What's Blonde Got to Do With It?

According to Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft, "Lara Logan is lucky she's alive. Her liberal belief system almost got her killed on Friday. This talented reporter will never be the same."

I almost spilled my coffee when I read this on Media Matters this morning. Thinking it must be a mistake, I read on:

Why did this attractive blonde female reporter wander into Tahrir Square last Friday? Why would she think this was a good idea? Did she not see the violence in the square the last three weeks? Did she not see the rock throwing? Did she miss the camels? What was she thinking?

Well, Jim, here's a newsflash: this is sexist BS, pure and simple. Lara Logan didn't wander. She wasn't in Tahrir Square because she took a wrong turn. She knew exactly where she was and why. Lara Logan was in the square on purpose, covering the revolution in Egypt because IT'S HER JOB. What in the world does attractive and blonde have to do with it? Are you suggesting that she was inviting rape because she is an attractive blonde? Did anyone suggest that Anderson Cooper was attacked repeatedly in Cairo because he is handsome or that Google executive, Wael Ghonim, was kidnapped because he is young and "cute"?

I am tall, blonde and the hardworking founder of Mountain2Mountain, a nonprofit organization working to advance gender equity in Afghanistan and create opportunity for woman and girls. Some may say that I am attractive.

I read most of the online commentary and media coverage about my work in Afghanistan and the comment "tall and blonde" is a frequent lead to stories about me. I get it. I'm tall and blonde, and I stand out in Afghanistan. Does this make me, or Lara Logan, ineffective at what we do? Does it mean we shouldn't go about our work because of how we look? Judge us on the work we do, not on what we look like.

Even more despicable is your use of a woman's attractiveness as an excuse for sexual assault. My own rape and assault was a long time ago, very few people knew about it, and I wasn't a public figure like Lara. Luckily for me, years later, when I did talk about it publicly, it was not front-page news. You should not castigate Lara Logan because she's an "attractive blonde female reporter." She is a reporter who, while heroically covering one of the most important events of the decade, was the victim of a terrible crime. Period.

The other thing that disturbs me about the coverage is pinning the attack on culture. The Daily Beast article states: "Logan faced an ugly side of Egypt that Egyptian and foreign women here are all too familiar--and fed up--with." I can only imagine how the Fox News coverage will spin this into the Islamaphobia-sphere.

Women all over the world are facing the "ugly side" of culture, and we are fed up with it. Congolese women are raped as weapons of war and as a means to frighten and control them. Afghan women are jailed or ostracized for being raped and brutalized and, to add insult to injury, often victimized and assaulted inside the prison by male guards. Women are raped systematically in war zones and developing countries for a variety of reasons that dehumanize them.

But let's not forget what happens right here at home.

My own rape was in Minnesota. My sister's was in Colorado. Every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. That's 1 in 6 women. While rape victims are not routinely jailed as they are in some countries, neither are their attackers. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail.

News came out this week that Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates are being sued over their failure to deal with the cases of rape and sexual assault in our own military. A group of American servicemen and women accuse the two of failing "to take reasonable steps to prevent plaintiffs from being repeatedly raped, sexually assaulted and sexually harassed by federal military personnel."

Sexual assault is not a problem that belongs only to the Middle East, the developing world and war zones. This is a systemic problem that spans the globe, including our own backyard. It is rooted in how we value women. How do you change perceptions of value and respect? Things will never change until violence against women moves from a women's right issue to a human rights issue that EVERYONE gets behind. Using World Bank data for 2008, there were 2,982,865,203 women of all ages; approximately 44.3% of the total world population. Nearly 3 billion mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends.

Recently, Ben Affleck said, "As long as violence against women, sexually or otherwise, remains exclusively a women's issue, it will always be an issue. We men must own this and we must recognize it as vital to our own survival. And we must help our brothers see it as such."

Rape is a weapon of control and of power. Until we all stand up and take a hard look at the realities of perception, accusation, and systematic dehumanization that occur all around us, this "problem" will never be resolved.

Jim. You owe Lara Logan an apology. And another three billion for every women in the world.

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