Click here for a transcript of The Sun's interview with Sandra Fluke '03.
Sandra Fluke ’03, a political activist whose vocal advocacy of women’s rights has recently thrust her into the national spotlight, took the stage at the Statler Auditorium Monday night to field questions about women’s roles in the upcoming election.
In the talk — which was introduced by Prof. Rebecca Stoltzfus, international nutrition, and was titled “Sandra Fluke on Civic Responsibility: From Cornell to the DNC and Beyond,” — Fluke briefly introduced herself, leaving the majority of the time open to questions from the audience.
Fluke gained national fame during her address at the Democratic National Convention, in which she spoke on behalf of “silenced women.”
Asked to discuss the broader topic of her decision to engage in political activism, Fluke immediately referred to a high-profile incident in February 2012, when she was blocked from speaking at a House of Representatives hearing on birth control by an all-male panel.
Fluke said that when she made the decision to go forward and attempt to testify before members of Congress to voice her opinion on women’s rights, she made herself open for criticism from men such as Rush Limbaugh.
Limbaugh made crude comments about Fluke, calling her as a “slut” and “prostitute” in his criticisms of her advocacy of health insurance-covered birth control for all women.“Did I make a decision to [get involved in political activism]? Maybe Rush Limbaugh made that decision,” Fluke responded.
Fluke, who graduated from the College of Human Ecology, said her Cornell background prepared her for the problems that she faced in February, and she lauded the education she received at the University.
“In the difficult times, I was very thankful that I had the background that I gained here at Cornell,” she said.
Fluke said her feminist, gender and sexuality studies major provided her with “a way to understand the situation into which I was thrust.” She added that her other academic focus at Cornell, policy analysis and management, gave her “many of the skills to talk about the policy [she] was advocating for.”
Reflecting on her personal experience in the public eye, Fluke said that young women, as well as other groups that face adversity in the realm of politics, should not be afraid to “criticize the criticism” and to “push back.”
In her conversation with the audience that followed, Fluke stressed her frustration with misinformation that she said circulates in the public sphere.“We need to start demanding better from the media and from our politicians,” she said.
Fluke also fielded one audience member’s question about how small communities, such as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population, can find representation in candidates that are not members of their group.
“It’s important that we all be allies to each other — in fact, it’s critical,” she responded, saying that “everyone has a responsibility to fight for all these issues.” She also emphasized the importance of being respectful toward the views of the “other political side.”
“Some differences just have to be respected. We must respect each other’s decisions,” she said.