I knew they were going to make it about Lara Logan’s looks

(For more on the “they”, please see Jill’s post below. Trigger warning, etc.)

Because that’s what happens when you’re a female foreign journalist in the Middle East. Get hurt? Well, you shouldn’t have been a female foreign journalist in the Middle East, and certainly not a BLOND one! In the immortal words of Eddie Izzard “those are the rules… that I just made up!”

Of course, they made it about Scary Muslims as well. Because the assault Lara Logan suffered in Cairo had all the right ingredients for a nice round of Bash the Muslim. Debbie Schlussel (who gets rape threats herself, but can’t seem to connect the dots and understand that this means that sexual assault is nothing to gloat about, JESUS CHRIST) went on her usual rant about “animals” and such, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So there’s Lara Logan and there’s narrative that she has used her looks to get ahead, and now she’s gotten punished, and hey maybe she was a crap journalist all along and we just didn’t realize it because she’s hot (of course, if Logan had not been conventionally attractive, then people would just make jokes about how she shouldn’t be on TV in the first place), and what the hell was she thinking – didn’t she realize that her looks were a liability in such an Uncivilized Place, and what’s up with these networks giving these little ladies such important, dangerous jobs…. and on and on and on the vomit stream continues. People want to blame Lara Logan, because it’s the easy way out. They want to construct an illusion that a journalist who was just doing her job had any control over the actions of the people who assaulted her to begin with.

I can’t imagine the horror Lara Logan went through, but I know all too well how such victim-blaming narratives play out. When I spoke about dealing with daily sexual harassment in Jordan, the most common response was, “Well, what can you expect?” It’s a neat trick, because the men around me were simultaneously reduced to Uncontrollable Animals and absolved of responsibility in the matter. It meant that my stories could be co-opted, used as Just Another Reason Why We Should Bomb the Muslims to Hell – or else used as an excuse to vilify the Slutty McSluts of the Western world, who made shows like “Sex & the City” popular (I SWEAR TO GOD, THAT SHOW HAS ALREADY BEEN BROUGHT UP IN RELATION TO LOGAN’S CASE, AND EVERY TIME SOMEONE DOES THIS, I EDGE CLOSER AND CLOSER TO JUST RIPPING OFF THEIR ARMS AND THEN BEATING THEM TO DEATH WITH THEM) and then get all uppity when people abroad get funny ideas about them.

The narrative in such cases also conveniently obscures just how pervasive sexual assault truly is, how it’s just about everyone’s damn problem, and, in this case, how Logan was probably not the only one who was attacked.

Logan’s case horrifies and terrifies me, because it hits so close to home. I’m not like Logan – I don’t have her experience, I wouldn’t go to war zones like she has done (I’ve dealt with enough violence in my life, so it’s not my journalistic cup of tea) – but when news of this broke, an American colleague actually went as far as write me and basically say, “Gee, this could’ve been you! Aren’t you glad you left the Scary Middle East? Haven’t I TOLD you that it’s not for women like you?”

Oh God, man, screw you.


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23 comments for “I knew they were going to make it about Lara Logan’s looks

  1. February 17, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    It’s a neat trick, because the men around me were simultaneously reduced to Uncontrollable Animals and absolved of responsibility in the matter.

    It’s mighty convenient that just about all rape apology boils down to this same neat little trick.

    sigh.

    And cosigning on the screw you to your colleague. I’ve gotten that myself in relation to other situations.

  2. vera p.
    February 17, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Sexual harassment and sexual assaults (including mob attacks like the one against Logan) are a public safety crisis for women in Egypt. For those who are interested, an excellent article:
    http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/2803/Egypt/Politics-/Sexual-harassment-in-Egypt-The-wall-of-silence-is-.aspx
    The Mubarak government was more interested in protecting its own power than in protecting its citizens, especially those who are female.

  3. Cha-Cha
    February 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    This really hit a nerve. During college, I went to study at a University in South Africa, and was handed a paper on “sexual assault and safety” by the hosting organization (not the university). It warned us ladies to be careful, and told a story of a girl who had gone abroad, I think to Syria, who had become friends (she thought) with a local gentleman, who then proceeded to rape her.

