Rush Limbaugh Has Lesbians All Figured Out

Journalists, stop the presses! Medical experts, put down your stethoscopes and go home! Statisticians, your calculators are no longer needed! You know those complex problems you’ve been grappling with? Those questions that have kept you up until dawn, ruminating? Our good friend Rush “To Conclusions” Limbaugh has all the answers. Ask and ye shall receive! (Hang on, you didn’t ask? Whatever! It’s conservative talk radio; ye shall receive.)

PRECISELY

PRECISELY

On Monday, during his daily nationally-syndicated 3-hour screed, Mr. Limbaugh decided to talk about some of his problems with federal spending decisions. After mentioning two studies that aim to investigate correlations between lesbians and obesity and lesbians and alcohol abuse, he presents his own theories:

“Of course, the answer to the first case is they don’t have to deal with men, so they don’t have to worry about their appearance. They’re not trying to please men. So they can be obese. It’s no big deal. Alcohol, who knows? They’re having to deal with women so they’re drunk.  Who knows.”

OF COURSE. All those smart people who have been working on LGBT health issues for decades, and are starting to draw useful connections between psychological stress and physical health, and acknowledge the structural barriers that block LGBTQ access to effective health care? Those others who criticize the proposed studies, and the research that has led to them (notably, the flawed concept of BMI), with an actually educated eye? All wrong. Obesity is caused by the absence of the male gaze. And could it be that marginalized groups are particularly at risk for substance abuse because of minority stress and institutionalized discrimination, and that this is a serious problem that deserves public recognition and support? Nah, it’s just all that tiresome lady-drama! It’s driving us to the bottle! Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?!

ONE PROBLEM SOLVED! WHO'S NEXT?

ONE PROBLEM SOLVED! WHO’S NEXT?

Oh wait, people have. Over and over. Limbaugh’s flippant dismissal of these studies rests on stereotypes about lesbian appearance, age-old patriarchal worth judgments, and rampant oversimplification (to be fair, the studies he describes, and the anti-obesity crusade in general, aren’t great on any of these counts either, but that’s another post). And I’m actually doubly upset about Rush specifically because if anyone should understand the tangled web of substance abuse, shouldn’t it be Rush Limbaugh? This is, of course, a is a dumb expectation, as he specializes in racist, sexist, homophobic soundbites carefully constructed to raise conservative blood pressure and liberal hackles by misinterpreting facts, misconstruing intentions, and ignoring context, all under the guise of “I’m just leveling with you” faux-bravery. Everyone has thought of nearly all his “arguments,” including his recent slippery slope-style one conflating gay marriage with shacking up with inanimate objects, and his insistence that legalizing it without a nationwide democratic vote will cause a “roiling of our culture” from which we will not recover.

I won’t presume to know what we should do with those millions of dollars in federal research money. But maybe we should take the tens of millions Limbaugh earns every year and use it to study why we’re still giving it to him even though he is uniformly a bigot who doesn’t bother educating himself before offering up his opinions.

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Riese is the 33-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1761 articles for us.

49 Comments

  1. Thumb up 5

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    LOL, he is in a idiot, however..I can’t help but laugh at this part; “Alcohol, who knows? They’re having to deal with women so they’re drunk. Who knows.” I am pretty sure women drive quite a few of us to drink, LOL!

    • Thumb up 21

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      i actually think it’s really important to care/examine his statements. i know you’re probably being rhetorical when you say “why even bother getting mad at anything he says” and i agree with you, i think our activist energy is far better spent on other things than getting mad/sad every time an asshole bigot says untruthful things about our community, but cara isn’t “getting mad” in this post — she’s bringing to light these things he said (and mocking his stupidity for good measure), because it IS crucial to care in the sense that we should remember that lots of people don’t believe he just wants attention, lots of people don’t laugh when they see his statements, lots of people don’t think he’s dumb. like the commenter below states, many many many people in this country take this man’s word as gospel, and the fact that he’s saying really damaging things on air about our community is a problem because it informs popular opinion, and we should talk about it, not least because now when someone googles “rush limbaugh lesbians” they’ll at least possibly also see this article, not just the bullshit that he spouts.

      in conclusion, no, rush limbaugh is not the largest opponent the lesbian community will ever take on, but we also shouldn’t laugh and turn the other way…because millions of listeners sure as hell aren’t doing that, and THOSE people — aka society — may indeed be our largest opponent in the long run.

