Published On: Tue, Mar 6th, 2012

The Unbearable Lightness of Sandra Fluke

A red herring named Sandra Fluke floated through the murky waters of Congress last week, lured on by Nancy Pelosi before a mock hearing on the HHS contraception mandate. Miss Fluke’s testimony – as a law student – had no actual bearing on the debate since the mandate requires contraception coverage for employees, not students. Miss Fluke’s appearance therefore was irrelevant. Most Republicans recognized this and wisely stayed away. But Nancy Pelosi dangled the bait anyway until an oversized guppy named Rush Limbaugh swallowed it whole and Mrs. Pelosi reeled him in.

On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh called Miss Fluke “a slut” for insisting that others pay for her contraception. Miss Fluke sexual priorities may be selfish, but not sluttish. What she decides to do with her own time and her own body is her own business. She just shouldn’t expect taxpayers to pick up the tab. That’s what Limbaugh should have said. Instead, bigmouth that he is, he insulted the woman and thereby fell into a trap.

Sandra Fluke was a perfect decoy. At age 30, Miss Fluke is a skilled campus activist and a clever bird to boot. Her testimony was poised, measured and sympathetic – but ultimately beside the point. Whether or not she is having sex in a committed relationship or juggling competing lovers, the HHS mandate is not required to cover her contraceptive needs. As a student, she’s on her own. So instead of testifying before Congress, Miss Fluke should have gone to Wal-Mart where she can get contraceptive pills for as low as $9-a-month without a prescription. Or, better yet, insist that her partners use condoms which on college campuses are doled out for free.

(As for medical conditions treated by the Pill – such as cysts which Miss Fluke said a friend of hers had – her student insurance covers hormonal treatments. If it’s denied, she should call the insurance carrier and demand it. Most pharmacies will accept a note of “medical necessity” from a doctor so that the prescription is covered. In either case, the Pill would be used to treat a pre-existing condition, not contraception.)

So while the HHS mandate cannot redress the cost of Miss Fluke’s peccadilloes, there are ways around such dilemmas. As a former grad student, the best advice I can give her is “prioritize”. Make a budget. If all else fails, tell your paramour; “No glove, no love”.

That was all that need be said about Miss Fluke, until Mr. Limbaugh fouled the waters by calling her a derogatory name. He has since apologized after several advertisers pulled from his radio program. Quelle suprise! However, both his insult and subsequent apology have served to distract from the actual debate which does not involve contraception, but in fact concerns the violation of the separation of church and state found in Obamacare.

Much ink and vitriol has already been spilled on this issue. What I would like to point out is that both Miss Fluke’s testimony and Mr. Limbaugh’s remarks are classic examples of kitsch. What do I mean by kitsch? Kitsch is a sentimental, vulgar or ostentatious display. “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” on television is a good example. In the political arena, Miss Fluke’s insistence that taxpayers pay for her recreational sex life is kitsch. Mr. Limbaugh calling Miss Fluke a trollop on national radio is kitsch. Nancy Pelosi goading both of them on from her perch in Congress is the height of kitsch.

In other words, kitsch is political theater. It distracts us from the real issue (Obamacare) by engrossing us in cheap thrills (the sex lives of law students).

Kitsch is also the absence of substance which is precisely what Miss Fluke’s testimony was – a weightless argument in search of gravity – that is until Mr. Limbaugh came along and gave it weight. A nifty trick of the Left is to lift a woman’s skirt and then cry foul when a man whistles. This is the trap Mr. Limbaugh fell into with his wolf whistle at demure Miss Fluke – giving her otherwise self-serving testimony gravitas.

However, Miss Fluke is not quite the buttoned-down, pennywise law student she appears. Open her topcoat and a bird of a different feather emerges. According to her resume, Miss Fluke has a laundry list of political agitation going back to her Feminist, Gender & Sexuality degree at Cornell University all the way to her interning at the NOW Legal Defense Fund. (How she ended up at Georgetown is anyone’s guess. Unless the Jesuits caved and gave her a scholarship? Hmmm…)

You have to hand it to Mrs. Pelosi for trotting out Miss Fluke before Congress, allowing her to seduce a sympathetic media. Together, they managed to pivot the HHS mandate away from the violation of religious liberty to a war on women. Kudos to both ladies for turning that trick – with an assist from Mr. Limbaugh, of course.

Republicans are simply outmatched when it comes to wars of perception. They lack the necessary chutzpah to win. They cling to the earnest belief that truth will win out in the end. I share this conviction. But in the topsy-turvy world of political theater, kitsch reigns supreme. Featherweights like Miss Fluke can flounce around in a burlesque fan dance while conservatives look away and everyone else stares mesmerized. Republicans are continually dumbfounded by this bait and switch tactic. But liberals have mastered the art of sleight of hand, leaving conservatives chagrined.

So spin away with your feathered fans, Miss Fluke! Republicans are helpless to stop you!

About the Author

- Robert Maley has worked in publishing, banking and – as incongruent as it may seem – the theatrical world. After many years of living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, he now resides in the more pastoral setting of Virginia. A playwright with an MFA from Columbia University, he has had several plays produced off-off-Broadway. Presently, he is a critic of the Cultural Marxism to which he once allied, especially as it pertains to the arts, faith and academia.