Race Card: Xenophobia and Racism Surface in Reaction to Reporter Lara Logan

Nadra Kareem Nittle
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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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19 Comments Have Been Posted

Our female soldiers aren't protected either...

landmark lawsuit filed Tuesday against Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, alleges that the military's repeated failures to take action in rape cases created a culture where violence against women was tolerated, violating the plaintiffs’ Constitutional rights.

“There are three types of women in the Army,” says Rebecca Havrilla, a former sergeant and explosive-ordnance-disposal technician. “Bitch, dyke, and whore.” During the four years that Havrilla was on active duty, she was called all three—by fellow soldiers, team leaders, even unit commanders. Once, during a sexual-assault prevention training, the 28-year-old South Carolina native claims, she watched a fellow soldier—male—strip naked and dance on top of a table as the rest of the team laughed. While deployed in Afghanistan, Havrilla spent four months working under a man she alleges bit her neck, pulled her into his bed, and grabbed her butt and waist—on a daily basis. When, on the last day of her deployment, she alleges she was raped by a soldier she considered a friend, it was, she says, “the icing on the cake.”

Thank you

Thank you, Nadra, for doing such a great job of addressing the racism, xenophobia, and sexism all tangled up in the coverage of this story.

The absolute best response to

The absolute best response to such sexism and racism is the fact that yesterday a lawsuit was filed alleging the US Military is complacent in the rape of military members by military members. Where are these people so concerned with rape when the assailants are own own military members?

www.servicewomen.org/endit has all the details.

Horrible, horrible

It really sickens me that everyone involved in this terrible circumstance is being accused and blamed EXCEPT for Logan's attackers. All kinds of excuses are being made for the perpetrators at the expense of the innocent Egyptian people, women, Muslims, and Logan herself. What the hell are people thinking about. I'm so, so, so grossed out by this.

My feelings exactly.

My feelings exactly.

A response

The reason the sick fucks aren't being talked about is, sad but true, but we all realize that sick fucks are sick fucks. Point. Dot. Period. It's not because she is blonde that people should look at her for blame. It's not that she is white that people put blame on her (But it does play a part and it is disingenuous to not realize that). It's not because they are Islamic.

It is simply this. The danger of a woman being in a crowd of thousands, not hundreds, of rioting men is immense. A fact that they have been in mob mentality for 18 days straight was huge enough. Granted their mob mentality was to oust an authoritarian we cannot discount that they were just a mob with good goals of revolution. Once revolution was achieved....goals wander. And very unfortunately, they wandered to Lara.

There are several issues about the whole scenario. 1) How 200 men could be so riled up they did not realize that an act like this is not only immoral and wrong but erodes immense good faith that the world had for them after their accomplishment. 2) How CBS could possibly keep reporters in a situation that was increasingly becoming unfavorable to anyone foreign, no matter how high-profile the reporter (Anderson Cooper)? 3) How could Lara Logan herself or her family not understand that pushing gender boundaries is one thing, but a petite woman in a thousand man mob can only fend for so long. Because 4) there are stories of Female reporters security teams themselves raping the reporters. 5) How can media networks possibly make it safe for women in those enviorments when at their best or worst opportunity the reporters subjects, security teams, local authority, fellow colleague, or hotel owner will attempt to rape them. Because 6) those same precautions must be placed everywhere, because the only thing truly different about that situation from happening in America was because they happened to be in Egypt.

I was very saddened to hear

I was very saddened to hear about what happened to this reporter from the link in Bitch's Facebook post, but became even more upset (and angry!) once I read the comments below the Washington Post's article. Almost all of them were commenting about the Muslim view of women and asking what she was thinking putting herself in a situation like that. Thank you for posting a thoughtful response to this. Who is to say that a male reporter wouldn't have been beaten as well? In a mob situation, I can imagine it would be very hard to defend yourself from a group of people looking to do you harm.

Also note the rape denial and

Also note the rape denial and rape apology going on in responses to this story. I saw comments on New York Times stories about how "hands can wander a little." Also the now former NYU fellow whose Twitter comments were completely inappropriate.

Salon article

While the comments may have racist and sexist remarks, the Salon's article itself does not. Don't lump Salon's coverage in with the New York Times and L.A. Times when its Salon's readers that are exhibiting bigotry.