  2. Thumb up 6

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    I live in a town where his word is treated as gospel, and with family that quotes his soundbites on a regular basis. This drivel is nothing new and nothing I haven’t heard before. It’s cow-patties like this malarkey, and not other women, that drive ME to drink.

  3. Thumb up 6

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    Honestly, I think there is something to the idea that people’s appearances are influenced by the male gaze. Straight men tend to weigh more than gay men as well. Men have more power to impose narrow attractiveness standards on their partners.

    HIs comment about alcoholism is just gross, though.

    • Thumb up 12

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      this is a really interesting comment and a theme that i’ve been thinking about a lot recently, specifically in reference to my own appearance and my feelings about my appearance and my self worth and how it’s all tied together and how those things have shifted as i’ve become more and more entrenched in a loving queer community and a solid same-sex relationship…it’s an essay (probably hundreds of essays!) in the making and is a conversation i’d love to have. BUT my problem with limbaugh’s comments are his obnoxious assumption that all lesbians are fat because we don’t care what men think of us. even if he’s working with a nugget of an interesting idea, he’s so reductionist, misogynistic, and generally stupid that he bungles the idea so it no longer intrigues me, only makes me roll my eyes. does that make sense? like, i think YOUR commentary is cool and worth discussing, but he wasn’t presenting your commentary…he just wanted to laugh at the fat ugly dykes, ya know?

      • Thumb up 3

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        My guess is rather that when life and time progresses people develop more skills, discover more things that they are passionate about while they also get access to more and more knowledge. Also they get more aware of WHO they are as a person. Consequently their outer appearance gets less and less valuable to them because it is simply not the only thing they have (or that they are aware of) anymore.

        As someone who does deal with men from time to time, i still see how my views changed over time. I am more accepting of my body, I don’t diet and I don’t hide behind “manly”, loose clothes anymore. Maybe I am even more gentle to myself in general?

        And to be really honest: I don’t think that the intimate partners – male, female or non-binary – are the ones who put pressure on women. I think it’s the beauty/diet/”health” industries and the popular media who create dissatisfaction, who make women hate their bodies/skin/hair/everything, so they can sell their shit to them. And yes, those industries are owned and ruled by men. So those are the men who pressure.

        • Thumb up 2

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          I think you bring up an interesting point that it’s not necessarily intimate partners who are creating that pressure, but various industries/ media. I would even venture to say that among the people who are jerks about weight, etc in a relationship are that way because society has taught them that they are entitled to be that way. Because it’s not like everyone is like that. I’ve had several straight female friends mention that they’re more worried about their weight than their boyfriends, like “I gained 10 pounds and he didn’t notice/ it didn’t matter to him.” And I’m not saying that people don’t have their preferences, but I think that the ones who are jerks about it are the ones who feel their are somehow /entitled/ to have conventionally attractive girlfriends/ women they sleep with.

        • Thumb up 1

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          Apparently I fail at both typing and proofreading today… That’s supposed to say “MOST OF the people who are jerks about weight” and “ones who feel THEY are somehow entitled.”

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          I think this is really true. I have the feeling sometimes that queer women carry themselves with more confidence, because they’ve come out the other side of a society which gives them quite a narrow mould for womanly behaviour. Even the femmest of queer women step outside that mould when they resist the traditional heteronormative narrative.

      • Thumb up 6

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        I dunno – my eating disorder recovery did start to go better after I decided I don’t really want to date guys any more because I started spending more time with other queer women and they reassured me that my body is not gross / terrible (and thus that I don’t need to torture myself to make it ‘attractive’) a lot better than straight men (who, by and large, didn’t care / did want to me to spend a lot of energy trying to be ‘attractive’). But, at the same time, the constant frustration of homophobia can take a huge toll on you, how you feel about yourself and how you eat. It’s relatively easy for me now to ward off thoughts of, ‘I’m so ugly nobody’ll ever like / want me unless I lose 20 pounds’, but it’s a lot harder to fight to stay afloat when I think, ‘everything is terrible, my life is pointless, I’ll just stay in bed and not eat for a week’, so the end result is more or less the same. What makes it worse, though, is the fact that although bisexual women face much higher risks of developing eating disorders than straight women, there are few services developed specifically for us / narratives about women with eating disorders are all annoyingly heterosexist / medical professionals sometimes assume we’re immune to eating disorders because we don’t have to try to attract men as much. This is indeed an interesting and important conversation.

