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A tragic sexual assault becomes pretext to insult both women and Muslims

Update Sunday 2/20/2010: good stories in NYT today: Reporting While Female and Why We Need Women in War Zones

One of my favorite blogs, the awesome Wronging Rights, does the definitive take on the Lara Logan story, a CBS reporter who was sexually assaulted on one of the violent days during the Egypt uprising:

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?

….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.

….{If she was less attractive} 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.

So seriously, internets, pull yourselves together. 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.

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  1. lark wrote:

    You should look into the history and context of sexual harassment in Egypt before you run with this. .

    Posted February 19, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink
  2. What surreal political correctness

    You remind me of that woman in yellowstone park who put honey on her daughters hands and sent her to feed the bear, who of course proceeded to eat the girl’s hands. Muslims are savages, just as bears are wild animals.

    And of course rape is about sex and sexual gratification. To suggest otherwise is pious silliness – similar to silliness of the woman who fed her daughter to a bear.

    Posted February 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Permalink
  3. Jacob AG wrote:

    I wonder if there is any academic literature on the relationship between a woman’s “fuckability,” as Amanda so eloquently put it, and her susceptibility to rape. Hmm… there doesn’t seem to be. Is it too late to submit a paper for “New Directions in Development”?

    Posted February 19, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Permalink
  4. Ken wrote:

    “rape is about power.” how true. sex in general can be boiled down to one thing. clearly the writer of that blog is much wiser than the “internet.”

    but, valid or not, how is it misogynistic to suggest looks might have something to do with rape? i fail to see how that sentiment in any way indicates a hatred toward women.

    Posted February 19, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink
  5. Thor Halland wrote:

    There certainly is a link between power and rape and that makes the fact that the woman here is attractive all the more important.

    Posted February 19, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Permalink
  6. Laughing at the hissing snake and a rape in Egypt

    I am a certified scuba diver and love to share my joy of the underwater realm w/friends. But I always know that the world belongs to the creatures, who are masters of that environment. Once I became so engrossed in trying to get a shot of a small eel, the dive master had to yank me away as the little beast reared to take a bite. On the boat I laughed almost hysterically: “Boy, he really wanted a piece of me.” It’s an odd reaction to danger, I suppose, but it has helped me through some precarious situations.

    Some years ago, I toured alone in Egypt, spending a few days in Cairo and sailing down the Nile, followed by scuba diving in Sharm el Sheikh. As a lone woman, I attracted a bit of a following. Few women, especially unescorted women, escape Egypt without some tale of being accosted by men. My tour, as almost all of the Nile River tours, stopped at a perfumeria. Even though I had been warned to wear modest attire, I couldn’t bear the heat, so I frequently wore sundresses. One of the attendants one the shops took full advantage of this and thrust his hand into the front of my bodice to grab my bosom. I shrieked and whooped at his daring. What amuses me most is that a man would so desperately feel the need for a woman’s touch, sight, smell, that he would attempt such a silly act.

    This brings me to the recent, brutal rape of Laura Logan, the CBS chief field correspondent. Not that I regard this tragedy in anyway as a laughing matter, but that anyone would fault Laura for being there. But I find it extremely sad that men experience the need to exert their power in such a bestial manner. I would like to cackle in the faces of her attackers: “You stupid, stupid, stupid fools. You demean yourselves by what you do.”

    I scare people because of that attitude I suppose.

    Posted February 21, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink
  7. Sarah wrote:

    It’s a myth that pretty women or attractive women are more susceptable to rape than any other women. I have worked with rape survivors from all over the world from ages 3 to 80. Looks have very little to do with it- particularly in a mob scene as is described in news reports.

    The mob that sexually assaulted Lara Logan were not sexually attracted to her (although maybe some were) – they were punishing her in the most humiliating way a woman can be punished – by demonstrating their power over her and her weakness and helplessness. Did you not read the reports of Egyptian police threatening to rape the male Egyptian journalists held in captivity? And about male aid workers, human rights workers, and journalists who have been raped (but rarely discuss it)? It wasn’t about a group of men being driven mad with lust at her good looks, it was about showing a woman (or an outsider or a perceived Israeli spy or a Western person) how powerless and vulnerable she was and threatening her in the worst possible way that they could – by stripping away her clothes and removing her ability to defend her own body.

    Posted February 21, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Permalink
  8. Sarah Davitt wrote:

    Ken wrote: “but, valid or not, how is it misogynistic to suggest looks might have something to do with rape? i fail to see how that sentiment in any way indicates a hatred toward women.”

    Because it assumes that you must be attractive or fall into a culture’s definition of sexually attractive to be a target for sensual violence. And rape happens whether or not you are pretty or not… because its not about attractiveness, its about power. And so the statement is misogynistic, in the sense that women’s value and power in only in sexual gratification and sensual value… which is pretty disempowering.

    Posted February 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink
  9. TGGP wrote:

    Sarah, rape victims may exist in different age ranges, but it is far from a uniform distribution. They are disproportionately in their peak fertility years, when they care considered most attractive by men. Rape is about sex (and I’ve never heard of any serious evidence to the contrary), which is why chemical castration works to prevent men from raping.

    The “Wronging Rights” argument was quite stupid. Being attractive doesn’t negate Logan’s other qualities as a journalist, but her journalistic creds offer no protection against attack.

    Posted February 26, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

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