My Mistake

Sorry if I wasn't more clear. I wasn't suggesting that the Salon, NYT or LAT articles were problematic but that the readers responding to the stories were xenophobic, sexist and racist.


This is such a perfect response!

disgusting people come in all

disgusting people come in all colors and flavors and can be found in all corners of the world. obviously the answer is for women to stay in the safety of their homes unless they can be escorted by someone who will protect them...oh, wait....

thank god for the women that had her back

I am often frightened at the worst parts of people that seem to ignite in mob situations. What struck me most about this story is that it was Egyptian women who had her back and helped get her to safety along with soldiers. Women, while often the victims of violent crime are a force to be reckoned with when we stand together.

It's sad that any woman would consider her decision to do her job "stupid" because of how she looks. That mind set is what makes people think it's okay to stand by and watch people be abused or hurt and not say a word.

Wish that we would stand up for each other a lot more.

reporter getting assaulted

<P>I saw a report on the national news last---actually an interview with two white male reporters who were assaulted themselves during the Egyptian uprising---they were beaten to the point where one of them needed stitches. I have yet to hear anyone say that THEY should have known better than to step out in a crowd. What happened to that reporter was flat-out horrible, but to say she shouldn't have been there---she was/is a seasoned reporter doing her job--I seriously doubt she would have been there if she had even ONE inkling that she and her crew wouldn't have been safe. I also hate when we as Americans are so quick to jump on and condemn other countries for their misogny---as if we don't have those same attitudes in out country--give me a &amp;*@! break!</P>


I don't think Americans are jumping on other countries misogny. Just noting that theirs is profoundly more severe and dangerous.

What I find interesting is that it is okay to say american culture contributes to crime in the USA, yet when people say the same for Egypt and the middle east people are called racist.

So true.

So true.

Slight quibbling

I'm going to disagree ever-so-slightly on this. While I do not think it is their religion or their skin color that caused this (much less that it makes all Egyptian or Muslim men rapists), I do think the culture has something to do with what happened, in the same way that culture here can often be implicated in some rape cases. Any culture which places women as second class citizens will have a higher rate of sexual violence than cultures that do not. So, while the comments you highlighted missed the mark and went straight toward repulsive and stupid, one of them wasn't 100% off. When you spoke of sub-saharan African women being treated the way they do, it's because it's permissible to treat women, black women more than any other, in that manner. It is not a stretch to suggest that dehumanizing women could cause a group of men to attack a lone woman within a crowd.

That said, there has been scant little information regarding what happened. That 'mob of 200 men' may not have all been involved. Some may not have even been aware, others could've been trying (and failing) to help. There's no information on how long 'sustained' was (though I suspect it was more than 10-15 minutes if a group of women managed to get soldiers into the crowd). We simply don't know what happened, and whether it was a small group or a large one within the mob that were actively attacking her. We don't even know if the 'bystander effect' was going on.

Not all Egyptian men are rapists, but the culture would create more of them. Even so, in spirit, I support the Egyptian people. Everyone should have the right to choose their leaders, regardless of culture.

A brunette American comments

Having spent a great deal of time in the region, I have some comments. Btw, I am a brunette American. While I have never suffered this kind of horrific attack, I have often felt uncomfortable and been sexually harassed. It has interfered with my work, been really scary a couple of times, and has made me feel extremely vulnerable. Attitudes towards women are chauvinist, especially Western women who are all considered loose. That is a fact. It is not racist, it is a fact. Only amongst the non-Muslim communities do I experience neither harassment nor discomfort. The author mentions that Christians and atheists also live in the country. Does that imply that any of them might have raped Lara Logan? Christians in the region are actually non-violent. Funny, Christians here are violent, yet they are pacifists in the land where Christianity originated. Food for thought. Anyway, I digress. I am tired of everyone saying that acknowledging misogyny in Muslim culture is racist. It is simply a fact. Yes, women are raped here, but I have never experienced the degree of misogyny here, the threat, that I have in Middle Eastern Muslim culture.

Thank you lowblow and

Thank you lowblow and anonymous for telling the truth. Arab/Islamic culture IS more chauvinistic than Western culture. More than ANY culture really. Yes the same thing can happen here in a crowd of rowdy men, but not with the same level of possibility as over there. I don't think it's right to blame the victim either, but I guess in situations like these such reactions are a reflex of trying to avoid dangerous situations since we do live in a dangerous world where monsters exist.

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