To all my sisters in this world: You are not a whore

I’ve been biting my tongue quite a bit in the midst of recent verbal and political attacks on women because, to be honest, it’s too emotional of a topic for me, but I’ve reached a breaking point where I can no longer be silent. Too much is at stake. Specifically, the dignity and respect for women in a culture that is increasingly divisive, abusive, and downright nasty. Here is my response to this statement by Rush Limbaugh: “What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex — what does that make her? 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.”

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To my biological sister as you are celebrating your birthday today, you are not a whore. So maybe I’ve called you some not-so-nice names on occasion, but I hope you know how much I love you. I’m proud of who you are, the person you are becoming, and to call you both my sister and my friend.

To my sisters whom I count as friends and relatives, you are not a whore. We have shared laughter and tears, hugs and disagreements, and countless discussions about matters both serious and trivial. I’ve watched you raise children, bury loved ones, marry, divorce, graduate from school, learn to drive a car, run marathons, and cope with cancer or other devastating diseases. I love you all. Every single one of you.

To my sisters with whom I’ve worked and collaborated, you are not a whore. I might have disagreed with how you graded a paper or delivered a lecture or interpreted a piece of music. But I love you for putting yourself out there, and I suspect that at times I’ve done things differently than you would have liked.

To my sisters who have globe-trotted with me, you are not a whore. You have seen me at my most irritable, frantic, adventuresome, enthusiastic, and sleep-deprived. We’ve gotten lost together, discovered hidden gems, and learned more about ourselves than we ever could have staying put in our little insular comfort zone called home.

To my sisters I’ve encountered in passing, perhaps not even knowing your name, you are not a whore. I might have cast a disapproving look, but I’ve learned along the way that I probably didn’t know or understand everything that you were going through. I might have grinned and greeted you with a friendly salutation. I hope so. I hope you caught me on one of my good days, especially if that was the only day you’d ever see me. But I know that some of you have seen me at my worst.

To my sisters whom I’ve never met, you are not a whore. There are a lot of you out there. Billions, in fact. Some of you have done some stuff that isn’t very nice or loving. So have I. That doesn’t mean you deserve to be dehumanized and called cruel, insensitive, judgmental labels as if you’re an animal or an inanimate object. You are human, and you are loved. I’ll try to do a better job of showing it.

To my sisters who have walked into a doctor’s office or a college campus clinic or (gasp!) Planned Parenthood to have access to birth control pills or other forms of contraception, you are not a whore. You don’t need to tell me why you are on the pill. I really don’t need or want to know. It might be because you have endometriosis and are dealing with excruciating pain in your pelvic region. Or perhaps you’re secretly saving up money to escape from your abusive husband and hoping not to get pregnant as he rapes you night after night. Or maybe you have irregular periods with painful cramping, acne that’s so pervasive that you’re shy about leaving the house without wearing thick makeup, or some other hormonal imbalance that is easily regulated by the pill. Or, yeah, I’ll go there…maybe you’re having consensual sex and don’t want to get pregnant. It’s OK. I might not think it’s a good idea for you to be having sex. You might be too young to make an informed decision about whether you’re really ready, you might be doing it because you think it’s the only way to keep your boyfriend around, or maybe you were raped at a young age and don’t have a reference for what a healthy, respectful sexual relationship should look like. Or maybe you just enjoy having sex. That’s OK, too. A lot of people have sex. In fact, I think that I could count on one hand the number of people I know over the age of 18 who haven’t had sex. If I use all 10 fingers, I could probably count the number of people who waited until they were married. You don’t need to explain yourself to me. It’s none of my business why you choose to have sex. Whatever the reason, that doesn’t justify me–or anyone–dehumanizing you by calling you cruel names.

To my sisters who have become pregnant out of wedlock, you are not a whore. Goodness knows you’ve probably beaten yourself up enough as you watched your belly grow or chose not to continue the pregnancy. You might be dealing with the emotional highs and lows of raising a child on your own while the father continually says, “Not my problem; I shouldn’t have to pay for this kid just because you got knocked up.” I don’t know what that’s like, but I imagine it’s difficult, in spite of the immense joy of cradling a baby in your arms, watching your child grow, and trying to juggle parenthood and work, perhaps with very little support from judgmental, um, “friends” and family. But we all know that the only difference between you and most of the women you know is that they didn’t get pregnant for doing the exact same thing (sex) that you did. They might have even had a lot more sex–with a lot more partners–than you ever have. That’s the thing about pregnancy–it’s kind of random, and if we’re being honest, many of the people who are judging you could indeed have been in your exact same place. Who knows–maybe they will someday. You shouldn’t feel ashamed. Goodness knows the father doesn’t have to go through the same thing that you do.

To my sisters who stand up for your sisters, you are not a whore. You might be like me and have a friend who has needed the pill for one of the many reasons that I listed above. You might have been in the process of defending your friend who has ovarian cysts that could develop into cancer without the hormonal regulation provided by birth control pills when an insensitive radio show host accused you of prostituting yourself because you believe in speaking out against injustice. I know that you simply want your college-aged friend to have access to a relatively inexpensive pill that will alleviate her debilitating condition. And so do the many other women who have either dealt with cysts or know someone who has.

To my sisters who have tried to conceive but can’t, you are not a whore. Maybe you’ll end up adopting a child from one of your sisters who found herself in an unplanned pregnancy. I doubt that you’d call the mother of your child a whore, and I hope that you’ll have the opportunity to be a mother if that’s what you want to do. Children are amazing. If you want kids, that is. If you don’t, you might not think they are so incredible. You might find them intimidating, grubby little germ-transmitters, or incompatible with your lifestyle. That’s OK too.

