On February 9, 2009, Bill O'Reilly stated on his Fox News show, The O'Reilly Factor, that liberal journalist, Helen Thomas, sounds like a witch when she talks. He has now been accused of being an ageist and a sexist by the Women's Media Center, an organization founded by Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem.
Whether Mr. O'Reilly's remarks were appropriate or not is up for debate; we won't argue it either way. What does irk us, however, is Women's Media Center's demand for an apology from Mr. O'Reilly. That sort of behavior is divisive and petty and it really irks us. So Edie sent the following email to Women's Media Center:
As a woman I was horrified and embarrassed last night as I watched Women's Media Center representative, Courtney Martin, speak as a guest on The O'Reilly Factor. For the record, I will say that while I do often watch Bill O'Reilly's show, I don't always agree with him. Having said that, however, I find myself to be less concerned about Mr. O'Reilly's mocking of Helen Thomas than I am about Ms. Martin's victimizing other women. It is her type of whiny victimization that gives all women a bad reputation.
While your organization may believe it supports women's rights and equality, your method of doing so actually encourages women victimization. The most victimized I have ever felt in my life is when I let other peoples' statements about me become my reality. I saw the episode of The O'Reilly Factor that included Mr. O'Reilly's mocking of Helen Thomas' voice and, quite frankly, I forgot all about it once it was done. While Ms. Martin did accomplish drawing attention to Mr. O'Reilly's comments, unfortunately, most of us who viewed the exchange are not reflecting on Ms. Martin's concerns as much as we now realize that Helen Thomas does, indeed, sound like a witch.
Instead of continuing to make women feel like victims, why don't we spend more time helping them feel personally empowered? It would be liberating for Ms. Thomas to realize that she is above Mr. O'Reilly's mocking. Now, however, Ms. Martin's demand for an apology that will never come puts Ms. Thomas in bondage to Mr. O'Reilly, since he is the one who allegedly wronged her. If she chooses to feel wronged, then only his apology will release her from those shackles. It's not a prison that I would choose.
I'm all for women's equality and rights. I completely believe that women should rise out of the holes in which some men and members of society try to bury them. And I feel that way about ALL women, regardless of political affiliation, religion, or race -- which brings me to the issue of Sarah Palin. If it's true that Women's Media Center did not defend Sarah Palin as a woman (as Mr. O'Reilly stated), whether or not you agree with her politics, then WMC is part of the problem, not the solution. I have to agree with Mr. O'Reilly's statement to Ms. Martin; it is absolutely hypocritical of Women's Media Center to not stand up with Governor Palin when other people were denigrating her and her daughter. She was ripped apart by the media and Saturday Night Live, yet we are supposed to be outraged that some man thinks Helen Thomas sounds like a witch. Fortunately, Governor Palin showed other women how to be empowered by not letting biased and unkind assessments of her become her reality.
And, finally, let's face it: no one is harder on a woman than another woman. Rather than being empowered by their own strengths and talents, women victimize themselves with their jealousy and backbiting towards other women. Perhaps we should spend more energy towards encouraging women to support and strengthen each other.
In summary, I was very unimpressed with Ms. Martin on The O'Reilly Factor and, if she is an example of how your group handles womens' issues, I am equally unimpressed with the Women's Media Center.