Rush Limbaugh’s recent dismissal of Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute” reminds me of how much more vulnerable women are than men to the abusive ad hominem. There is a a greater number of abusive words associated with women: add “whore,” “bitch,” “cunt,” “old maid,” “hag,” “bag,” “jezebel,” “hoochie mama,” etc., as opposed to “prick,” “dick,” and “boy toy.” Plus the feminine insults tend to be considered so bad that people often won’t actually say them, but only allude to them, for instance in saying “the c-word.”
On top of that, women tend not to be listened to, so the ad hominem may always be more effective against women. Merely pointing out that a speaker is a woman may act as reason to ignore her. The same would apply to any marginalized people. One’s very identity can undermine one’s claims and one’s reasons.
Lorraine Code has argued in a few places that the dismissal of women’s reasons for being women’s reasons should be identified as ad feminam. The vulnerability of women to ad hominem suggests indeed that ad feminam deserves recognition as a distinct category.