To ‘slut’ or not to ‘slut’ in the media

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Following the week of March 11, a slew of national newspapers decided to censor a comic, “Doonesbury,” that satirizes Texas abortion laws. The problematic nature of this illustration is said to be the use of the terms “slut” and “rape” within the comic.

This comes not too long after Rush Limbaugh’s controversial comment about a Georgetown University law student, in which he called her a “slut” and a “prostitute.” This comment was then repeated numerous times in news stories covering the controversy.

This is an appalling act by syndicating newspapers, who have published numerous articles about the Texas legislation, but who, when the subject is presented in such a visceral manner, call the comic “over the line.”

Therefore, it should be up to the syndicator of each piece of media to decide whether or not to show its support.  

It should be noted that although the “Doonesbury” cartoon – which correctly uses the term “rape” within its definition – has been silenced by many disapproving newspapers, Limbaugh’s syndicator has chosen not to act against Limbaugh’s derogatory use of the words “slut” and “prostitute.”

The comic features a woman checking in for her mandatory transvaginal sonogram before having an abortion. The device used for the sonogram is called a “10-inch shaming wand.”  The comic then goes on to have a “middle-aged legislator” call the girl a “slut,” and a nurse state: “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”

The author and creator of “Doonesbury,” Gary Trudeau, suggests in a March 11 article in The Guardian that the editorial pages generally have less readership than that of the comics section, and, as a result, he censors many from the story.

While Limbaugh’s comments most definitely come from a different place than do the satirist commentary of “Doonesbury,” censoring the first could result in censoring of the second.  

Recently, Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan issued an open letter to CNN calling for the FCC to take Rush Limbaugh off the air for his sexist and racist commentary, and suggesting that his show is not “in the public interest,” regardless of First Amendment rights.  

In the letter, the three suggest that his comments fall under “hate speech,” while Limbaugh hides under the defense of comedy to protect his speech rights.  

Media have chosen to disregard the defense of comedy for First Amendment rights and silence “Doonesbury’s” actions against anti-abortion measures, while they simultaneously and hypocritically repeat anti-feminist speech in coverage of Limbaugh.  

Some newspapers have decided to run the column on the editorial pages or on websites instead of in its usual place in the comics sections of the newspapers, according to a March 9 Associated Press story.  

However, like Limbaugh’s recent surge of press, the “Doonesbury” cartoon will most likely get the readership it deserves from the coverage of the controversial comic, in effect ruining the intended censorship many newspapers sought.