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          Something similar goes for fat people. Bulimia can stay undetected for a very long time because even after years you will still be considered overweight on the BMI scala. And if you decide to face the disorder all by yourself, doctors will not believe you a word because to them you are just another lazy fattie who simply doesn’t want the struggle to become thin… I mean, “healthy”… of cause.

          And if tell them that you play handball on a regular bases, compete in shot put and also love hiking, they will consider you a lier. Because fitness and fatness must, must, must contradict each other… of cause.

          Sometimes I hate people.

          And I miss shot put.

        • Thumb up 1

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          The National Eating Disorders Association actually did a webinar a few weeks ago on the LGBTQ community and eating disorders. I was less than impressed – the main theory they seemed to be presenting was shame of being in the closet => eating disorder. As someone who realized her sexuality as a result of recovery (ie malnutrition was confusing my brain before), it was super frustrating.

      • Thumb up 3

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        I have been thinking about this, albeit from a different angle, as I am beginning the process of living a healthier lifestyle. I am morbidly obese. I use the weight a shield against the male gaze and touch. It’s a bit strange and I won’t go into details here. It’s kind of twisted though because the weight doesn’t always shield me and in the end I am only hurting myself. I am confident in who I am but as a baby dyke (baby as in being queer, not age) I am relearning how to engage the opposite sex as a queer lady. There are men in my life who I enjoy being around so I’m not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Being queer has helped me to live life on my own terms especially with not conforming to the expected gender behavior. I want to engage males in a human dynamic, not some weird traditional gender roleplaying game. I won’t stand for any less. But short of wearing a sign on my chest that says, “Will not tolerate any patriarchal shenanigans”, I have to figure out how to communicate my expectations.

        • Thumb up 1

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          “I want to engage males in a human dynamic, not some weird traditional gender roleplaying game.”

          I really like this line. I do feel society for the majority has been diminished to enacting this one roleplay over and over and over again and not allowing room for people to be who they are, to be humans in this world filled with living people. Instead everything has to fit into these ancient, conservative, excluding binaries and if it doesn’t then there’s something strange, scary, monstrous, “let’s ignore it and hope it goes away” about it. It really makes me feel sad toward the majority’s inability or plain refusal to think for themselves

    • Thumb up 2

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      Hmmm the “male gaze” theory is… Okay. I can’t lie. When I see a hot chick… my mind goes places. Whatever hot means to you.

      Or am I an anomaly in the queer community? How do people view physical appearance, understanding people are attracted to varying types?

      Because at times I don’t how to feel when, let’s say Rihanna is on the cover of RollingStone (http://photos.laineygossip.com/articles/rihanna%20rollingstone%2001feb13.jpg) looking incredibly sexy and a public female intellectual who I adore tweets “Sexual objectification… the male lens has ruined us!” and I’m like HOLD UP! But I liked that picture.

      That cover is awesome and if I had Rihanna in my whitewashed photography studio that is exactly the type of photo I would take, on days I’m not feeling particularly Alfred Stieglitz. So who cares it’s Terry Richardson who took it.

      Don’t get me wrong. I get historical hierarchical power structures and how the female body plays into it… but attributing lust and the sexualization of said bodies as male exclusive is also… just not true.

      It’s why I love photographers like Ellen von Unwerth and Tasya van Ree and Jenna Elizabeth. They have fun with the subject. And more importantly they do it because they like the way their subjects look. And I don’t blame them.

      • Thumb up 3

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        No, I don’t think they’re trying to say some women don’t judge other women’s appearances or that there aren’t women who prefer thin and conventionally attractive women to larger women, the point is that men’s views on women’s bodies and how they should look is always given greater credence in our society. Female politicians for example are regularly attacked for not being runway models and no one says anything about male politicians. For example, the poster faced few comments about her weight when presenting as a man but all of a sudden when presenting as female lots of people felt that they had the right to comment on her body.
        And equally, women like rachel maddow (who queer women find really hot) are labelled ugly by mainstream press i.e. straight men don’t like how she looks.
        So I think the point is that ‘attractiveness’ in women is always dictated by men, and larger people or queer people get very little say in what should be considered ‘hot’.

