Musing about My Reaction to News of the Attack on Lara LoganPosted: February 16, 2011
Yesterday in the early evening, as I was surfing the ‘net, I came across the announcement by CBS that their foreign correspondent Lara Logan had been brutally sexually assaulted and beaten in Cairo on the day Mubarak resigned.
Normally, I would have posted this at Sky Dancing right away, but at first I hesitated because the description of what happened, although vague, sounded so awful and I thought it would be insensitive to rush to the keyboard to spread the news.
Within a short period of time, it became clear to me that both mainstream news sources and blogs were all posting the story and discussing it. Still, I hesitated. I checked with the other frontpagers to see what they thought, perhaps subconsciously hoping one of them would write the post that I didn’t want to write. Meanwhile, I continued reading reactions to the story at other sites.
Finally I realized that I was really blocked about this story for some reason. I simply couldn’t find the words to write anything coherent about it. I felt a very deep sadness and a sense of foreboding that I didn’t quite understand.
I usually react strongly to stories about violence against women, but normally I don’t have a problem writing about them. Why was I having writer’s block over this one? Thankfully, Minkoff Minx wrote a very sensitive and compassionate post last night, and I stopped obsessing about my “problem” and went to sleep.
This morning as I was driving to work, I again started thinking about the feelings I had had last night; and I was able to begin to better understand my strong reaction. I had been so thrilled by what took place in Egypt–that the protesters had been able to force the ousting of Mubarak and that they had done in relatively peacefully. I had also been excited to see women taking an active role in the demonstrations. I now realized that learning about what had happened to Logan, had tainted my enthusiastic feelings about the Egyptian protests. I also began to wonder if anything would really change for Egyptian women even if there were real changes in their government.
In my reading last night I had learned that Katie Couric had also felt in danger among the crowds in Tahrir Square. She had been pushed hard by an Egyptian man whom she described as being extremely angry, his eyes full of rage.
Even more disturbing, I read that Egyptian women are regularly accosted and groped by men when they go out in public. In fact, 86% of women in Egypt say they have been sexually harrassed. From Sarah Topol, at Slate:
Egypt has a sexual harassment problem. In a 2008 study, 86 percent of women said they had been harassed on Egypt’s streets—any woman walking through a crowd of men in Egypt braces to get groped. But in the square, crammed in shoulder-to-shoulder, men apologized if they so much as bumped into you. After wandering around the protests for days, it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t been groped, a constant annoyance when I’m faced with large crowds in Cairo. When I pointed this out to other women in the square, we all took a moment to reflect. “I hadn’t even thought of that,” one woman in Tahrir told me. “But it’s because we’re all so focused on one goal, we’re a family here.”
Here is another piece about sexual harrassment of women in Egypt (h/t Dakinikat). In the article, Mary Rogers, a CNN producer and camerawoman who has lived in Egypt since 1994, wrote about her own personal experiences of being sexually harrassed. Be warned, it’s pretty disturbing.
Again at Slate, Rachel Larrimore asked whether the attack on Lara Logan was a “bad omen” for Egyptian women. She wondered if in the end women would really be empowered by the “revolution.” Or would they be sent back home with a “thank you” and a pat on the head?
As I continued thinking about all this, I recalled how as a young girl I had tried reading science fiction novels. I liked them a lot, but I was disappointed that male science fiction writers wrote about women in the future performing pretty much the same roles and working in the same jobs that women in the 1960s. I wondered why these supposedly imaginative writers were unable to imagine that future women might actually do exciting, stimulating jobs instead of continuing to be teachers, nurses and clerical workers eons into the future.
And yes, I know there are female science fiction writers now who imagine women of the future in adventurous situations–and perhaps there are even male writers now who can imagine such things. It doesn’t matter. For me the damage was done. I had learned something very depressing about the culture I lived in. Women were bit players–there only to provide foils for men, or to support or comfort men.
That is how I feel now about the Egyptian protests. Women were included for a time, perhaps because they were needed, perhaps because everyone was feeling excited, happy, and inclusive. For a time, even the groping of women stopped. But then, on that day when Mubarak resigned it began again. And a very famous American woman was horribly attacked by men who screamed “Jew! Jew!” as they violated and beat her.
And the day before, Logan had told Esquire.com that Egyptian soldiers hassling her and her crew had accused them of “being Israeli spies.” Logan is not Jewish.
After the attack, Logan returned to the U.S. where she spent the past several days in the hospital. It has been reported that according to network sources she was at first unable to speak and that her injuries were “serious.”
I want to be very clear. This isn’t just about the Middle East or Muslims. This could easily have happened here. Women are brutally raped every day in the U.S. Many more women are sexually harrassed at work or on the street.
Most women have experienced this–I know I have. I’ve been groped by strangers in public places. It is a terribly traumatic, degrading, and humiliating experience that can stay with you forever. I still occasionally flash back to times when this happened to me, and feel the remnants of helpless rage followed by sadness and even depression that follow such experiences. The trauma of actually being raped is, of course, far worse, and can change a woman’s life forever.
I’ll wrap this up for now. I just thought I’d share my thoughts on this, in hopes that others might relate to them.
Finally, I want to note some positive reactions following this heartbreaking event.
Nir Rosen, the “journalist” who sent out horribly offensive tweets attacking both Logan and Anderson Cooper was forced to resign from his fellowship at NYU today. He gave an interview to Fishbowl DC in which he tried to explain the unexplainable.
Egyptian activists have condemned the attack on Logan.
“It’s incredibly sad that this has happened, and it’s something that the spirit of Tahrir and the spirit of revolution was resolutely against,” Ahdaf Soueif, an author who spent a great deal of time in Tahrir Square, told the Guardian. “Women in the square were rejoicing that they felt freedom on the streets of Cairo for the first time, and [this is] definitely something that we want to stamp out alongside corruption and all the other social ills that have befallen Egypt during Mubarak’s regime.”
Mahmoud Salem, a well known Egyptian blogger, was one of many of the January 25 activists to express outrage. “Lara Logan, what happened to you was reprehensible, & I hope u don’t judge the egyptian people or Tahrir because of it,” he tweeted under his moniker Sandmonkey.
Finally, Logan is now home with her family and talking to friends about what happened to her–a healthy sign. And she is determined to go back to her job after a few weeks. Clearly she is a very strong woman with a good support system. I hope that her husband will stand by her and that she will be able to heal from this and go back to doing the work she loves.