The nation sure did a double-take when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” for engaging in civil discourse on a hotly debated topic, despite that he is hardly the first the public commentator to degrade women who disagree with them. The story has caused nearly everyone from President Obama to many American parents to think about misogyny and the consequences of anyone, regardless of their position, calling their daughter a “slut.” But I’m happy to report that this consideration of sexually-charged insults at girls and women is being considered by some of our kids too. Because when Professor Steven Landsburg at University of Rochester blogged about how he agreed with Rush Limbaugh’s take on the Sandra Fluke debacle, 30 of his students protested.
Think Progress reports that the professor wrote:
“Her position — which is what’s at issue here — deserves [no respect] whatsoever. It deserves to only be ridiculed, mocked and jeered. To treat it with respect would be a travesty.” He said he did not agree with Limbaugh’s use of the word of “slut” to describe Fluke, but said “prostitute” was mostly fair, while a “extortionist” was even better.
In protest to the economics professor’s agreement with Rush Limbaugh, 30 students silently stood up and created a line between Professor Landsburg and the class. Nevertheless, he reportedly kept lecturing, but dismissed class five minutes early. Security officers were present during the protest but took no action towards the students. Prior to the class, students handed out fliers that read:
“We denounce professor Steven Landsburg’s attempt to smear a gender with derogatory terms.”
The flier further says, “We are dismayed that a fully tenured academic would so carelessly sully our fine institution’s name.”
Joel Seligman, University of Rochester’s president, also released a statement that read:
“I am outraged that any professor would demean a student in this fashion. To openly ridicule, mock, or jeer a student in this way is about the most offensive thing a professor can do. We are here to educate, to nurture, to inspire, not to engage in character assassination.”
Professor Landsburg may disagree with the third-year law student, as some clearly do. However, Rush didn’t go after Sandra Fluke’s position when he lacerated her for three days comparing her to a sex worker and demanding that her sex tapes be put online in exchange for what she was advocating — he was going after her gender. Although both men may find that her position “deserves [no respect] whatsoever,” one would hope that she, as a vocal citizen, does. Going after her with words like “slut” and “prostitute” dismiss her ideas and participation not because they lack merit, but because she’s a lady. Cutting right to her gender with such slanderous terminology is a lazy way to discredit her without engaging with her argument at all. And it seems like for 30 students at University of Rochester, they expect their professors to be able to tell the difference.