To my sisters who are lesbians, you are not a whore. Isn’t it ironic that you are judged for being gay and yet you’re also the least likely female population to get pregnant? (which would otherwise seem to be a virtue in the eyes of those who reduce women to “whores” when we want access to affordable birth control.)

To my sisters with chromosomal abnormalities that make it difficult for you to decide how to establish a sexual identity or those who feel a disconnect between your biological sex organs and the way you experience your gender, you are not a whore. So you were born “intersex,” a term that has rather recently replaced the older reference to Greek mythology, “hermaphrodite.” Or maybe you’ve been called a “tranny” or other derogatory terms by those who don’t understand what you’re going through. It’s already difficult enough to figure out which box to check when you are given only two options (male/female) and you know full well that biology isn’t that simple. You might have recently learned that your parents and doctor chose to assign a particular gender to you as a young child without asking how you felt about the matter. Or maybe you’re frustrated and depressed because you don’t feel like you belong in your own skin and you don’t know what to do. You might look like a woman, or maybe you want to look like a woman. When you hear other women being labeled as “whores,” you might tense up because as bad as that word sounds, at least they “fit into a box” on forms.

To my sisters whom I’ve somehow left out of this list, you are not a whore. I tried to be as inclusive as I could be, but I am also aware that the diversity of the human experience is far greater than I can ever articulate here. I’m thinking of you, the 11-year old girl (although now you’re older) raped by your stepfather and who became pregnant with twins, only to be informed by the Catholic Church that your tiny little pelvis on your 80-pound frame should have attempted to carry the two fetuses to term even if it meant you most likely would have died because, according to an archbishop, “The law of God is higher than any human laws.” I don’t know how to explain that to you when you’re a child who is coping with the fact that you’ve been raped and violated in horrible ways that I can’t even imagine, only to be told that it’s God’s will for you to die in childbirth. That’s not the same God that I’ve come to know.

As I reflect back over this dedication to all my sisters in the world, I can’t help but notice that I still have a tendency to try to defend the morality of some of you more than others. It’s the judgmental side of me–my default mode–that I work so hard to overcome. I feel the need to defend the 11-year old who has been raped, but somehow that affects me in a different emotional way than those who are of consensual age and actively, repeatedly choosing to have sex.

Yet, the more I think about it, the more I become aware that there really isn’t any difference. For we are all connected, with every breath of shared air that we inhale and exhale, and it’s when we start to divide people into categories of morally “right” or “wrong” that we get into trouble. I’m not saying that we should excuse those who intentionally harm others or themselves. Accountability is important. It’s a question of how we go about holding one another accountable. We can do it by calling each other names like “whore,” but I don’t believe that such an approach is very loving or effective. Maybe we can shame people into “morally correct” behavior (although looking around, I’m not convinced that shaming has a very good success rate). Or maybe we could be a little more loving and grace-full in our approach.

Last week I had a conversation with a very wise pastor who also happens to be the director of the children’s home where I volunteer. He told me that his approach to ministry and life is based on a book by a theologian named Miroslav Volf who argues that exclusion = sin, and inclusion = embrace/grace. For God’s love encompasses us all–every single human being on this planet–even when we might not deserve it. And a lot of us have done some not-so great things. I think of Jesus’ words: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:45). Every time I turn my back on one of my sisters (or brothers), I am turning my back on God. Yeah, so Jesus was nailed to a cross. It’s been almost 2,000 years since that happened. We need to stop nailing each other to crosses with our words, actions, and inactions.

Oh, and for you men out there who are reading this and wondering, “What’s with all this sister talk?,” here is my dedication to you:

To my brothers in this world, you are not a whore. Sometimes I get frustrated with you when you say mean things about us women, but I know that most of you are on our side. And really, we’re all on the same side. I’ve got your back, and I hope you’ll treat me with respect as well. We’re all in this world together, and I love you deeply, fully, unconditionally, and as patiently as I can manage. Even when my temper gets short (and goodness knows that some of you have seen that side of me…thanks for putting up with my imperfections…I’m eternally grateful…)

[Update on 3/4/12: Thank you to everyone who has commented here and shared this little musing of mine. I wrote it very quickly and had no way of anticipating that it would go viral. I am truly humbled by the kind words of support, and I feel much more optimistic about this dialogue than I did a few days ago. Peace and gratitude.]

106 thoughts on “To all my sisters in this world: You are not a whore

  1. TLH says:

    Reblogged this on HollaBlog and commented:
    THIS THIS THIS!!!!

  2. Amy Vanpool says:

    So wonderful! Thank you for saying the things I am thinking. We are experiencing a sad time in our country with regard to Women’s Rights. I am not sure where it’s coming from, but we need to stand up and fight it! We cannot go backward. I love that you’re my sister!!

  3. Pamela Clare says:

    Wonderful. Thanks for putting into words what so many of us are feeling right now.

  4. Kimberly says:

    Beautifully, beautifully written. Thank you for this – with love from one of the sisters you haven’t met (yet).

  5. Michelle says:

    By far, the most profoundly beautiful and eloquently written piece that I have ever come across in my 25 years in this life.

  6. Jessica says:

    That was so great!!! I will share this with my sisters! And know that this sister is one of your ‘ten fingers’. :)

  7. jwthibodeau says:

    Thank you for this! Love will always win out.

  8. Thank you for writing this.

  9. Eloquent! So nicely put. The attitude of some of our law makers make me sick.

  10. heather says:

    Amazing post. Incredibly well said and I bet the men pushing the issue dont even realize that women clise to them probably use the pill. I think the world is runningon too much intolerance andhate. Where’s the love?!!!

  11. Thank you! I’ve shared this on Facebook. Blessings to all our sisters :-).

  12. beth hayhurst says:

    Thank you for writing this and putting into words what so many of us are feeling. Together we are strong.

