do? Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda wanted the F.C.C. to revoke the licenses of stations that carry Limbaugh’s show, but doesn’t that go against basic First Amendment rights?
Because Sandra Fluke is an expert on First Amendment rights?
Rick Santorum said during his campaign that pornography “contributes to misogyny and violence against women.” Do you agree? Fluke: Congratulations on finding a position that Rick Santorum and I agree upon.
Congratulations on bringing up something
everyone no one is talking about.
Fluke: As a friend put it, she would be just fine with feminist porn.
What does feminist porn look like? Fluke: I’ll let you know when I find any.
How funny, cute Wait, what? Anyone else confused?
When did you first start to advocate for women’s issues? Fluke: In college, actually. I grew up in a rural farming community in central Pennsylvania. My father is a pastor now, and we have always been a very observant, conservative Christian family. My first semester, I signed up for a women’s studies course because I wanted to see what all this ruckus was about. I was going to show them that I didn’t really believe in these things, but I was just completely blown over.
I can't say that I've read all the Fluke stories (from what I remember, they were a little more about women's bodies, Rush Limbaugh's business model, the state of whatever we expect out of civility than about the actual people involved), but I don't understand how the reporter can let this slide: "observant, conservative Christian family." What does that mean? Where is her father a pastor at what church? Why can't we get more specifics, the who, what, where, when, why, how basics from this
When it was reported in April that you got engaged, Monica Crowley, a conservative commentator, tweeted, “To a man?” After you called it homophobic hate speech, she said you confirmed her suspicions that liberals are humorless.
Reporters still seem a little fascinated with Twitter, like there's this thing on the internet where people can write what they think and people will read it and retweet it. Ridiculous things are said on the Twittersphere every. single. day. Why is this one any different than the next?
What do you envision for your nuptials? Fluke: There will be nuptials. That’s as far as I’ve gotten on the planning. I imagine my wedding will be a joyous interfaith egalitarian festival.
Why no follow-up question here? What are the faiths that are going to make it interfaith? Apparently it's more important to find out if she's going to wear a wedding dress. (No really, that's the follow-up question.)
The problems with this piece really have nothing to do with Sandra Fluke, the contraception debate or even religious liberty (scare quotes or not). It has to do with journalism 101, something that didn't exist in this Q & A.
Image of journalist via Shutterstock.