If you haven’t already heard, CBS News correspondent Lara Logan was viciously attacked by a mob of men last Friday during the celebrations at Tahrir Square. She was sexually assaulted and beaten. A group of women and soldiers came to her aid. She flew back to the United States and is convalescing in a hospital (which gives you some idea of the viciousness of the attack).
I am horrified that this happened, and I hope she will heal well, physically and psychically.
You’d think that every reaction would echo those sentiments, but no. Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon charts just a few of the hateful responses, which range from blaming Islam to blaming Logan herself. Jill has more at Feministe. Some of the blamers suggest Logan should never have been in Egypt – evidently her mere presence provoked sexual assault – and conclude that women shouldn’t do dangerous job. (See for instance the absolutely vile comment thread on Garance Franke-Ruta’s article at the Atlantic.) As Jill notes:
When male journalists are harmed or even killed on the job — and I’d be willing to bet that male journalists are assaulted and killed more often than female journalists — the media narrative is, basically, “He was brave and this is a tragedy.” But when it happens to a woman, the narrative shifts to, “Should women be doing this?”
Funny how no one said that Bob Woodruff shouldn’t have been in Iraq when he suffered brain damage due to an IED that detonated while he was traveling. Nor should they! (Fortunately, Woodruff has made a pretty good recovery.)
As others have noted, the blaming directed at Logan demonstrates how deeply ingrained rape culture is. It shows how eager some people are to demonize Islam (which would merit a post of its own). It reveals some folks’ determination to use the threat of rape to restrict women’s choices. Following that last line of thought to its logical conclusion, we could argue that women shouldn’t be homemakers! Because women are often raped in the “safety” of their own homes! Funny how we don’t hear that argument often, either.
But the blaming exposes one other persistent element of rape culture that I don’t think has gotten much attention: the notion that being raped is even worse than being killed. In what universe is surviving rape worse than dying? Why would we think that sexual assault is worse than shrapnel entering one’s brain? And yet, only if you believe that rape is worth than death does it make sense to “protect” women – but not men – by keeping them out of war zones.
It all goes back to the idea that women’s worth is solely in their sexual purity. A woman who was sullied by rape, under the principles of patriarchy, had better be dead. If she was raped, well, then she just didn’t try hard enough to resist, because a chaste woman would rather die than “let” herself be raped. Apparently these ideas are still alive and kicking – unlike some of the women they have literally condemned to death.
So I’ll say it again: I hope Lara Logan recovers well. I hope she’ll be able to return to work she loves and does well – wherever that work may take her. And I hope for a world where sexual assault is vanishingly rare and is never, ever blamed on its victim.