What a shock! It was all a BIG PRODUCTION! The Democrat’s token abused college coed is actually a 30 year-old hardcore women’s rights activist.”   — Gateway Pundit

“The Fluke Charade.  Oh, and the “young coed” turns out to be 30, which is what less evolved cultures refer to as early middle age.” — Fox Nation

“What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.”

— Rush Limbaugh

The backlash against the backlash is in full swing. Rush Limbaugh went too far in attacking Sandra Fluke for speaking before Congress about the need for private insurance policies to cover oral contraceptives, which are prescribed to women for a number of conditions besides pregnancy prevention.  Now every rightwing blog is coming out with identical talking points:  Poor Rush was set up.  Fluke was not a “23 year old coed”  but a “30 year old” full-grown lady law student who had an opinion on the matter and was not chosen at random.  Congress actually plans speakers when they set up hearings! Why that’s almost as shocking as twenty year old footage of Obama hugging a tenured Harvard professor!

There was no charade.  Fluke was introduced by Nancy Pelosi as a third year law student and “leader” active with Law Students for Reproductive Rights. There was no mention of her age by Pelosi, nor did Fluke herself mention her age when she spoke and presented herself as a third year law student and past president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Rights. I’ve yet to find a single source on the web that misrepresented Fluke’s age or student status.  Yet in the rightwingoverse, she was somehow “passed off” or “passing herself off” as something she was not, and as someone worthy of being called out as a slut and prostitute.  Here’s a quote from Pam Geller, taking time off from her duties as a professional Muslim-hater:

“A 30-year-old poses as a 23-year-old, chooses a Catholic University to attend at $65,000 per year, and cannot afford ALL the birth control pills she needs… so she wants the US taxpayers to pay for her rampant sexual activity. By all accounts she is banging it five times a day. She sounds more like a prostitute to me. She must have an gyno bill to choke a horse (pun intended). Calling this whore a slut was a softball.”

Not that any of that b.s. is worth the time it would take to refute, but (1) Fluke never misled anyone as to her age, (2) her testimony references that she is not simply speaking for herself and that as a public interest law student she did not pay full tuition, nor (3) did what she was supporting have anything to do with charging “taxpayers.”  Geller seems to share Limbaugh’s confusion regarding how oral contraceptive works.  Surely, someone should take them aside and explain that it does not work like Viagra.  You only take the pill once a day, no matter how many times you do or don’t “bang it.”  As for the rest, interesting choice of words for someone known for vlogging in a bikini while spreading her legs.

At least Geller does not use the word “coed” as do most of her cohorts.  The Merriam Webster free online dictionary defines the word first as: “a female student at a coeducational institution,”  “short for ‘coeducational student’, first known use circa 1878.”

The top choice that comes up on a Google search is COED Magazine a suspiciously old-fashioned e-zine allegedly for “college guys” featuring plenty of “eye-popping” pix.

Despite Merriam-Webster’s using the term to describe female students, that usage seems to have slipped unceremoniously from everyday speech, not so much because of its political incorrectness, but because it makes no sense. The default for institutions of higher learning, at least in the US, has been coeducation for many years, so why would female students get the approbation “coed?”  It’s doubtful that most actual undergraduate students are even familiar with the term.  If they’ve seen or heard it, it was probably in a tabloid or on Fox news at Granny’s. Unlike some words that get “owned” by the groups to whom they refer, “coed” is not used by members of the group when talking to each other.  You will never hear one female student say skeptically to another, “Co-ed, please!”

The word still makes sense when describing activities that have not become coeducational by default, such as youth sports teams. A quick search on the NY Times website shows they haven’t used the word to describe a female student since 1974, “Defendant Waives Jury Trial in Slaying of Coed.” They last used it to describe people in a 1980 article on “male-coeds” — young men entering traditional women’s colleges that had recently gone coed.

Lest anyone think that usage depends on where one sits on the political spectrum, it should be noted that like the Times, the Wall Street Journal uses the term only as an adjective to describe coed activities. The New York Post, however, uses it frequently, recently to describe the woman who made a tape of her dalliance with Ashton Kutcher, as well to refer to one of Anthony Weiner’s sext-partners. It has also been used by The Post to describe victims — missing coeds, suicidal coeds, murdered coeds.  My own quick poll of newspapers including Newsday and USA Today, would indicate that the Post’s usage might be somewhat idiosyncratic.

In tabloidese, the “coed” never simply means a female undergraduate student. It always signifies something lurid — innocence defiled or a (privileged) girl gone wild.  But I’m not suggesting that Rush purposely chose to describe Fluke this way.  He might simply think of all female students, graduate or undergraduate as usurpers in a male domain.  Given his videotape suggestion, he might be turned on by the racy images “coed” invokes.  Or it may simply be that he is so out of touch that he doesn’t even realize the term is dated, kind of like some very old white person using the word “colored” because that’s the one he grew up with.

The take-away is simple, wherever you stand on Fluke’s testimony, she never tried to pass herself off as anything she was not, and she never was what Rush and company labeled her.  Other than an admission that he was back on the drugs, there’s nothing to mitigate Limbaugh’s bitter attack or mock apology.

As for the word “coed,” that should be relegated to some bin for irrelevancies, along with Limbaugh himself.

For those interested in actually hearing Fluke’s testimony, here it is:

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