The Memo

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Now that the nation has spanked Rush Limbaugh for his heavy breathing over Sandra Fluke, and there has been open ridicule of the Virginia legislature’s vaginal ultrasound laws, you would think that there would be a chilling effect on similar sentiments and legislation elsewhere. Apparently not.

It seems that there was some kind of general memo distributed to elected officials in state houses around the country that read, with Svengali-like enchantment: Non-Procreative. Sex. Must. Cease. Looks like we’re seeing more pre-abortion vaginal ultrasound and fetal personhood legislation proposed in state after state, and that memo was spread around long before Rush flapped his gums.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, this last year alone close to a thousand new laws have sprung up across various states, limiting or punishing reproductive choice for women. All Rush did was openly broadcast the fight over our vaginas. Conservatives in state legislatures and local governments have been doing the rest of the footwork, long before Sandra Fluke spoke up. They had hold of The Memo long before Fluke-Limbaugh made the news cycle(s) of March.

To some, the ludicrousness and misogyny of these laws signal the last thrashing of a dying conservative movement, but in his newest article, leading progressive political messaging expert George Lakoff thinks otherwise. Lakoff says in his article “The Santorum Strategy”:

This is anything but an irrational position for radically conservative Republicans. Quite the contrary. It fits conservative moral logic — the logic used by conservative populists, male for sure and for many women as well. In some respects it embodies the most powerful aspects of conservative moral logic, strengthening conservative moral logic in the minds not only of conservatives, but also of independents who have both conservative and progressive world views and swing between them.

Here’s how that logic goes.

The strict father determines what happens in the family, including reproduction. Thus reproduction is the province of male authority. The strict father does not condone moral weakness and self-indulgence without moral consequences. Sex without reproductive consequences is thus seen as immoral. If the nation supports birth control for unmarried women, then the nation supports immoral behavior. The conservative stress on individual responsibility means that you and no one else should have to pay for your birth control — not your employer, your HMO, or the taxpayers.

Having to pay for your birth control also has a metaphorical religious value — paying for your sins. This is a classical slippery slope narrative. If no one else should have to pay for your birth control, the next step is that no one else should have to pay for any of your health care. And the step after that is that no one else should be forced to pay for anyone else. This is, everything should be privatized — no public education, safety nets, parks, or any public institutions or services. (emphasis mine – fb)

That is what makes conservative moral logic into such a powerful instrument. And conservative and independent women can be pragmatic about the birth control details, while accepting the moral logic as a whole.

Incidentally, Rush Limbaugh’s ‘slut’ and ‘prostitute’ remarks, while even more extreme than Santorum, make sense to conservatives in terms of the same conservative moral logic. Limbaugh apologized for those two words, but not for the logic behind them. Even after the apology for the two words, the logic lingers.”

Professor Lakoff says the campaigns of Mr. Santorum, Gingrich and Romney, as loony as they are, have an agenda. This is not the end of conservatism but the full flower. The job of the 2012 campaign for the Republicans is, in effect, “The Santorum Strategy,” which — aside from Republican re-taking the White House and Congress — is to “ingrain the conservative agenda into the national dialogue permanently.”

What better way to do it than to engage the entire country in a national dialogue condemning pre-marital sex and asserting the Constitutional right for freedom of religious expression for churches opposing contraception? How else can you get those concepts blasted into the public consciousness than to have the fatuous Mr. Limbaugh proclaim it in the most vile and insulting way possible? Oh, it’s burned in there alright. This is how Rove gets his base into the voting booths. In 2000, it was the fight over custody of Elian Gonzales and in 2004, it was San Francisco’s massive lines surrounding City Hall for gay marriage ceremonies. In 2012, its the year of the Sluts v. America.