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          I agree with you 100%. I wasn’t saying hot meant “Rihanna.” Hot is whatever it is to you. If your girlfriend is a Shane or Roseanne or an Ellen or a Portia or a Rosie or a Jane Lynch or a Papi, I just think you should be able to oogle their bodies in addition to their mind and spirit because that’s part of why you’re with them.

          But yes we agree on power structures and such. I made sure that was clear in my original comment.

          I’m just all about reclaiming it. Which is why I fully support AS’ Sunday NSFW editions, because they portray sexy in a diverse display of different body types and ethnicities.

      • Thumb up 3

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        I think the problem with the “male gaze” is not only about a specific way that women are supposed to look like to be considered attractive (and there is a way that we are told we must be/look like: cis, white, young, thin, able-bodied with flawless skin (no stretch marks, no scars, …) / hair (full, shiny, mostly straightened, … ) /everything) but also that women get – in fact – stripped down of their own sexual autonomy. Most of the time, people don’t even consider that women DO have sexual desires, tastes and own points of view.

        I noticed that once again with the resent episode (4.18) of THE GOOD WIFE: That included a (heteronormative) “sex” scene between the (female) main character and a man. And while it is supposed to be HER memory of it, we as the viewer don’t get to see what SHE supposedly saw, remembered and valued about the sex (like the guys face, hands or whichever body parts and the actual things that they were doing) but it is solely the actresses body instead. Which makes no sense as it would mean that she objectifies herself – and herself only (as you barely can make out the guy blurred into the background) – in her memories… ???

        Same goes for girl-on-girl portrayals in the popular media: It is never about the pictured women but the assumed (male) viewer instead. The girls often timed don’t even look at each other but to the camera which does take away from their own pleasure and make the pleasure of the viewer the center point instead.
        Just google for GQ’s shot of Alison Brie and Gillian Jacobs and you see what I mean.

        *still looking at AB & GJ* … Seriously, who has sex like that? Are you not supposed to care about yourself and the pleasure of the lady that you are with? Are you both not supposed to enjoy that? Arght, that makes me so angry!

        Okay… I’m sorry for ranting so much about male gaze and stuff. I hope I can make up for that by linking to THE GOOD WIFE Kalinda’s sexy times (nsfw?):

        1. http://life-is-easier-in-a-bathtub.tumblr.com/post/46303657595/kalinda-sharma

        2. http://diatheses.tumblr.com/post/46003674778/i-totally-giffed-this-before-in-excruciating

        3. http://diatheses.tumblr.com/post/46047965804/hey-remember-when-this-happened-for-no-apparent

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          “Most of the time, people don’t even consider that women DO have sexual desires, tastes and own points of view.” This.

          The Alison Brie and Gillian Jacobs editorial is the definition of not sexy. For all of the reasons you detailed.

          It’s actually puzzling. Those scenes look like they belong in FHM or Maxim. GQ considers itself a male Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar at the very least, but this looks cheap. That editorial, if it were in Vogue, or W, Treats, or V would have emphasized intimacy. The subjects would have been focused on each other. It would have been a sexier photoshoot. That looks cheap. Ugh.

  4. Thumb up 3

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    He’s a facetious blow-hard with a radio show. What’s disturbing is not what he’s saying, but that people *actually* believe it. So really, it’s the wankers he’s speaking that really affect the LGBTQ community. I don’t think any time or effort should be wasted on Limbaugh. He’s like Howard Stern, he’ll say anything for a reaction, especially if its idiotic.

  5. Thumb up 16

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    Slightly unrelated, but when I was younger I somehow mixed up Rush Limbaugh with Liberace, and frequently referred to the two of them interchangeably.

    Now I’m just incredibly ashamed of myself for doing that to Liberace.

  6. Thumb up 11

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    I have concluded that Rush must be a lesbian (no offense intended to lesbians) because he, too, is overweight an has substance abuse issues. Isn’t that how he makes his conclusions?

  7. Thumb up 1

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    “Of course, the answer to the first case is they don’t have to deal with men, so they don’t have to worry about their appearance.”

    Is this a thing? I know couples in general tend to get comfortable. But I think people in general want to look good for their partner and themselves. Or I would my partner to not make it their number one priority, but have somewhere buried in their priority list.

