The Perfect Feminist 'Seminar Caller' on NPR

NPR's "Talk of the Nation" hosted a feminist discussion group on Monday, but the first caller was a perfect definition of what Rush Limbaugh has identified as the "seminar caller" -- someone who pretends to be something they're not, like someone saying they're a Republican and then trashing the Republicans. 

Monday's NPR version was a "Catholic" who trashed Catholics, finding it "appalling" that the nation's bishops were opposing mandatory payment for contraceptives.

SUZANNE: Hi, thank you for taking the call. I was telling the person that I was speaking to before that I'm particularly incensed at the political climate at the moment, especially the bishops. They are so incensed at the birth control situation when they did not come out in arms about the child abuse scandals, and all the priests are going on the pulpit every Sunday. And I'm a Catholic, and I find that appalling.

And also I'm very incensed that they're - you know, this situation is, you know, it's affecting the livelihood of women. What are we to do, just stay home and have babies? This is taking us back, you know, years. You know, we've fought so hard to get in the workplace, and now they're telling us we're not allowed to take birth control because it'll harm us.

NEAL CONAN, host: Yet by any objective measurement, women are far more prominent and successful in the workplace than ever before.

SUZANNE: We are. And I think these politicians really need to take a hard look at what they're saying to women out there. You know, if you feel like, you know, you want to stay home and have babies and be barefoot and pregnant in your kitchen, then that's fine, but do not, you know, put that upon the rest of society.

CONAN: Suzanne, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it. And Pamela Scully, you can obviously hear the anger in her voice. Is it fair, though to put this on politicians?

PAMELA SCULLY, Emory University: You know, I really feel for the caller. Fair to put it on politicians, what do you mean by that?

NEAL CONAN: Well, she said the bishops, and she talked about hypocrisy, as she saw it, but she said the politicians have to learn about this. Is this something that politicians have contrived, or is this something that has come up?

Scully cited how "there's a political movement to limit women's rights to reproductive justice. So for example, you know, in 2011, something like 26 states passed one or more anti-choice bills." She said "people are comfortable with a familiar story, and one of them is that women should indeed, you know, that the world would be better if women were back in a home, you know, not trying to combine work and motherhood."

The entire segment was feminist -- the NPR host, the two female academic guests, and every caller. At least other callers weren't faking it:

-- JENNIFER: Hi, Neal. I found this topic interesting. I happen to be wearing a new T-shirt today that says feminism, the radical notion that women are people. (Laughter) I was - which was ironically a gift from my brother. But I was fascinated - I'm in my mid-'30s, and I was fascinated by the responses I've gotten today wearing it from other women. A lot of uncomfortable laughter, puzzled looks, things like that. And it is disappointing. I've always proudly identified as a feminist. I feel as if lately my peers have really shied away from that term.

--  MARY: I'm really angry. I'm almost 60 years old, and we fought this. And I think that it's just - it's a dial back to -I mean, we cannot go back to Ozzie Nelson. When I see Rick Santorum in that vest, I think Ozzie and Harriet, people are afraid. Let's dial it back to a time where everyone looks white. And you know, it was just like it was all controlled and easy going and just like on a TV show. Well, it just isn't that way. What I can't figure out is why the same people, mostly men, who are interested in this, they want - they don't want to pay for birth control.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis