I recently wrote a column on how the West is curtailing free speech under blasphemy, hate speech, and anti-discrimination laws. As if on cue, lawyer Gloria Allred has called for the criminal prosecution of Rush Limbaugh for calling law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute.” I previously wrote that I believe Limbaugh’s comments were protected speech under the first amendment and constitute opinion for the purposes of any libel action. Such a prosecution would threaten core free speech principles and the law cited by Allred would appear not only inimical to free speech but overtly sexist.
In her press conference, Allred proclaimed “Mr. Limbaugh targeted his attack on a young law student who was simply exercised her free speech and her right to testify before congress on a very important issue to millions of American women and he vilified her. He defamed her and engaged in unwarranted, tasteless and exceptionally damaging attacks on her. He needs to face the consequences of his conduct in every way that is meaningful.” Thus, Allred insists, Limbaugh must be prosecuted to protect the free speech rights of Fluke. For most civil libertarians, that is rather counterintuitive.
In her letter to Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe, Allred speaks on behalf of the Women’s Equal Rights Legal Defense and Education Fund. On her website, Allred identifies herself as the “founder and president” of the organization. Allred wants an investigation under Section 836.04 of the Florida Statutes which allows for the criminal prosecution of anyone who “speaks of and concerning any woman, married or unmarried, falsely and maliciously imputing to her a want of chastity.” While based on defamation, the law allows for a criminal charge of a misdemeanor of the first degree.
What is curious about Allred’s embracing of this law is that it is overtly sexist. The law suggests that a woman who is viewed as unchaste is so harmed that she constitutes a crime victim. Chastity is defined by Webster’s as “(a) : abstention from unlawful sexual intercourse; (b) : abstention from all sexual intercourse.” The law is based on the out-dated notion that a woman who has sex before marriage is damaged and subject to social stigma. To put it more colloquially, such a woman was viewed as a “slut or prostitute.” That is precisely the outrageous view voiced by Limbaugh in relation to Fluke and led to a worldwide condemnation. Now, Allred wants him prosecuted under a law that assumes that is based on the same assumption. The law was not designed to prevent women from being called sluts. Laws like Florida’s code provision were designed on the belief that a woman who is unchaste is a slut — and that “good” women should never be accused of sex before marriage. So Allred wants Limbaugh prosecuted for saying Fluke is a slut based on the law that effectively treats unchaste women as sluts. It does not protect men because an unchaste man was viewed under these dated laws as just a normal man. A man was not viewed as harmed or demeaned by being sexually active. Only a woman was harmed by the suggestion of sexual activities. Not also the law only protects women who are “falsely” accused of being unchaste. Thus if a woman has been sexually active before married, she would presumably not be protected under the law.
I have previously written against these archaic laws, which were passed with anti-fornication and anti-adultery laws. Even when anti-adultery laws did not limit themselves to women, it was women who were often targeted.
Using sexist laws to fight sexism is never a good idea. In this case, the prosecution suggested by Allred would not only reaffirm the very sexism at the core of Limbaugh’s comments but add an attack on free speech to magnify the harm.
72 thoughts on “Fighting Sexism With Sexism? Allred Calls For Limbaugh To Be Criminally Charged For His Attack On Fluke In The Name Of Free Speech”
Prof. T: “I believe Limbaugh’s comments were protected speech under the first amendment and constitute opinion for the purposes of any libel action.”
Sorry, but I disagree. This particular name-calling of a woman is no different than using racial slurs against someone. It is not “opinion”, it is not “a joke”.
I cant find the post that dealt directy with this but Kansas is considering “a bill that would give legal protection to a doctor who discovers that a baby will be born with a devastating condition and deliberately withholds that information from his patient. If the bill passes, a doctor who opposes abortion could decide to lie about the results of a blood test, a ultrasound, a cvs, or an amnio. ”
In any other context this could constitute med. malpractice to withhold this kind of information.
“Allred is a disgrace.”
Swarthmore Mom said:
“Private citizens are perfectly capable of registering their objections without government — and have no right to demand assistance from government in stopping what merely offends them.”
Mike Spindell said:
“Ms. Allred is quite frankly a self-serving idiot. If she actually believes in the cause of equality and fair treatment for women, as I do, then she has taken a winning cause and given its opponents the ammunition to defeat it. Prosecution of Limbaugh would not only make him an undeserving martyr, it would shift the focus to being simply about the First Amendment. In the resultant furor, the heinousness of his remarks would fall by the wayside.”
Merely paying for insurance doesn’t guarantee free drugs with no co-pay.
That’s just dumb.
I have insurance (that I pay for) and every month I pay $100 out of pocket for injectable Imitrex. Without it, I would not be able to hold a job.
What on earth is so special about birth control that it should be free? People have all sorts of painful, expensive, and debilitating conditions.
Why isn’t male birth control covered under the Affordable HC Act? Condoms are the only known way (other than abstinence) to prevent STDs, which affect women, men and children born to infected mothers.
There’s a lot of emotion surrounding this issue and blessedly little common sense. Birth control isn’t a special case.It’s just one of many medications.
As a woman, I’m particularly offended by the suggestion that women deserve special treatment under the law that is not offered to men… just because we’re female.
I just defined contraception for ya’,
Contraception: A method of preventing the mixing of business with pleasure resulting in undesired outcomes.
Which reminds me of the hypocrisy of the vending machines of my youth:
“For the prevention of venereal diseases.”
Blouise et al.
Donating to PP makes more sense. They don’t go back on their promises for one thing, they do only good, and they don’t start any wars. Besides they help reduce the amount of unwanted children who are over-represented in our professional army.
The El Paso/Juarez crack was fair summation on my “tourist” visits; however am well aware that today’s situation is far from those early 60’s days. Excuse the “humor”.
Gary’s site displays Gov. Perry’s message.
“””When presented with all the information, every person can make the right choice, the only choice, life.””
—Governor Rick Perry, explaining the purpose of the Texas sonogram bill to a group of pastors.”
This is my first time there. To think I got through life without this essential bit of the “American Dream”, ie Doonesbury.
Why do we have to APOLOGIZE for using the pill? Why all the arguments that we only want it to treat cysts or some hormonal function? God damn it, I want it so that I don’t get pregnant. Last I heard that was legal. I feel like we “accept” some “shame” by giving such reasons.
Also, don’t Georgetown LS students have to pay for health insurance and it is required that they carry insurance? It is NOT a question of asking for a freebie. They PAY for it!
Thanks for your remarks.
You have provided an alternative explanation of Limbaugh’s remarks that are at least consistent.
I don’t find the explanation particularly convincing. I still believe that the plain language used by Limbaugh – approximately ‘she wants to be paid for sex’ – leads in a fairly inescapable way to the conclusion that the government and tax payers are the client not the pimp – in Limbaugh’s description.
But others may disagree. In any case you are at least a step ahead of me. I couldn’t think of any reason – aside from plain linguistic incompetence – to explain Limbaugh’s remarks.
Perhaps in your day job you are a defense attorney or maybe you are just naturally inventive.
In any case an interesting interpretation.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office is not amused, calling the comic tasteless. “The decision to end a life is not funny,” Perry spokesperson Lucy Nashed told TPM. “The governor’s proud of his leadership on the sonogram law … and being a staunch defender of unborn life.”
No it is not funny, a terribly difficult decision but the governor’s pride in the law, if it were not sickening, would be funny.
You’re welcome. To coin an old phrase from B Franklin “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
I’d donate to PP before I’d donate to Obama. PP really needs it.
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