I’ve wanted, since the story broke, to say something about the assault of Lara Logan from CBS, in Egypt. But I haven’t had time to formulate all the complex things I’ve felt the need to say: how what happened to her isn’t about Islam or what she looks like. And how being concerned about violence against reporters isn’t about valuing privileged people over non-privileged people in war zones, but about using violence against journalists as one specific metric of repression: Killing one journalist can kill hundreds of stories; killing one journalist can drive other journalists away; and killing journalists, medics and religious figures present in a conflict to offer support services or witnessing represents a disregard for certain conventions of war.
Facts relevant to the matter of Lara Logan include that war reporting is dangerous; that rape has been used as a tool of war against men and women always and everywhere; and, also, that there’s always going to be some man, some where, that thinks the appropriate way to celebrate some event is by committing rape.
But here’s what I’m sick of, other than the obvious: People who decry violence against women not out of any concern for women, but because they don’t like the idea of someone touching what they consider to be theirs; imagined property rights are not the reason rape is bad. I’m also sick of people using words like pragmatism to tell us that women shouldn’t fight, report, or even leave their houses alone.
I have lived a life of being told I need an escort: to go to that party, to wear that dress, to see that doctor. It’s terrible and infantilizing. It is lip service to my safety and “value” that actively devalues me. It is a defense of women that offers them rights as occasionally valuable property as opposed to as constant humans.
Maybe it’s because I’m an only child. Maybe it’s because my partner and I spend more time apart than many people who share a household do because of our work, but I value my time alone. I would not know who I am without the walks I took to the Lincoln Memorial alone in the dark as a university student. I would not know who I am without both the silent and the celebratory New York of 2am. When I went to Australia alone it was gutting; it was also everything I needed — this discovery that I was constant, that I was real, even on Bondi Beach at night, listening to the chatter over drinks people who knew how to have friends in a land I loved probably more than it loved me.
So I resent this world that says a woman must always be escorted. I resent this world that says common sense dictates that a woman must never be warrior or witness. I resent this world that insists its our fault if we are both a certain type of beautiful and ambitious and unworthy if we are not. I resent this world that tells me I am stupid if I am not constantly afraid of rape. And I resent this world that constantly seems to suggest that the only reason anyone wants to shield me from violence is that they don’t want someone they’ve deemed other touching their stuff, as if I am not even in the equation.
Lara Logan is a war reporter. As a war reporter, she experienced violence, which is important because violence against reporters is a critical metric of oppression and the standards of engagement under which a conflict is being conducted.
This piece in the New York Times speaks to the reality and the necessity of there being women covering war zones. It is good, useful and insightful. But it also made me need to sit down and write this and say yet again that we are not children and chattel. And that I have to keep saying that is indicative of the particular absurdity of all these “protect the women” arguments.
If it remains necessary to say women are not chattel and children, it remains true that on some level, in some way, in every place, women are not only at war, but are in fact the very field of war themselves. Ourselves. Which means you can’t protect us through these modes of discourse about our rightful place in war, because these modes of discourse represent, relentlessly, forms of that war itself.
Lara Logan is a reporter. She is also a woman. Neither of those things make her, nor any other woman, public property for anyone to decide what she should and should not do. Not those who would assault her and not those who would, often for their own reasons largely irrelevant to her actual well-being, seek protect her.