I’ve been wanting to comment on what happened to Lara Logan in Tahrir Square, even though it happened before I even started my blog.
First, the Egyptian revolution was both inspiring and gut-wrenching to me, to put it simply. In only eighteen days former President Murbarak was ousted. As someone who is planning to go into human rights/social justice law, I could not stop reading and watching clips on it; something that as the violence picked up was even more difficult to take. Then Lara Logan came forward with what happened to her and so followed the comments about why she was even put there in the first place, and what did she expect would happen to her?
One of my initial thoughts was more along the lines of, why do the majority Americans get worked up only if it happens to one of us, and not about the millions of other women in the world that suffer similar and worse injustices every day. I understand, of course, this story hits closer to home for many people, but still. Anyway, I don’t want to take away from the larger point I am trying to make, which is that many of the comments that I heard people make, and read online were pretty infuriating, and that the mass perception of violence against women needs to change. The blog Wronging Rights said it perfectly:
The internet, it appeared, was largely in agreement: what happened to Logan was terrible, but hardly surprising – what else could possibly be the result when a girl with “model good looks” is “sent” to a public place full of unrestrained Muslims?
First of all, to say that Lara Logan was in Tahrir Square largely because of her “model good looks” is pretty much just textbook misogyny. Her looks do not cancel out any, much less all, of the myriad other relevant facts. Such as her four years of reporting from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq; her job title, which, last time I checked, was “Chief Foreign Correspondent for CBS News;” or that she had bravely returned to report on the story despite being arrested earlier in the month, and expelled from the country. To discard all of her hard work, and deny her accomplishments, merely because she is an attractive woman, is damn sexist.
And second of all, guess what? If women never went anywhere where we risked being sexually assaulted, we’d never go anywhere, period. We certainly couldn’t go to work on foreign aid projects. Or to U.S. military academies. Not to college. Not on dates. Not to parties. Not to bars. Or on cruises. Not to work as models. Or security contractors. Except that even if we never went any of those places, we’d still be screwed (pun intended) because of course a high percentage of rapes happen in the home, committed by perpetrators whom the victims know. Putting the responsibility on women to prevent sexual assault by restricting their own behavior – or on their employers to limit it for them – won’t actually solve the problem, it will just reinforce gendered norms about what “good” women “should” do.
And, finally, the idea that Lara Logan was “more at risk” of sexual assault because she was attractive is laughable. I’d be interested to know what fuckability threshold women should stay below in order to be safe from rape. Could Logan have just added some thick glasses? What if she had spinach in her teeth? How about if she gained 20 pounds – then would she be safe from the mob of 200 people who apparently decided to subject her to a prolonged beating and repeated sexual assaults because her delicate beauty stirred their romantic longings? Give me a break. Rape is about power, not how cute the victim is.
Lara Logan is a professional who suffered a horrific attack in the course of doing a dangerous job. Women all over the world take similar risks every day. We do so because we don’t see “vulnerability to rape” as our most salient characteristic. It’s about time everyone else picked up on that too.