Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Thanks to Rush Limbaugh (In the Category of Say What You Mean.)

My Aunt Becky, who is also my godmother, gave me the above coffee mug as a graduation gift in 1992 after I received my M.A. in English from Virginia Tech. She joked that it would come in handy at my new job (technical writing intern for a manufacturer of fiber optic video links). “Show them this if any of the men in the office give you a hard time,” she said.

Aunt Becky knows me well. As a nosey child, way back in 1972, I believed Mom’s jewelry box was a treasure chest, and one day I explored, found, and “borrowed” my mom’s E.R.A. bracelet; I liked how the bracelet fit and looked (similar to a Vietnam POW-MIA bracelet, which we also wore in my house, my father having survived that war during his stint in the Navy). Mom explained to me what “E.R.A.” meant (equal rights amendment). She also explained about the National Organization for Women (NOW) who had made the bracelets. The idea that I did not already have the same rights as boys pissed me off. I was six. But I digress.

When I saw the coffee cup Aunt Becky had given me for graduation, I laughed out loud, and since I already knew my new job had a “bring your own coffee cup” rule (a friend who worked there had hooked me up with the job), I happily packed it along with my bag lunch for my first day at a “real job.” [Note to self for future blog post…how much I hate the term “real job”. God knows bartending my way through grad school was real!]

For lack of a better option – this was a small business with limited office space – my desk was located in the office of the company’s founder/owner/president, so I was already more nervous than the ordinary first day jitters. (The president didn’t spend too much time in his office, so it wasn’t too bad...they moved me into the hallway a few weeks later.) Around mid-morning, one of my new co-workers, I’ll call him Dick, sauntered in to meet the “new girl.”

(True story. Due to a severe lack of funds, the best interview suit I could cobble together from my existing wardrobe included a mid-thigh length black suede leather skirt that I, frankly, rocked at the time — it no longer fits. On the day of my interview while I was waiting in the front office, a parade of what I would later learn was most of the engineering team AND test department came through the front on some pretense or another. My friend told me later that word had spread about the chick up front in a hot skirt. I don’t recall seeing Dick that day, but he probably heard about it.)

Dick spotted my coffee mug and read it. A creepy grin began to form on his visage. “Ah,” he said, showing his teeth. “You’re a feminazi.”

“A what?”

“A feminazi. You’ve never heard the term?”

“No, but I can guess what it means.” I grinned back, showing my teeth. “Have a nice day.” Then I sipped my coffee.

He laughed good-naturedly and offered his name, Dick Head (well not really), his position with the company (Chief Engineer), and what he thought about the idea of hiring a technical writer to create installation instructions for the sophisticated fiber optic transmission links that the company manufactured. He said, “My engineering team won’t have time to help.” Then he left. Later, my friend told me that the engineering team secretly referred to him as the Schmed or Schmedley. If this was Twitter, not a blog, I’d have to go #norespect.

(This is also a true story. My friend only got me the job because he almost got stuck with it himself. The VP of Engineering, his boss’s boss, had developed the first draft of installation instructions and asked my friend for feedback. When my friend suggested changes, the VP of Engineering, said “Great ideas. Why don’t you finish this?” My friend, who was also a regular where I tended bar, came in afterwards moaning about it then realized he was talking to an English major who was about to graduate and encouraged me to write the VP of Engineering and ask for a technical writing internship. Several days later he suggested it again saying, “I talked to the VP of Engineering and he’s waiting for your letter.” Utter bullshit. The first words the VP of Engineering spoke to me at my first interview for my first “real job” were, “Your letter came out of the blue. Why do you think I need a technical writer?” Yes, the friend is actually still a friend, a very good one.)

Not until 2012 did I learn that the term “feminazi” was actually popularized by Rush Limbaugh, who I had never heard of in 1992 when Dick thought he should use the slur to describe me. I’ve heard of him since, and I thank him for this word. I actually love the term; I think it’s hilarious. I want to state right up front that I abhor the intolerance of the Nazis, and I fully appreciate that, by choosing that particular metaphor, Rush is being deliberately provocative, invoking an image of extreme, even murderous intolerance, but the hyperbole of it cracks me up. I mean really, Rush? Nazi reference? We’re just women…you know…the bitches that birthed you.

Wikipedia suggests that Rush only intended to apply the term to hardcore abortion rights activists, but I don’t believe it. I think he uses “feminazi” to describe any woman who thinks and speaks for herself about issues with which he disagrees. For example, Rush’s slanderous attack on Sandra Fluke after her remarks to Congress last Autumn about the need for accessible birth control made this clear — to me anyway.

The whole notion that a woman wanting insurance coverage for birth control=slut made (makes) me reel. This is the same dumb fuck that described feminazis as women “whose goal it is to allow as many abortions as possible.” At no time will he acknowledge that access to prophylactic birth control greatly decreases the need for abortions due to unwanted pregnancy. Instead, he calls an educated, thoughtful, self-described “preacher’s kid” a slut because she supports the idea of accessible birth control.

I actually got a small thrill of empowerment when Dick Head called me a feminazi, even though I had never heard the term. Without me even trying, he feared me. He feared hot coffee on his crotch. Twenty-one years later, I still have no qualms with being called a feminist, a feminazi, even a bitch, if used appropriately. (If it is the best you can come up with, calling me a bitch, you lack imagination.) For as long as I can remember, I have rebelled against the notion that I didn’t have a right to do all the things that the boys had the right to do. My innate sense of fairness has never allowed me to concede that point.

Rush Limbaugh, that bigoted, fat-mouthed dickhead, may have intended the word, “feminazi” as a slur, a way to invoke an image of militant, narrow-minded adherence to the ideals of feminism, but I take it as a compliment. Unlike the goals of the Nazis, who sought to exclude certain persons from their population, feminists are fighting for inclusion in what is still a male-dominated society (we’re making progress, but notice how America will vote a penis of any color into the White House before they’ll give the job to a vagina). It’s maddening that here in the 21st century; renewing legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act still faces such stiff opposition by some in Congress.

I take  heart from the knowledge that NOW is still around, the fight for women’s equality continues. We’re finding our way to the CEO’s desk, joining corporate boards, entering and winning congressional races, and I do believe in my life I will vote for the first female POTUS (seriously hoping it will be in 2016).

I no longer drink coffee; caffeine turned on me. But if you make a sexist remark to me I will call you on it, I will judge you by it, and you will be tongue-lashed until you see the error of your ways. Have a nice day.


  1. I literally laughed out loud when you gave Dick his full name.

    Very empowering and no-holds barred. Awesome.

    I think it's a testament to progress that I can't imagine someone in a professional situation greeting someone by calling them a feminazi, especilally among my age group. Not that people don't think it, say it in private, or blast it on social media - misogyny is alive and lashing out in as many new avenues of communication as it can. But it's steadily attached to a sense of shaming and guilt that I hope will whittle it down to an unfortunate side effect of the uninformed.

    You're a trailblazer, Kim. Congrats!

  2. I remember my first "real job," as a staff accountant, assigned to a fraud audit at, wait for it...Dickstein Shapiro & Morin. Their accountant had been skimming from their partner accounts for a decade plus. A team of three of us walk into their dark paneled mahogany tabled conference room to assess the depths of their obviousness; the law partner who worked with us never managed to address me as anything other than "Honey." All I could think is "I maybe be sweet, but at least I'm not stupid