  13. Lorie in SC says:

    Words fail me. Thank God that they have not failed you. Thank you, thank you for putting all of my mushy thoughts into a brilliant piece of prose. Your talent will allow me to share with others that which I cannot put into words myself. Thank you, a million times thank you. Bless you and all of our sisters out there.

  14. julieG says:

    I am a Whore!
    I am also a mom, a sister, a friend and a co-worker.
    As a whore do I not matter?

    Why is it SO important that these sisters you speak to ARE NOT WHORES?

    I deserve the same rights as any other human being.

    • cynthiabeard says:

      Julie, my critique has more to do with language than anything else. I should have addressed those who work in the sex industry as well: the term “whore” is used to insult people, but if you choose (as a consenting adult) to accept money for sex, that’s your own business. I’m not going to judge you for it. I would prefer to use a more affirming label instead of the word “whore,” but I can also understand if you are seeking to reclaim the word in the way that others have reclaimed language that’s taken on negative connotations. What are your thoughts, re: language choices?

      • Instead of using a term in the negative “you are not X” why not use a term in the positive? Saying “you are not a whore” marginalizes sex workers; saying “you are not a slut” marginalizes women who either have or are perceived to have other-than-chaste sex lives; saying “you are not a bitch” marginalizes women who are assertive. Perhaps instead an affirmation such as “you are deserving of respect”? Or some other way of making the excellents points you’ve written without resorting to a negative comparison.

    • Debra Sykora says:

      I loved this! How articulate and profound! You’ve helped all the “sisters” out there! Thanks you for writing this so lovingly.

    • cynthiabeard says:

      Julie, looking at your page, I must say that I am impressed with your advocacy and activism work. Thanks for being a voice for many who might feel that their voices have been silenced!

  15. Minta says:

    I am of a population of women you skipped…..i am native american…adopted by non-natives….& despite repeated requests for my medical history…the records are sealed. For this reason…i chose yrs ago to not have childre of my own…. & yes up until about 10 yrs ago….took the pill. :) wonderful post ….

  16. Maggie says:

    Thoughtful

  17. Marie says:

    I’m speechless. Beautiful. I thought about ranting about Rush Limbaugh’s latest words of hate on my blog, but you said it so much better than I could. Instead I will post a link to your eloquent essay. Thank you!!

  18. Erica says:

    Thank you so much for articulating what NEEDS to be said in todays society! Bravo!

  19. Kat Burdick says:

    I’m saying this as a woman with a past befitting a Disney princess, so please understand my full meaning in context….this is not for me, this is for my ladies. All of them.

    “Whore” is only a derogatory term because men have been thinking very little of women. Women are the only ones who can sell vaginas, so it’s seen as filthy. You can pay a man to leave his family for months on end and to blow apart other living beings, I think that’s obscene, that’s not moral. But it makes money for more powerful men, so it’s aggrandized instead of demonized.

    But prostitution IS the oldest profession. They recently taught monkeys to use money, and within an astonishingly short period of time, a monkey offered another monkey money for sex. OFFERED. Women didn’t invent prostitution. They met a need, supplied a demand. In a case where someone didn’t want to stick around to provide for them, they wanted to be able to provide for themselves. It seems like a cost-benefit analysis. I think a lot of different professions are gross or grotesque to me, but that doesn’t mean I get to think that person is a non-entity because I don’t like their profession. Women are treated as actual trash in this situation. It sickens me right in the spot where I was told to love, growing up all conservative & religious. But if there’s anything I really learned growing up Catholic, it’s that power is being abused all over, and we have to speak up. All of us. Now.

    But I just recently finally GOT this, in my head and my heart….because I AM what all these pundits ask women to be, and I still see how I get dismissed as a bitch or a whore so easily….because that’s how they think of all of us. Objects, property, belongings, an “ass”, a “tail”, the accessory to the REAL human, a man. They tell us we’ll be counted and revered if we’re in this little acceptable square, but even then we’re mocked and dismissed. Any reaction at all is seen as overreaction. We’re getting constantly gaslighted.

    It’s a scam. A trick on us. And I’m not playing along anymore.

    Me and all the other uptight nerdy “good girls” should join together with our….gutsy….entrepreneurial….sisters…..and say we won’t let women be treated like garbage just because men want to have sex with them. If they find the presence of other penises gross, then they should deal with it on their own time. If it’s a moral issue, they can live as THEY choose. (And we see what senators choose….! Which reminds me, we hear a lot about “eww, those whores” but I never hear about “eeww, those johns”. It’s like all these prostitutes are selling their services to ghosts!)

    IF YOU ARE A WHORE, I STILL LOVE YOU AND I’M STICKING UP FOR YOU. Everyone with a job in America right now is getting fucked for money. You just have more flexible hours and you can go to your kid’s school play without being fired.

    I”m not into it, but I’m not into banking or being a lawyer either, and I’m polite to those scumbags. Ahem…..contributing members of society.

    I know what you meant here Cynthia, you meant good things! But I want to expand that, because the women left out in your bold line deserve everything you listed, too. If men want the world to be more chaste, they can feel free to act that way and create that world. Blaming women for the absence of that imaginary world and punishing us constantly with dismissal and derision will no longer be tolerated, at least by me.

    Please join me. Because I see how much you’re sticking up for the ladies, and I want you to accept that you might love a whore, if you met one, even though that word seems awful. A whore is just a woman with a sort of gross job. It doesn’t mean she’s nothing. (And if the punishment really IS eternal hellfire, it really seems any effort at ostracization I would make pre-fire would be a silly attempt at upgrading God’s work…like “Hey, I softened ‘er up for you boss! She’s all sad now and ready to be REALLY damned!”)

