Race Card: Xenophobia and Racism Surface in Reaction to Reporter Lara Logan’s Sexual Assault in Egypt
The American public is reeling in response to the news that CBS reporter Lara Logan “suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating” while covering Egypt’s revolution in Tahrir Square on Feb. 11 —the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak finally resigned.
According to CBS News, Logan stood in a mob of 200 people when she was separated from her crew and viciously attacked by members of the mob. After being rescued by a group of Egyptian women and soldiers, Logan flew back to the U.S. She’s currently recovering from her injuries in a hospital.
Now that word’s spread about the assault she endured, Logan is being re-victimized by those who say that an attractive white woman with blonde hair should’ve known better than to make her way through a mob of brown, Muslim men. Why didn’t Logan realize that all Arab men are misogynistic beasts who haven’t the slightest respect for their own women, let alone Western women—all of whom they regard as whores? Yeah, that about sums up the message boards on sites from the Los Angeles Times to the New York Times to Salon.
One comment in particular from the L.A. Times overflowed with xenophobia:
I feel sorry for Lara, but really what do you expect when you’re surrounded by “devout Muslims?” ****ing apes is really what they are. … Egypt is a worthless country with worthless citizens and leaders.
But it’s not just readers of West Coast papers who are teeming with bigotry. A New York Times reader commented that she thought,
If I was that good-looking of a woman in a society hard-wired to misogyny and hatred of women like that, all losing control of itself, I would be on next flight out. Definitely not in that crowd.
Some readers say nothing about Egypt being misogynistic. They simply place the onus for the crime on Logan because of what she looks like. A Salon reader remarked:
For the record, a hot blond reporter wading into a crowd of hundreds of thousands of men in a near-mob state is simply a stupid thing to do...
The commenters who suggest that Logan was unwise for joining the crowd at Tahrir Square overlook the fact that she’s more than a blonde. She’s a seasoned journalist who’s reported from war zones. Logan has been in life-threatening situations before while reporting and decided to cover the revolution from Tahrir Square because it’s her job. To suggest that she should’ve stayed away from the scene because she’s blond is not only sexist but racist. Being a brunette or having dark skin would not have deterred Logan’s attackers.
I recently wrote a blog post for Bitch on the sexual harassment sub-Saharan African experience in Egypt. Having dark hair and skin certainly hasn’t stopped these women from being targets. In that vein, imagine if a black female reporter had been sexually assaulted while covering Egypt’s revolution. It’s difficult to envision the public suggesting that the reporter brought the crime on herself because she’s black and should’ve known better. If it wouldn’t be appropriate to blame a woman of color for being raped in such a situation, it’s certainly not appropriate to blame Logan for the color of her skin and hair.
Those who aren’t holding Logan responsible for her assault, blame Islam. But Islam has as much to do with Logan’s assault as Christianity does with the fact that a rape occurs in the U.S. every two minutes. Moreover, let’s not forget that Egypt isn’t just home to Muslims but to Christians and atheists as well. More importantly, let’s not forget that the group of women and soldiers who rescued Logan from her attackers were Egyptian. That fact makes it much harder to swallow commentator Debbie Schlussel’s drivel about Egypt being a “country of savages” and Islam a religion of violence.
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