I remember the first time I heard Sandra Fluke interviewed on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show,” as she told the story of her classmate at Georgetown that suffered from polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition that causes irregular menstrual cycles, life-threatening cysts, and changes in hormone levels that can lead to hair loss and at times, early menopause.
Contraceptive pills are used to help alleviate such symptoms but unfortunately are not effectively covered by campus health insurance at Georgetown University.
Without alternative insurance and unable to pay for the pills, she had no access to the healthcare she required, leading her condition to deteriorate.
Sandra Fluke told this story amidst a male anchor and political analyst, while all listened without a single interruption that didn’t further the story of her friend.
For many women, seeing your health subject to the latest wave of Republican bureaucratic politics as you watch your womanhood and health become collateral damage in the never ending tug of war in policing a women’s right to reproductive choices is both scary and infuriating.
Every four years or so, our uteri become the playing ground that defines party politics, drawing lines between the “family” party and the liberal left. Somewhere in this tug of war the reality of women’s health needs become lost, and party politics and ideals take precedent over necessity and freedoms.
After Democrats invited Sandra Fluke to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, the only woman invited to speak on an all-male panel to discuss clauses in healthcare, Republicans silenced her.
After all, Sandra Fluke was not a healthcare professional, nor was she a member of the clergy, and her name was not “submitted in time,” making her ineligible for panel talks.
There was no woman to speak for women’s issues.
In 2012, our right to secure the sort of healthcare that is reflective of our needs is still in the hands of politicians that believe a policy created outside of a woman’s input can still speak for women.
The outrage that followed Chairman Issa’s committee was enough for people to ask — who is Sandra Fluke?
People like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter were only too happy to paint America a picture. For most people Limbaugh’s colorful description of the recent GU Law School graduate was the first they’d heard of her.
Overnight she became a slut that must have been so sex-crazed, she had to solicit Congress for enough contraceptives to cushion her overactive sex life. She was weak and needed, in the words of conservative blogger Michele Malkin, “the pandering President of the United States” to speak up on her behalf.
Ann Coulter, a woman that has created a career surviving on the media mania she garners through her loose-lipped ignorance and hatred (who in reality, would be incredibly irrelevant without it), seemed challenged by the presence of a woman that when finally permitted, chose to speak calmly on a panel, with prepared speech in hand, on behalf of women’s health.
So much so that she tweets her aggression.
Watching the Republican’s manic approach to damage control was like watching the 21st century rendition of the Salem witch trials. Republicans were the judge and jury, the trial was rather short (we’ve managed to reserve our right to a speedy trial) and the verdict was out before she’d even been given the chance to testify.
In fact, amidst the hocus pocus endorsed by the GOP, we were still left wondering, who is Sandra Fluke, and why is she so important?
This was largely due to the fact that, enduring all the labels, colorful language and slurs used against her, Sandra Fluke remained the women with the single agenda.
She refused to allow the raging red to morph the dialogue about women’s health and our right to access affordable contraceptives through healthcare providers into a conversation about her.
Regardless of the attempts to use Sandra Fluke as the latest red herring to pacify change, Republicans could not pacify the waves of attention they helped cause.
What Chairman Issa, Limbaugh and Coulter failed to realize is this: Sandra Fluke isn’t significant because of her name or the university she went to or the fact that Ed Schultz wants to hear what she has to say.
But rather, because she was a woman with a message they tried to silence.
And in that moment, they made her presence known.
When I see Sandra Fluke on CNN or read her articles on the Huffington Post, I still envision the young lady she spoke of with polycystic ovary syndrome that could have relieved symptoms of her condition with access to the sort of healthcare all students and women should be entitled to but have yet to receive.
I remember the strength of her words, the strength of her story, the importance and relevance of the issues she
stood stands for.
I remember why she spoke in the first place and that those reasons are harsh realities that women are still living through, realities we have the power to change with a voice and a vote.
Sandra Fluke made strides towards this change when she laced her voice with a stance that resonated and became louder, regardless of the GOP abuse.
The importance of Sandra Fluke and others like her is this: they speak especially when they’re not spoken to.
Addis is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. Her transcontinental upbringing highlighted her interest in globalization and social issues, drawing her to what has now become a passion for social change in issues ranging from feminism to social welfare programs. When not drowning in research, web applications and Word docs, Addis enjoys long hikes, traveling, and is a major food and beer enthusiast working to make “chasing food trucks” a contemporary hobby. Follow her on twitter @AddisAklilu.
Search our 3000+ articles!
Our online racial justice training
Used by hundreds of universities, non-profits, and businesses.
Click to learn more