    Maybe you could put “worthless” or “stupid” or “valueless” every place you put “whore”…because that’s what they mean when they say it at girls. And I happen to think those particular women that are called whores do have value. This bothered me to see used here, because I love the sentiment in the rest of it, and it’s been coming up a lot lately and I’ve been thinking about writing about it, so I think we’re in the same space, noticing the same trend.

    Thanks for writing this, Cynthia. We have to stand up. This is good stuff, the love and caring here….I really like your piece!

    - Kathleen
    “Very Good Girl” & Sister to Whores (and even Lawyers) Everywhere.

    • cynthiabeard says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment! I used the word “whore” because I was responding directly to Limbaugh’s use of the word, but yeah, the word does indeed have all sorts of connotations. I hope you’ll write a lengthier piece to explore your ideas further, and I’d be honored to share it with others.

      As for me, I was raised to be very “proper,” so it’s rather scandalous for me to have posted this piece publicly :)

      One other thing: I think you might appreciate this essay on hell and salvation.

      http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/barclay1.html

      • Johanna says:

        To both Cynthia and Kat – Your eloquence as individuals and your **respectful** exchange of ideas and even mutual encouragement is just outstanding.

      • KatBurdick says:

        This was fantastic…thank you!

        And thanks to Johanna, too. That’s really nice of you to post.

  20. Clue Fairy says:

    First, I understand and appreciate the feelings behind this post. But I also have reservations about it. I am not a sex worker, as julieG. But I have to ask….why are we apologizing for having sex? Why do we have excuses like being raped or abused or abandoned to apologize for the fact that we want birth control? Why is having consensual adult sex and taking reasonable precautions something that we would want to justify? Do you hear any MEN saying “oh, I am so sorry I had sex, but…..”? Why should we have to protest that women who are single mothers aren’t whores and go into all the ways women might become single mothers that are “honorable”? What happened to the idea that sex is not shameful? What happened to the realization that “honor” in this context just means “submissively under the ownership of a patriarch”?What happened to the idea that women bear no more of the moral responsibility for sex than a man does, even though nature might make her bear more of the physical responsibility? This whole attack on women is based on the Eve principle that it is the fault of the temptress for getting men to sin, and not the fault of the men for giving in to the temptation. It’s not really even a concern for the bodies or souls of the women, but for their effect on men, children and society looked at through the lens of the Old Testament. Why does Limbaugh get away with calling this woman a deragatory name when Imus was fired for using such names against a women’s sport team? And for that matter, why do we call homosexuals names? Why can’t we just say “Rush Limbaugh is a hate monger and I refuse to justify myself to someone for whom I have zero respect”?

    • cynthiabeard says:

      I’ve asked myself that same question (about apologizing for women having and enjoying sex). I noticed it as I was writing last night and tried to address it a little bit–that I was attempting to provide moral justifications for why some women might need access to birth control pills. It’s almost reflexive, but it shouldn’t be. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  21. Patty says:

    Thank you for this. You put into words many of my thoughts. I am sorry that you did not remember sex workers specifically, but I think your intentions are clear. No woman should be called by a name that is meant as demeaning. No ONE should be demeaned by someone else and right now women are under attack.

    Again, thank you. People like you will help love win.

  22. Karen Spies says:

    Beautiful Cynthia.
    If only your empathy could become an airborne virus.

  23. Thank you! This is amazing!

  24. JG says:

    This would have been twice as powerful if it were half the length. You are preaching to the converted and really not presenting this in a way that would possibly have a sexist man think twice of his actions. But if you are more interested in support from those who already support you, carry on, it serves that purpose without the restraint of economy.

    • cynthiabeard says:

      Thanks for your comment! I wasn’t really intending to preach to anyone, and I am quite overwhelmed by the large number of people who have encountered this little blog. I wrote this rather quickly last night when I was feeling frustrated by the recent vicious rhetoric toward women, and it was meant primarily for people I know who might be feeling vilified by that language, as well as friends of my friends. But yeah, I would definitely write something different if I were directly addressing the men (and, to be fair, women) who have been throwing those words around. It probably would have been more hot-tempered because I do have that in me as well.

  25. DonnaJansma says:

    What else do you call it? A prostitute, it is the same thing. That doesn’t mean they are any less, it just tells your profession and the lack of morals which is wrong. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you as a person, even God still loves you; its just a sin. But if you repent and change, then you will be forgiven…

  26. Roger Wolsey says:

    So. very. good. and so. very. necessary. An invitation to my fellow readers of this blog: Let’s each commit to doing our best to share the link to this blog as far and wide as we can via Facebook, Twitter, email, and more! The world needs to read these clearly inspired and prophetic words of grace, truth, wisdom, and love.

    I’m proud to say that the author is my friend. Way to go Cynthia!

  27. Elizabeth Hagan says:

    Thank you for this post. Wise and truth telling!

  28. Ashley says:

    Brilliant and beautiful! Thank you.

  29. Hector says:

    Cynthia, this was a beautifully written piece. Respect is needed, but in addition to respect, a snese of consistency to outrage over disrespect.

    Recently, the Huffington Post ran a column by Larry Doyle (he wrote “I love you Beth Cooper”) In it, he called the Catholic Church all kinds of direspectful names and called it satire, since it was in the comedy section. Regardless of where it was, it was still a hurtful thing to read, and to say about someone’s faith.

    There have been many things that I have disagreed with people in the Church about…(the 11 year old with twins being one of them). However, though you may disagree with my stance, the opposition to the mandate is one thing I agree on. The young college student should not have been disrespected as she was by Limbaugh,,,but that doesn’t mean she was right. While the Church has opposed contraceptives, she has not gone out of her way to forcefully impose her teaching on people. It was a “hands off approach”. People used their own conscience to make the decision, and that was that. However, by making it a requirement to be paid for, you implicitlly involve someone opposed to something, in that action. .