As astute as Professor Lakoff is, I came away from reading his article feeling cheated out of examples of what the progressive community could do to provide a framing with similar moral imperative for our side of the argument. Lakoff is a consultant after all, and wouldn’t want to give away trade secrets for free. We’re just the bitches, sluts and whores whose lives, bodies, and the people who love us are at stake. Outside of the Occupy Movement, which created the 99% v. 1%, what do we have? Even with the many great and hilarious efforts in response to Virginia’s ultrasound law and other female contraception-impeding legislation, we could use more of our creativity to draw back the conversation to the morality of justice and equality. Hey, you know, there was a memo written about that nearly 150 years ago.

Whatever happened to that?

Fe Bongolan

About Fe Bongolan

Planet Waves writer Fe Bongolan lives in Oakland, California. Her column "Fe-911," has been featured on Planet Waves since 2008. As an actor and dramaturge, Fe is a core member of Cultural Odyssey's "The Medea Project -- Theater for Incarcerated Women," producing work that empowers the voices of all women in trouble, from ex-offenders, women with HIV-AIDS, to young girls and women at risk. A Planet Waves fan from almost the beginning of Eric's astrology career, Fe is a public sector employee who describes herself as a "mystical public servant." When it comes to art, culture and politics, she loves reading between the lines.
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7 Responses to The Memo

  1. Fe Bongolan Fe Bongolan says:


    Check out this diary from Kos:

    The states with the highest online porn visit rates are also the ones passing these ridiculous laws.

  2. zerosity zerosity says:

    US religious demographics by state, from USA Today:
    Map of Religions by State
    This map gives you the percentage of all faiths, and religions, in each state! Click on the following and see the different religions by state and elsewhere by holding cursor over a state.

    Interesting footnote to Pisces 25 Sabian symbol as well.


  3. Fe Bongolan Fe Bongolan says:

    If every child conceived by accident is God’s plan, then a limp dick requiring chemicals to prop it up should just stay limp. God made you impotent for a reason.

  4. Brendan Brendan says:

    But Vince, Viagra upholds the “every sperm is sacred” creed! So what if the man has a problem, he is what counts, he has every right to procreate as he sees fit. 😉

    The legislature here in AZ got more than a few memos, not just one. There’s a bill being proposed right now that basically says your employer has the right to terminate you for using birth control, period. The sponsor is a female, and she’s in the process of hearing about her folly from her constituents and others right now. She claims that’s not what it says, but I’ve read the major portion and that is indeed what it says.

    I blame ALEC. The R’s here have adopted an awful lot of their “suggestions” as God’s last word on matters secular (despite, of course, having little bearing on reality), so absolutely nothing comes off as too crazy for them to propose as legislation now.

    There is a small tide, a neap tide if I may, of voters deciding that the legislature is entirely crazy, and alternative politicians are being looked at for the forthcoming elections. We have to really work on the retirees here, they’re the ones who vote über-conservative, and their sheer numbers in the Phoenix area are responsible for the plethora of conservative politicians.

  5. Fe Bongolan Fe Bongolan says:


    Which has also been the point. The Tea Party’s “get your government hands off my Medicare” (which btw – pays for my Viagra) is one of the many anomalies acceptable by the ueber conservative. There’s moral logic in there somehow, even if it makes no sense at all. There’s no appeal to factual logic you can make that veers them off course from moral rectitude.

    I keep thinking to this day about “Game Change” — if you haven’t seen it, take a look. It’s about the 2008 campaign and the chapters on the McCain campaign’s choice of Sarah Palin for VP. At first she was in over her head, then she decided that with her popularity, she was going to fuck the campaign — even to the point to where she would tell outright lies that could be refuted by simple fact check — just so she could get her points with an adoring conservative throng. This is how “Muslim terrorist sympathizer”, “foreigner in the White House” “where’s the birth certificate?” bullshit gets shoved down our throats, no matter how often it was found false. She gave these guys permission to be morons in very powerful places.

    Mrs. Palin was and is a turd in the political waters, giving birth to the Tea Party, providing benediction for their candidates in 2010, and creating this mess in 2011-12. What we have to stop is the hysteria about disinformation.

  6. vince says:

    So wheres the outrage about the government paying for drugs like Viagra for mens sex organs ?

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