NPR Show Attacks O'Reilly for Shaming Beyonce; Host Somehow Compares This to Stereotypes Asking for Rape

May 20th, 2014 8:23 AM

NPR’s shooting rhetorical bullets at that “ill-informed so-called journalist” Bill O’Reilly again, for daring to criticize Beyonce recently for her skimpy outfit on a cover of Time magazine.

The show is “Here and Now,” out of Boston, now airing on almost 500 NPR affiliates. On Friday, host Robin Young somehow went from a black-and-white photo of Beyonce in bikini shorts to feminist hysterics about American history: “I'm going to jump in to say that Jezebel stereotype was used to blame black women for their own rape, for instance....Well, if she weren't so sexy, then the white men wouldn't have to assault them.”

This is how the O’Reilly quoting began:

ROBIN YOUNG: She was on the cover of Time magazine, one of the 100 most influential people, but in the picture she's wearing hardly anything: bikini shorts and a see-through shirt. And her detractors ask, who is she influencing? Here's Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, who said recently that for young girls, especially those without parental supervision, what Beyonce does is having a negative impact.

BILL O'REILLY: She knows that young girls getting pregnant in the African-American community now, it's about 70 percent out of wedlock. She knows and doesn't seem to care.

Young and the many stations broadcasting her aren’t acknowledging the fact that O’Reilly was discussing this with two guests on April 25, one of whom was a black woman who disagreed. Attorney Eboni Williams told O’Reilly “I think that Time magazine got it right in terms of her influence. And even, you know -- Ms. [Penny] Nance agreed we can't dispute the fact that she has had the capacity to influence at least this conversation, Bill. We are at least talking about what it is to properly affect feminism."

That's less one-sided than NPR! Young only brought on black feminist professor Heidi Lewis of Colorado College. They talked about how feminists hotly debated Beyonce on the cover of Ms. magazine. White feminists allowed Madonna to use sexuality for "empowerment," so why not Beyonce?

ROBIN YOUNG: It's a great example of, you know, maybe a hypocrisy there. Do you think that's what it is, that this is about race?

HEIDI LEWIS: Well, I do think that you have to understand the long history of black women's gender and sexuality politics in the United States in order to understand a lot of the complexities of the Beyonce conversation. A lot of black women, young and of an older generation, are averse to Beyonce's way of expressing her sex and sexuality because of the long history black women have with what we've come to call the Jezebel controlling image.

So we don't use the word stereotype because we use controlling image to express the ways in which certain people are being controlled by a stereotype so that Beyonce is expressing her sex and sexuality in a way that makes people recall the Jezebel image of the sort of hyper-sexual, hyper-sexed black woman. That is triggering for a lot of even black women. So there's even tensions in our communities about Beyonce and what she's doing.

YOUNG: Well, I'm going to jump in to say that Jezebel stereotype was used to blame black women for their own rape, for instance.

LEWIS: Exactly, right!

YOUNG: Well, if she weren't so sexy, then the white men wouldn't have to assault them.

LEWIS: Right, and that's why we call it a controlling image because it was a way to control black women. Be rapable, right? So you have this sex and this sexuality that I just can't resist. So, you know, I'm going to rape you, and it's going to be okay because you're less than human.

Young came back to putting words in O'Reilly's mouth later in the 15-minute interview:

YOUNG: Heidi, you know, the difference seems to be, for some women, that when a woman has something done to her, for instance when she's told wear this sexy outfit in your waitressing job, that's demeaning. But when a woman chooses to wear something, that's empowering.

Now we just heard about how Beyonce had a man removed from her concert, you know, for touching her. But the Bill O'Reillys of the world - we mentioned the conservative commentator - would say you can't have it both ways. Beyonce can't send the message, one message with sexual clothing and not expect a certain response.

LEWIS: And I think that a lot of contemporary black feminist thinking, and I'm thinking about myself, Treva Lindsey at Ohio State, Brittney Cooper at Rutgers University, a lot of us are trying to re-theorize pleasure politics so that it isn't having it both ways. If I don't want you to touch me, you can't, and if you do, there are consequences.

YOUNG: No matter how I dress, yeah.

HEIDI LEWIS: Right, so we're trying to carve out a space for our own pleasures and desires to be respected, and I think that's where it is extremely racialized because if you think back, black women haven't had a lot of space to do that. Like, you know, slavery ended technically on paper just 150 years ago. So all that time, black women have sort of been told that we belong to whomever decides to have us, consume us.

So I think what we're trying to do, and I think Beyonce is struggling with that, she's trying to negotiate that and navigate that, is to say how much of myself can I find in who I am and how I present myself because for so long we haven't sort of had the luxury of being able to do that.

But to the Bill O'Reilly thing, because I just wanted to comment on that. So his argument is that, you know, Beyonce is irresponsible because 70 percent of black women, according to him and whatever, you know, statistic he found, are pregnant before marriage, right? Beyonce and I are the same age, around - I'm 32 years old. There's no way in the world I can be held responsible for what happens in the entire black community.

And I think it's really irresponsible of him to ignore the problematic sexual politics that black women have had to resist and reject that you and I have talked about. I think he is also irresponsible not to talk about the ways in which black women in particular communities don't have access to safe and health reproductive choices.

You know, you put a black woman in a community that's 300 miles away from the nearest Planned Parenthood, what do you think is going to happen?
So I think we need to talk about housing, education, access to higher education, access to safe hospitals. I think all those things play a role and that Beyonce is just an easy scapegoat for an ill-informed so-called journalist.