    I leave you with the words that Pope Paul VI used in his opposition to artificial contraception in 1968…

    Sction 17…” Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”

    SInce 1968, has the respect for our sisters gotten better…or has it gotten worse? Are our sisters more respected…or less? I know we have political opinions…but I finally came to realize that this rigid old man in a funny hat was pretty astute as to one of the things that would happen.

    • NT says:

      Thank you. In all of the talk and fighting, the deep convictions of people and churches ARE being trampled and minimized. That disturbs me. The other thing I wonder is how long before the government that pays for the contraception begins to choose who gets what kind of contraception. Nothing is free. There is a tremendous price to inviting the government to pay for your contraception. I may sound like a lunatic, but I think of government control over family size as next. I am saddened and outraged by the attacks on religious liberty . I think women’s rights have been manipulated for the purpose of government control. Respect for individuals should be given to those who have personal and religious convictions about this issue. Instead we are backwards and intolerant in the minds of so many. This is as personal to me as anyone calling for contraception to be government’s responsibility. I am not slamming women; I am standing up for a fundamental right of religious institutions, rights guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States.

      • ellen meese says:

        Where in the Bible does it speak against contraception? I am serious– please cite chapter and verse. Why should your employer’s religious beliefs trump your own? Requiring insurers to cover contraception– and it looks like you didn’t read the blog where she listed all the other reasons women take hormonal contraceptives besides preventing pregnancy– is not requiring employees to use it. The religious freedom argument is bogus, just another insane GOP attack on women.

    • cynthiabeard says:

      Let’s be clear, though, that the Catholic Church is not being forced to pay for birth control for its employees. Also, if you read her statement, she was addressing a concern about how a friend of hers needed the pill to treat cysts. My thought on the matter is that I don’t need or want to know why people are using legal, prescribed medications that have been recommended by their doctor. If a woman takes the pill to avoid getting pregnant, that’s really not my business. The danger with the “morality justification game” is that it creates a situation where we start saying things like, “I’m fine with you taking this medication that your doctor prescribed as long as I agree with your reason for taking it.” That’s not a standard we use for other medications, and it really shouldn’t be because it’s very intrusive. I honestly don’t feel the need to know why people take a particular medication.

      P.S. I disagree with a number of Catholic teachings, but I really do try to be respectful of those who are Catholic. I have several close friends who are Catholic, including one who is a priest, and I don’t like it when my friends’ faith is attacked or mocked. Thanks again for your comments!

    • Liesl says:

      Whether or not I agree with his theology, I do like Hector’s (and, evidently, Paul VI’s) explanation of the idea that a man would exercise control over his natural instincts for a week each month (and, by extension, a woman as well — so as not to be paternalistic and also to recognize that biologically speaking, this is the time our hormones kick into gear. Be real ladies, it happens!) Then again, we all know that week isn’t the ONLY time conception can happen. But still, this whole “control yourselves for a week if you don’t want to get pregnant” idea is a nice idea. If it only took nice ideas.

      I would argue that respect for our sisters (and me, because I am one of them) had gotten better for a long time…but suddenly and inexplicably, it has eroded in a very nasty way — to PRE-1968 levels of disrespect.

  30. Deena says:

    Thank you – this is beautiful. You made me cry a little – but in a good way. Well said!

  31. I wish more people understood this. If my vagina was causing wars, I would understand all the hullabaloo. But it’s not firing bullets or blowing up cities. It’s just minding its own business. As are all vaginas.

  32. Suanne Brady says:

    Thank you!! You have beautifully expressed thoughts we, your sisters, have been thinking. I live in Virginia where the war against women’s rights is raging, I’m stunned by what’s happening around me. There are so many really important issues with our economy to resolve, are we women the red herring? Are we a diversion to keep people’s focus away from what’s really important?

  33. seanatherton says:

    I am a man, and I approve this post.

  34. Lincoln says:

    I am a brother. I stand with the women who stand with me. I reject being told -” because I am a man I must provide, while a woman must be provided for, like a child. I must protect, as women are helpless. I must work, and she must stay home. I must always fix the house roof and paint while she must vacuum and cook and wash. I must be judged on what I earn and what I have, like a wallet, and she must be judged on looks, like a doll.”
    No, I reject all that. I am neither tiger nor jackass, but human. She- my partner, my sisters, my mother and my daughters to come- are hunan too.

  35. Roni says:

    You did a nice job expressing your opinion about the nasty comment made by Rush. He did show total disrespect! That being said, I agree for the most part with your comments, but I don’t see that I or any other tax payer should have to pay for someone’s contraception needs. We already give to Planned Parenthood, they do provide services such as that for many women and men. I draw the line at making it a mandate for everyone else to pay. If you want to have sex, but don’t want children, then pay for your own contraception.

    Hector has a very good and respectful comment regarding consistency in outrage that is well needed in our society, in my opinion.

    • Sarah says:

      Again, contraception serves purposes other than preventing pregnancy; it is not necessarily about family planning, but is rather used to control or help medical issues.

    • Liesl says:

      Roni, I understand your concerns.

      I, too, feel that I should not have to pay taxes to pay for things I deem immoral, such as wars. To paraphrase your sentiment above, If you want to have cheap oil, then pay for (and fight) your own war. I would love for someone to be able to say to me, “If you don’t like wars, don’t fight one.” Alas, how many of my dollars go for this, without any personal say on my part?