  8. Thumb up 5

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    So… Does that make me not a lesbian if I’m neither obese nor a drinker? Or that the intense effort I made to get healthy (which was spurred on by coming out) is because I secretly want to please men, not because I want to reclaim myself, my desires, my interests and my body from the way I was raised?

    I get so tired of people trying to attach attributes to the entire community. I’m a lesbian because I am sexually, mentally, spiritually attracted to women. No other attribute, especially not the way I look, makes me a lesbian. But I guess that’s scary to a lot of people, you know? They want to be able to peg people on sight and/or believe everyone who is different must be secretly miserable or weird. It must be a really sad way to live.

  9. Thumb up 2

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    While Limbaugh’s statement is clearly offensive to lesbians, I also find it offensive to straight women too. He’s basically saying that straight women only care about their appearance because they want to please men. I mean, yeah, we all have a desire to be appear attractive to the sex/gender(s) we like, but what about just looking good for yourself? or for your health/well being?

    This statement also implies that lesbians don’t care how other lesbians look, and maybe this is shallow, but appearance is definetly important to me. It’s not a huge factor, but I do prefer having a girl friend who’s good looking and for me a healthy weight is part of that. I’m not into men and therefore I don’t have to worry about the “male gaze”, but I still care a lot about my appearance, especially my weight. I used to have an eating disorder. so yeah, there’s so much off about his statement. Really, it’s just offensive to women as a whole. Not only that but I read a study once that found women are more interested in looking good for other women than for men, regardless of their sexual orientation. This actually makes sense when you think about it. It’s usually other women who comment on “my cute outfit” or who tell me I have nice hair, legs, etc.
    In the words of Betsey Johnson, “Women dress for themselves and for each other. If women dressed for men, they would just walk around naked at all times.”

    I will admit though, I think there’s a certain degree of truth to what he’s saying. Lesbians do seem to have less pressure put on them to wear makeup heels, you know “look like barbie” than straight women, but as another commenter mentioned it, the way he words it just comes off as oversimplified, misogynistic and homophobic.

  10. Thumb up 2

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    A lot of people in this comment thread are dismissive of what Limbaugh said here AS THEY SHOULD BE, but honestly this post was kind of triggering for me. My dad is a big fan of his show and we used to listen to it in the car together running errands every Wednesday when I was a kid.

    There is a kernel of truth in his comments. Lesbians don’t deal with the male gaze in the same way that straight or bisexual women do and the issues we face are often different because of it. But instead of using this fact to make insightful comments about society’s problematic attitudes towards the appearance of women, Rush uses this fact to actually praise the role of the male gaze in creating more conventionally desirable women. And I bought into this nonsense for so long.

    So this post is giving me an excuse to pour myself a drink in celebration of being free (or working toward being free) from the bullshit standards that I used to hold myself to and in celebration of the new, healthy me that I’m becoming for my own reasons and in the supportive community that I’ve found that he will never understand.

  11. Thumb up 3

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    My mom stopped listening to Michael Savage (which I grew up listening for a good majority of my life) and switched to Rush Limbaugh.
    I NOW NEVER LEAVE MY ROOM. IF I LEAVE MY ROOM, THERE ARE ANGRY WHITE MEN SPEWING BULLSHIT AND I NEED A BREAK.

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      I feel you. My dad listens to Rush for hours on end, especially on long car trips. I’ve somewhat succeeded in banning him from listening to Rush in spaces I can’t get out of like cares lately at least. He worships this man and it sickens me.

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        Oh man, long car rides are the worst. My parents worship Bill O’Reilly on Fox more than anything. It’s on the majority of the day…if not him then Hannity or Huckabee. So if it’s not long car rides with Limbaugh, it’s all day at home with O’Reilly, Hannity, or Huckabee.

        Just do what I do. NEVER LEAVE YOUR ROOM. Warning, you’ll loose all the pigment in your skin and turn horrendously pale. But it is a price I must pay for my sanity.

  12. Thumb up 3

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    Why does anyone even acknowledge this man? Not to be all “Europe is better than thou, America” but a man like that would just be ridiculed and possibly admitted to mental institution over here. Why do some americans even consider anything he has to say!? I do not understand this shit.

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