Still Just a Woman

February 21, 2011

in Egypt,fear,female,Journalists

The announcement from CBS News was horrifying.  Lara Logan, the network’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, suffered “a brutal and sustained sexual assault” in Cairo.  I turned the words around in my head:  “brutal,” “sustained” and “sexual assault.”  She was beaten, as well.  I could only imagine that she had experienced the worst physical attack a woman could receive without being killed.

She was just trying to do her job, preparing a 60 Minutes report on the overthrow of hated dictator, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.  In Cairo’s Tahrir Square hundreds of thousands of protestors could not contain their jubilation when they heard the news that Mubarak had stepped down.

In the midst of a frenzied mob of 200, mostly men, Logan got separated from her television crew and their security.  A lone Western woman with long blond hair must have been too tempting to the thugs in the crowd.  They didn’t know she was a star American reporter.  She was just a woman.  She was grabbed and subjected to unspeakable acts, which only ended when some Egyptian women and later a few soldiers came to her aid.

Reactions to Logan’s heinous assault have been sexist.  “Women have no business covering war zones.”  “Women are weak and vulnerable and should be protected from dangerous assignments.”  “Women who are blond and pretty are more susceptible to attack.”  “Women with children should stay home.”

Let’s not forget the number of male journalists, who have left families at home to do war reporting, or the number who have been beaten, wounded and sodomized.   You haven’t heard arguments that men are not up to the job.  Think of all the brave women, who serve in our armed forces, and have not only been sexually assaulted by the enemy, but by their fellow male soldiers.  You don’t hear about them whining and complaining to be sent home.  They know they have a job to do and like Logan, no matter the danger, they are determined to do it.

Over the past 10 years Logan has been reporting from nearly every “hot spot” in the world: Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, and elsewhere.  She has been fearless and her reports have been distinguished.

It took many years for women reporters to prove to their male bosses that they could be war correspondents.  In television, newswomen such as Christiane Amanpour and Sheila MacVicar proved their mettle, as well as countless female radio and newspaper reporters.  It would be a shame if Logan’s experience in Egypt were used as an excuse to keep women from getting the risky assignments many of them are ready and willing to take on.  Women journalists need no more excuses for male bosses to discriminate against their gender.

Lara Logan is out of the hospital and recuperating at home under the loving care of her family, which includes her two small children.  It is my greatest hope that she heals physically and emotionally from her attacks.  She’s still a woman but a damn brave one.

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