      I am positive that if I were to dig around for even just a few minutes in the federal, state, and local budgets, I could find many programs and earmarks which I personally would not fund. I wish there were an easier solution. Such as it is, what we have are elected representatives who purport to be our stand-ins for these decisions — rather unlucky for many of us who did not vote for the people who end up with these responsibilities.

      It seems that singling out this particular issue with the “I don’t approve of this, therefore none of my taxes should go for it” is naive at best, dangerous at worst.

  36. a woman says:

    It would have been nice if people were as up in arms when the nasty stuff is is said regarding conservative women. Especially in ’08.

    • cynthiabeard says:

      I will stand with and beside you when derogatory comments are made about you, regardless of whether we agree on political issues. We’re all in this together, and I’m concerned whenever rhetoric is used to drive a wedge between women who have different opinions.

      • Roni says:

        I so appreciate this comment, Cynthia. Thank you. Blessings to you.

      • a woman says:

        Thanks! I don’t like any of the disgusting remarks that are made towards any women in this regard. It seemed like it was accepted when written/said towards conservative women however. Even NOW didn’t speak up. Though, I know they are a hugely political organization. But if women are to move forward and be respected, this sort of language needs to stop being ignored.

      • cynthiabeard says:

        Tina Fey has an insightful discussion about the representation of women of all political leanings ca. the 2008 election in her book Bossypants. I highly recommend it!

    • Roni says:

      Right on!!!!!!

  37. wobblewrists says:

    “If you want to have sex, but don’t want children, then pay for your own contraception.”

    But there’s no reason to make that distinction. Why should I as a taxpayer be more amenable to those who want to have procreative sex vs. those who want to have non-procreative sex? It surely isn’t to “keep the planet populated,” since I’m pretty sure we have an overabundance of people at this point and we’re in no danger of running out of them. It can’t be “to keep the country populated,” either, because there are still pleeeenty of people having babies here. If my taxes go to support those who want to have sex and do want children, I see no reason why they shouldn’t also go to those who want to have sex, but don’t want children.” Wanting sex is healthy. Why punish people for it?

    I very much stand with this article.

    • Roni says:

      wobblewrists, I shouldn’t have to pay for either. We’ve become a nation of “I want it free”, “let someone else pay”, like it’s an entitlement, a right. There are already programs that help women or men with contraception needs, prenatal and postnatal care, or other personal sexual needs. This sort of benefit shouldn’t be mandated on every other person in the country.

      But, this does not mean that I agree with Rush’s remarks…. He’s an entertainer, someone who is provocative, who wants to cause a ruckus. He has gone too far, in many instances. He showed total disrespect to the young woman, whether or not I agree with her. It’s a sad commentary though, that so many people with liberal leanings stage a huge protest for matters that happen like this, but rarely ever show the same disdain when the same type of thing happens to a more conservative woman. To that I say is shameful.

      • ellen meese says:

        You don’t pay for anyone else’s employer-provided health insurance. It has nothing to do with you. It’s not a freebie.

  38. Hector says:

    wobblewrists, with the contributions to Planned Parenthood from the government, that is already happening. While the moeny could not go to abortions, there was no restriction that I know of with respect to contraceptive services. The total was 390 million. This being the case, why the forced issue with regard to insurance plans, including self insured plans? Since many churches are tax exempt, there was no conflict with regard to church teachings and stances. The Catholic Church has been consistently opposed to capital punishment and unjust war…if they suddenly removed their tax exempt status, they would not pay for that either…they (the Chruch militant heirarchy) would go to jail before they paid…

    Also, because there are exemptions for unions on a lot of the insurance mandates, this is not an equitable plan…

    One other thing…there have been reports of hormone treatments causing a higher incidence of cancer…these treatments have included “the Pill”…and as far as preventing pregnancy, NFP has a pregnancy prevention rate similar to condoms…so why is it derided so much? The CHurch is against artificial methods, not against family planning in general. One of the reasons NFP might not work is that men want to have it at their convenience…artificial contraception gives them an excuse. NFP calls for communication, will power for 5-6 days a month…and understanding of each other, and our bodies. I understand the part about planning families…but must us men demand the health risks that our sisters take for us to “get some”?

    • cynthiabeard says:

      As is the case with a number of issues regarding the Catholic Church, there is a disconnect between what the hierarchy is saying (don’t use birth control) versus what practicing Catholics are actually doing. Most Catholics, even those who attend church regularly, report that they use birth control, and this is consistent with what I know of friends who are Catholic.

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/14/us-most-catholic-women-us-use-birth-cont-idUSTRE73D4SZ20110414

      Beyond that, I would like to address the remark that you made about how you feel the need to stick up for women by arguing that it’s against our best interest to take the pill. I don’t think this is your intention, but whenever I hear comments like that, it leaves me feeling like the man making the comment is treating me paternalistically, as if I am incapable of researching the pros and cons of that particular pill and making an informed decision with my doctor about what is best for my body. There are many reasons that women take the pill. There are risks, as with any medication. We can be trusted to figure out what is safe and beneficial for us, and if something is causing an adverse reaction, we are also capable of discerning that as well.

      • Hector says:

        MY apologies…it is more a call to men to behave in a manner that treats women with respect more than a “now sweetie you have to be careful” attitude.

        I had a cousin of mine die, leaving behind a little girl, because of a blood clot caused by a birth control. SO, I guess I have seen the “other side” of the issue.

        I guess my point is, that if a woman is “regular”, then maybe some research into NFP might be a good thing. Of course, it goes without saying that her husband must be one of the “good ones”, that can communicate more than a basic grunt.

