Forbes • March 6, 2012
Say you’re a conservative radio host who’s losing advertisers left and right for saying some deeply misinformed and misogynistic things about the lifestyle of a highly-educated single woman, and now you need to change the conversation. How do you do that? If you’re Rush Limbaugh, you do it by attacking a different woman on the basis of her singleness, youth and education.
Limbaugh spent the entire first hour of his program today discussing “The American Way of Eating,” a new book by journalist Tracie McMillan, who logged almost a year working low-paying jobs at Wal-Mart, Applebee’s and other places to learn about the food industry. Despite the backlash he’s faced for branding law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute,”Limbaugh didn’t shy away from the matter of McMillan’s sex. On the contrary, he referred to her as an “authorette” and attempted to tie her to a broader trend of “all these young single white women” who are threatening Americans’ freedoms.
Here’s the context of that latter quote, according to the show’s official transcript:
What is it with all of these young single white women, overeducated — doesn’t mean intelligent. For example, Tracie McMillan, the author of this book, seems to be just out of college and already she has been showered with awards, including the 2006 James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. Social justice journalism. This woman who wrote the book on food inequality, food justice, got an award for social justice journalism.
McMillan was in San Francisco on her book tour when Limbaugh set her in his crosshairs. She had no advance warning that her book was going to be featured on “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” and only became aware, she tells me, when someone tweeted at her to say he was talking about it. “It’s totally bizarre,” she says. “I had no idea that Rush Limbaugh knew that I existed. My grandmother would be thrilled, because she’s a fan of his.”
Less thrilling to her was Limbaugh attacking her for being female, single and educated. “It just didn’t really occur to me that my being single would have any bearing on whether whether my book was valid,” she says. “It seems to be a way to dismiss my intelligence or capacity to do the work.”
McMillan grew up working class in a rural area outside Flint, Michigan. It was Limbaugh country, she says.
“It’s interesting — I grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh and we actually watched his talk show in my high school [back when it was televised] for a class on current events. So I’m familiar with the politics. I certainly don’t think they’re foreign or alien or weird.
“But this really intense dismissal of women by someone like Rush Limbaugh, who’s considered an authority by a lot of people — that, to me, is distressing. I just wasn’t expecting anybody to say flat out that my work wasn’t valid because I’m a single woman.”
She also takes exception to Limbaugh’s calling her “over-educated.” “I only have a B.A. I don’t have an advanced degree,” she says. “Maybe he thinks women shouldn’t go to college at all?”