While it is tiresomely predictable and lamentable that the knee-jerk reaction to the rape of a woman journalist has been to blame the victim, it is more distressing to me that so few commentators on the commentary have discussed the cultural conditions that permit and even encourage men to prove their manhood by beating, raping and violating women. Over the many years that I have taught English to university undergraduates and graduates, I’ve been discouraged and stunned by the number of women who refuse to call themselves feminists and who adamantly insist that they have never been the victim of discrimination on the basis of gender. A primary objective of most of my courses has been to show them how deeply misognynist and masculinist American culture is, and how we still live very much in a culture of rape. I have written about that here in relation to the Congo and Ben Rothlisberger and also recommend this article on the subject.
Misogynist means “woman-hating,” of course. Masculinism is the arbitrary belief that masculine beings and characteristics associated with masculinity are superior to feminine beings and characteristics associated with femininity. For a discussion of gender as a construct, please see this article. We live in a masculinist culture in which many men are taught that they can only prove that they are masculine and superior to other people by dominating weaker persons, especially women. Rapists violently and sexually assault their victims’ bodies and minds, often inflicting tremendous physical and emotional pain, in an effort to gain an illusory sense of themselves as powerful and manly.
They many people who blame a rapist’s victim for bringing the violence upon herself are also violently assaulting women, often including tremendous emotional pain. This is not physical, but, rather, symbolic violence. Violence inflicted through words that convey a deeply-rooted scorn for women as well as for all male beings who don’t measure up as “manly” in a masculinist culture.
Here what Echidne of the Snakes has to say about the case:
For what this is about:
On Friday February 11, the day Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a “60 Minutes” story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy. In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.”>
I wish her full recovery from the assault. I hope that she approved the publishing of these details by CBS.
Now for the topic of this post, disgusting as it is: The comments wherever the sexual assault is discussed, especially on non-moderated comment threads. The majority of those comments are the vilest of the vile. Here is an example for those who wish to wade in the filth themselves. I advocate a Hazmat suit and excellent mental health as prudent precautions.
The loathsome comments are of two major types: The first type describes Muslims or Arabs as animals and so on. The second type, the one I’m going to analyze here, consists of victim blaming. It is Logan’s fault if she gets assaulted, in short.
There is a third type, too, which is about the desire of the commentator to join in with the gang rape of various too uppity women in the public eye or a wish that some other female celebrity had been assaulted instead.
And what about the victim blaming? Let me count the ways:
1. This experience teaches women that there are jobs women just cannot do. They get raped if they try and should stay at home, reporting on high school football games. I include that example because I came across it three times in the first 200 comments linked to above. Thus, women can be reporters but only about something which doesn’t let you advance very far in your career or truly compete with men. And the reason is not the women themselves but what can be done to them by some men. Thus, it is the victim who should pack her bags and go home, while the assaulters don’t get told to do that.
2. This experience teaches women that gender equality is impossible and that they should accept it and not to try to horn into the military services, for instance. Sorta like vive la difference but from a misogynistic point of view. Something like a sexual assault is Just The Way Things Are, and we should all be reminded of the value of traditional gender roles. Except, of course, in the case of Muslims who shouldn’t have them.
3. Logan is good-looking and blonde. She should expect to be assaulted under those conditions.
4. She dresses seductively. She should expect to be assaulted under those conditions.
5. What happened to her was a proper revenge for all her years of spouting liberal dogma and her assumption that she can just flit about in a man’s job.
Comment threads to posts about sexual assault will get a large number of comments from disgusting individuals, naturally, and I am not arguing here that what I describe would be based on a random sample of all readers of the piece. But even given the biased sample, the number and quality of the comments makes me want to give up my membership in the human species. Though people with the opinions I have outlined already think women are not full members of the species.
It is not just the comments threads which are full of woman-hating and inhumanity. Check out this post to get another eyeful of victim blaming.