        Part of my thought process was due to the watching of the movie “Caterpillar” which is about a Japanese Army officer that returns to his home village after Japan’s war with China, with no limbs and horribly maimed. The movie is quite graphic, almost bordering on the pornographic were it not for the context of an abusive husband, who though horribly maimed by war, though deaf and unable to speak more than grunts, is still abusive sexually, though his wife is devoted. Part of that, I guess, is that there are still tools out there who are whole that treat women like objects. But, I realize that I have no cape, and no standing in their lives to be a “hero”.

      • cynthiabeard says:

        Thanks, Hector, for your reply. I didn’t think you meant your comment the way it came across. I appreciate your compassion for women. And yes, as with any medication, there are indeed risks, and it’s important to be informed about how to minimize those risks. I’ll refrain from mentioning the brand name, but I am concerned about the rush to get one particular contraceptive pill onto the market because it does seem to have higher incidents of complications. It’s important for *all* medications to be properly tested, as we’ve learned with pills that help with weight-loss, acid reflux, cholesterol management, and many other types of prescription drugs.

  39. Matthew says:

    Very well written, and oh so heartfelt!
    I believe this, and I will pass this on to all I can.
    I can not speak for any of my ‘brothers’, but I believe and support this message unreservedly.

  40. Mary Ann says:

    Just thank you

  41. Amen, sister! I am posting this to my facebook page and sharing it with my women friends. Thank you for speaking up!

  42. Tracie says:

    Birth control pills are a required element of many IVF infertility treatments.

  43. Hector says:

    I think one of the problems with a lot of this is that we rigidly hold on to a worldview, without understanding another person’s, or even another institutions world view. Tracie brings up a good point…how can something be bad if it leads to good, i’e, BCP for IVF treatments? After all, the end result is a wanted child?

    Allow me to answer without trying to sound judgemental…for that child, though prodused outside the womb is no less a child of God…

    Yet, do we begin to see the other fertilized zygotes as throwaways, without merit or second thought? What of culling multiple births through abortion, because the mother “only wants one”? Is there a sense of only one sense of rights being respected?

    To me, a child created is now it’s own being, residing in it’s mother until birth. It then still resides in it’s parent’s care until 18 (or later, depending on circumstances). If it is genetically it’s own from the moment sperm fertilizes egg, how can it have no standing? True the mother has standing, and her rights have to be respected, but at what point does a child’s inherent right to life end, and a mother’s choice begin?

    That many of you may disagree, I understand…I repect your position, and will not resort to attacks. I am stating a position, like many of you have done…I thank Cynthia for the opportunity!

    Also, the position of the church is that theraputic treaments for hormonal problems by the use of those same hormones as in birth control pills is not prohibited, if the primary purpose is theraputic. That infertility may result is a sad secondary effect, but since the treatment of the woman indicated the use of those hormones, it is not against church teaching.

    This is posted more as a way to try to understand some of the teachings in context, rather than in rhetoric.

  44. cynthiabeard says:

    There are tons of ethical questions regarding fertility treatments, etc., and I don’t have all the answers on that topic. What I do think it’s important to keep in mind, though, is that we tend to discuss implantation and fertilization as if that stage of development is functionally and biologically the same as a breathing child. But if that were the case, it would be impossible to freeze an embryo and then thaw it out a couple of years later to allow it to develop into a fetus. If I decide that I’m not ready to be a mother, I can’t stick my toddler in the freezer and wait until I’m ready. Biologically, an embryo (and earlier on a zygote) is different. Church teachings vary as well, depending on the church. I would argue that there are much bigger ramifications if the (Roman) Catholic Church were to state that life began at any moment after conception because it would contradict the 1854 papal doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (for those who aren’t familiar with the doctrine, it refers to Mary being conceived immaculately, not Jesus). The pope who wrote the doctrine also used that opportunity to introduce the first instance of “papal infallibility” (in other words, that no one could ever declare in the future that his declaration was wrong), so if the Church were to say that life begins after conception, it would also undermine the entire hierarchy and authority of the pope, well beyond the Immaculate Conception doctrine itself.

    I’m not sure that I want to say much more on that topic, however, because I do try to honor and respect my Catholic brothers and sisters even though I disagree with them on this issue. Regardless of our individual opinions about contraception, the bigger issue right now (at least for me) is that we need to continue to speak out when derogatory language is used to dehumanize those who have different opinions. That’s a basic level of human dignity we should all grant each other, and if we approach these discussions from a place of love and respect, I think we’ll all be a lot better off.

    And on that note, thank you Hector for being respectful in your comments here!

    • Hector says:

      Bravo my friend! While we remain apart in agreement, I am glad that the discussion is civil in and of itself. Thank you! BTW, are you a Catholic lady yourself? There is so much that many Catholics don’t know (the true menaing of the Immacualte Conception, for example).

      As to the frozen embryo example…I would look at that in the veing of someone in a coma. In stasis, if you will.

      Thanks Cynthia, I love being able to debate withut the trolls!

      • cynthiabeard says:

        Nope, not Catholic, but my Ph.D. dissertation (an analysis of an opera based on the true story of some Carmelite nuns who were executed during the French Revolution) involved quite a bit of research and writing on Catholic theology, especially Marian doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception.

  45. TJ Trujillo says:

    Greatest blog post ever. This is a must-read for anyone who thinks like Rush Limbaugh and his cronies/acolytes do. Well done!

  46. Amanda Taylor says:

    Amazing. Thank you for posting this. Sisters together we can get thru this attack on us.

  47. Angel says:

    Bravo! and thank you.. described so many women that I know who have excepted the term, including myself. Thank you.

  48. Doris Dean says:

    Wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing this with everyone. I’ve stated to my FB friends that Limbaugh is a certified horse’s ass….with my apologies to the horse!