    The part that stuck out in my mind and struck me now was the part where “she was sad, but she understood that she had put herself in an unsafe position.”

    The effect of reading this, as a young person alone in an unfamiliar place with no friends, was pretty intense. It stereotyped all the men in South Africa (especially the Black ones, naturally) as Uncontrolled Rapist Horrors, absolved them of responsibity… and let me know that if anything did happen, it would be my fault, and would be considered my fault, for being a woman, for traveling, and for apparently whatever else they could think up.

    Jill’s earlier article pointed out that when men are attacked, it’s a “tragedy” and the flags and the tears and the memorials come out. I first saw the story about Lara Logan on the front page of the New York Post – they had what looked like a catelogue picture of her up, and must have pointed out her “beautiful”-ness about 10 times in the same 2 page article.

  4. February 17, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    “she was sad, but she understood that she had put herself in an unsafe position.”

    HOLY GOD.

    In other news, it’s interesting to me how a woman’s appearance will play out in these narratives. A rape victim who’s deemed attractive? Well, what was she thinking – being so attractive? A rape victim deemed unattractive? Well, she should be grateful, then! (Or else she’s just lying! Because who would rape her?!)

    Back from my Jordan days, I know a woman whose old boss didn’t believe her after a harrowing encounter with two guys in their office elevator, because, and I quote, “I think something weird is going on here, you’re not telling the whole story, why would they harass you?! I don’t think you’re *that* good-looking.” Needless to say, she left that job.

  5. Johannes Johannes
    February 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    No one has said yet what actually happened to LL.
    What are the extent of here injuries ?
    I am always a bit suspicious of news stories.

  6. Verity Khat
    February 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Don’t read any of the comments on any news site article about Logan, because OMG!RAGE. I want to hit up each and every one of them with a “Wait, women should never leave the house and do anything because MEN can’t control themselves? BACKWARDS MUCH?!”

  7. February 17, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    I just remembered that I’ve been on the opposite end of this too. Not that I dished it out, but that I was told (by the DA during the trial against my attempted rapist) that I was “the perfect victim.” I fought back, but not hard enough to permanently injure the guy; I was well educated; I didn’t go somewhere alone with the asshat, he grabbed me off the side of the road; I’m white (that one was unspoken but I’m damned sure it was a part of it).

    It didn’t make me feel better, it made me feel even more like shit. Because it disparaged his other vicitms (there were multiple) and made it as though they did something wrong.

  8. Maria
    February 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    All this “she was blond” narrative is missing the point completely but probably feeds peoples sick imagination (about dark skinned Muslims violating white women).
    If she was shot or kidnapped would we say it’s her fault? No but she did take the risk, as a journalist, by going to a dangerous place.
    This risk was in her line of work.

  9. Jo
    February 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    What people are conveniently forgetting is that even the burliest, manliest man – blonde or otherwise – is totally powerless and vulnerable against 200 attackers…

    Gosh, maybe this means poor, vulnerable male repoters should stay out of harms way? ;)

  10. Sheelzebub
    February 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Trigger warning for sexual assault.

    I want to point out that similar things have happened in the US. Women and teenage girls were surrounded, groped, and stripped by groups of men in NYC five or six years ago; something similar happened to a woman in Seattle during their Mardi Gras celebration. My eyes are rolling up into their sockets with exasperation at the insistence that a blond woman in Egypt drove the brown-skinned Muslim men to assault her.

    (Also, a spokesperson for Logan said that she wasn’t raped, she was sexually assaulted, which could be a whole host of things, including something similar to what happened in NYC and Seattle.)

  11. Jim
    February 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Sheelzebub: something similar happened to a woman in Seattle during their Mardi Gras celebration.

    That happens every year in Seattle, I wonder how many actual rapes go unreported out of this, and always there’s a ready apology or just silence without even the effort of an apology. This pattern was really obvious when Kristopher Kime was kicked to death by some thugs during the Mardi Gras hoo-hah in pioneer Square. A *preacher* opined that maybe (since Kimes was white), he had come down to an area where he didn’t really didn’t belong, seeing as how he was from the suburbs (proof?) and didn’t have the spiritual values of certain other people, yadda yadda. BTW the community he claimed to be speaking for was completely disgusted. If some asshole warlock is going to find a way to dismiss murder, rape cannot be far behind.

