Politics Famed women’s rights activist makes campaign stop in Athens By Spencer Cappelli Posted on February 28, 2014 5 min read 0 0 388 A small crowd gathered inside Baker University Center on Thursday evening to hear women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke present the keystone address for Empowered Women’s Week activities. In her address, Fluke spoke openly on what she deemed as the importance of advocating for women’s reproductive rights. She described how individual silence can lead to the promulgation of rape culture, and her own experiences in confronting social stigma in her daily and professional life. Fluke was thrust into the public spotlight in 2012 after testifying for the inclusion of contraception coverage in medical insurance to the House Democratic Policy and Steering Committee. Conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh then described Fluke as a “slut” and “prostitute.” “I had no idea that I would become the world’s most slut-shamed person,” Fluke said of the incident. Fluke spoke about the need to lift the silence of those who are facing social stigma. She described the silence about issues like abortion, sexual assault and sexist language to be a “very disempowering thing.” “My primary concern was, ‘How would his comments prevent other people from speaking up?’ ” Fluke said. Fluke also alluded to the controversial tweets of former Ohio University Student Senate President Nick Southall when she lamented sexist comments regarding females “walking home in crinkled dresses,” upon which a round of laughter was offered up from the audience. “Hey, I always research my locales,” Fluke said. Fluke harshly criticized the nation’s current political ineffectiveness, condemning Congress as a stumbling block to the progress of “our country and our democracy.” She also decried the recent crop of anti-gay “religious freedom” legislation in some areas of the country as “very dangerous.” With respect to her own political aspirations, Fluke described her decision to not seek office at the federal level because she sees it as an ineffectual body for the advancement of progressive reform. Instead, she is seeking a seat in the 26th District of the California State Senate. Fluke, who is Protestant, also elaborated on how she rectifies her opinions on women’s reproductive rights with the profession of a faith whose teachings are perceived by some to be in stark contrast to her own. “Some people’s interpretation is different than my own,” Fluke said. “My interpretation leads me to a different outcome. It isn’t my job to say whose interpretation is wrong or right.” One of Fluke’s most poignant statements came in response to a question from the audience. “How do we show our support to a certain community when we don’t identify with them on the basis of gender or sexual orientation?” the audience member asked. “If you want to be an ally to a community, start by listening to that community,” Fluke said. Fluke’s next stop on her campaign trail will take her to a paneled debate in New York. The sixth annual Empowered Women’s Week will draw to a close tomorrow with the “Support our Survivors” walk, which seeks to bring together survivors of domestic and sexual abuse, as well as hate crimes and eating disorders, by empowering them through the experience of mutual support.