  49. Lucy says:

    A whore is a person who has sex for money. So unless you are having sex for money, you are not a whore. Now a slut, on the other hand, is someone who is sexually promiscuous. That word has been in use with that definition since 1450–that’s 562 years. It never feels nice to be called derogatory names, even if your behavior matches the definition.
    If you feel sexual promiscuity is not a negative behavior, then the label should not bother you.

  50. Linda Minney says:

    Cynthia, thank you for a lovely post. Thank you to all for civil and compassionate posts. Tonight I had my first rehearsal for “The Vagina Monologues” which is being presented as a fundraiser for a local foundation to help people (women, men, and children) leave abusive relationships. As a 60 year old great-grandmother I have had to overcome some concerns about performing in this production. Reading all these posts reminds me why I am going for it.

    • cynthiabeard says:

      I am not quite sure how I’ve managed not to see a production of that play yet, but I do intend to catch it someday. Thanks for being a part of it and empowering women through the theater. Break a leg! :)

  51. Liesl says:

    LOVE IT. Except that I would add: To my sisters who have, in desperation and despair, prostituted yourselves, you are loved, you have value, your life is not worthless, you are not inhuman, subhuman, or to be thrown out like trash and left to die.

    • cynthiabeard says:

      Yes, and thank you! I can’t help but think of the song “Wrong Way” by Sublime, about a young girl who tragically turns to prostitution, but I’ve also been reminded by other commenters here that there are adults who are comfortable and confident as professional sex workers. There is a difference between those motivations, but regardless of intention, all people deserve to be treated with love and respect.

  52. Liesl says:

    You know, last time I checked, for a woman to get pregnant, there has to be a man involved (either directly or indirectly, but in this case, though sex.) No woman has ever impregnated herself. This leaves me to wonder if Mr. Limbaugh does not understand this basic fact of human biology. As the old saying goes, it takes two to tango.

  53. Liesl says:

    All of this said, the discussion here really shouldn’t be about contraception, whether it’s right or wrong or who should pay for it, but the basic decency and respect with which we treat one another and the level of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in the dialogue. Mr. Limbaugh resorted to his name-calling simply because he’s got a big old bag o’ nuthin’ intelligent to say on the topic, nothing worthwhile to add to the discussion. Absent any well-contemplated, rational argument, he must resort to ugly, slanderous, hurtful words. How sad it must be to be filled with that much anger, pain, and fear. Hurting people hurt people. May God heal his spirit.

  54. Bonnie B says:

    Thank you, my sister.

  55. Thunderbert says:

    Reblogged this on Thunderbert and commented:
    Thank you, to my sister for this eloquent post.

  56. Rachel says:

    I can’t help but think something.
    Of course I agree that nothing above there makes one a whore, and that being called one can be harmful.
    But is it really so wrong for a woman to decide what to do with her body?
    To choose for herself to charge for sex, maybe she is having a hard time, can’t pay her bills, needs to raise funds for birth control, abortion, or children she has.
    I think we should acknowledge that those sisters exist, and they shouldn’t be even further marginalized.

    I personally am not one of them.
    I am a pansexual, depending on how you define marriage, I waited. I waited for 3 years to have sex, I only had sex with one person. I have severe tokophobia.
    Shame on Rush for dehumanizing both the whores, and women like all of the ones mentioned on here who are not whores.

    I love my sisters, all of them.
    I love my brothers, all of them.
    I cannot stand inequality and hatefulness with judgement being passed.

  57. geekyg1rl says:

    Fantastically articulated. Thankyou for so eloquently putting into words that which I was feeling but like yousaid earlier was simply too shocked and appalled to yet form a rebuttal. It sometimes takes time to fully absorb and sort through all those reactons. Disgust, worry, sadness….

  58. [...] To all my sisters in this world: You are not a whore [...]

  59. anita w says:

    You are amazing Cynthia – I loved your post and I am grateful that you posted. I am going to repost to my blog. http://texaswarblers.blogspot.com/ it is a closed blog
    Anita W.

  60. JFM says:

    Beautifully written and filled with love. I hope this essay finds a wide audience, not just of women but especially of men. Thank you for writing it.

  61. geekyg1rl says:

    Thousands of years ago, women were the priestess of the Goddess. The priestesses were often temple prosititues. It was a blessing of the Goddess to go to the temple and have sex with her incarnation in the form of the priestess. In the ancient matriarchical societies sex was a gift. Women were subjucated by the warlike patriarchical societies. Women wil only be treated as truely equal when there is an equality of seeing both the masculine and the feminine as divine. As long as God remains to be viewed as a male image women will be seen to be the lesser valued gender.

  62. geekyg1rl says:

    I just wanted to let you know that I referrenced you in my blog: http://geeky-girl.me/2012/03/05/part-one-whores-sluts-and-studs/

  63. lulu says:

    “… but I don’t see that I or any other tax payer should have to pay for someone’s contraception needs…”

    Why don’t we carry this argument even further?

    I don’t want to pay for treatment of lung cancer, because those fools should have known better than to smoke.

    I don’t want to pay for blood thinners and cholesterol medications for people who won’t exercise or stick to a healthy diet.

    I don’t want to pay for rehab on motorcyclists who weren’t wearing helmets…

    I don’t want to pay for viagra for men who…

    I could go on for hours about the things that people “don’t want to pay for”, but the bottom line is that a medical plan should cover ALL basic medical needs, and contraception is one of those.

    Besides, no one is saying the government has to provide these drugs. The insurance company and the insured’s premiums are paying for their plans.

    Thank you, Cynthia, for your beautiful thoughts.

  64. Shirley Wang says:

    Thank you for your beautiful words.

  65. Appreciating the dedication you put into your site and detailed information
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  66. Excellent write-up. I certainly appreciate this site.
    Stick with it!

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