  12. Lyn
    February 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    I really want to say something articulate and contribute intelligently to this conversation…but rage has made me inarticulate. I mean, seriously? The Middle East is “not for women like you?” People arguing that, well, what did a BLONDE and pretty reporter expect in Egypt? AHHHHHHHHHH!

  13. Sonia Soares
    February 17, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    And when I hear “She knew the risks” it just makes me nuts (so that I can’t even find a better word). What? Does it make it right that it happened? Do people think that? A soldier goes to war, death is always a risk, but that doesn’t make it right. Same thing happens to journalists who are even less prepared, men or women. Yes, they know the risks but that doesn’t mean they can’t be there and it definitely doesn’t excuse the violence that may occur to them.

  14. Linda
    February 17, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Right, so blonde women don’t get raped in the US or in Europe?

  15. February 17, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    I just realized my last comment probably doesn’t make much sense. She meant “perfect victim” for the prosecution side, in order to get the guy convicted. Not perfect victim from the point of view of the rapist.

    /tangent

  16. February 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    The saddest thing is that this whole situation could have been avoided if CBS has taken some precautions: http://morningquickie.com/2011/02/18/why-lara-logan-raped-female-reporter-safety/

  17. Shahida
    February 18, 2011 at 2:17 am

    As a Muslim woman I have to wonder if she was wearing a hijab or not. I get a lot more respect from Muslim men when I am wearing a Hijab and if I was going to a Muslim country I would probably wear whatever if considered conservative in that country.

  18. February 18, 2011 at 9:12 am

    I’m also horrified by all of the rape-porn trolls who seem to think that this won’t count as a real crime unless someone tells them the details of the assault – what was touched by what, etc. The one-two punch of this story about Logan and all of the anti-woman/anti-choice legislation that is going down right now has really pulled back the rug on all of the woman-hating going on in our own culture.

  19. Jim
    February 18, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Sonia Soares: A soldier goes to war, death is always a risk, but that doesn’t make it right.

    Oh but you do get this “He signed up for it, he knew the risks” all the time. CiF in the Guardian is full of that,e very tiem it comes up. And as you point out, it’s bullshit.

    And it’s a good analogy exactly because it’s not exact. If they say that crap about soldiers and it’s bullshit, even when we’re talking about a combat zone, then how much more bullshit is it in this case, where, yes, journalists had been targeted by Mubarak’s orcs, but the crowds of demonstrators had ben extraordinarily non-violent in the face of real provocation. Yeah everyone has some general responsibility to avoid trouble, but she was not knowingly walking into a dangerous situation, whatever threat we are talking about, whatever kind of assault.

  20. February 19, 2011 at 4:43 am

    I wore hijab in Jordan. I’m not Muslim. It cut down on some of the worst forms of harassment from the men (though that’s actually not that common – most local women I knew who wore various forms of religious attire regularly faced harassment. And that included women in full-on abaya.), but then the women started up, taking me for a clueless convert. “But you shouldn’t wear it with pants,” etc. Thanks, but no thanks.

    Something that struck me about Logan’s case, is that on the surface, it’s so counterintuitive. You’d think that someone would be safer in the midst of a celebration. But it just goes to show. There’s no real “logic” to sexual assault.

  21. Beanie
    February 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Shahida: As a Muslim woman I have to wonder if she was wearing a hijab or not. I get a lot more respect from Muslim men when I am wearing a Hijab and if I was going to a Muslim country I would probably wear whatever if considered conservative in that country.  

    oh for fuck sakes really? i am a muslim woman and thats beside the point-wearing or not wearing hijab should be completely irrelevant there is no excuse for rape and this is more victim blaming shit. men should respect women regardless of what they are wearing and this is somthing that Islam teaches.

  22. kung fu lola
    February 19, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    You’d think that someone would be safer in the midst of a celebration. But it just goes to show. There’s no real “logic” to sexual assault.  

    Someone on another site commented that they’ve noticed a phenomenon of men engaging in gang rape as a bonding/celebration activity. I understood what she meant.

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