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Backwards Muslims & Sexy Rape- Reactions to the case of Lara Logan

February 17, 2011

The sexual assault of CBS reporter Lara Logan in Tahrir Square last week has resulted in two predictable, but utterly depressing types of commentary.

Muslims are backwards

On the one hand are the anti-Islam culture warriors, eager to find in this incident proof of how degenerate Muslims (and Arabs) are. This, despite the fact that there’s no proof the assailants were Muslims, nor that they had any connection to the overwhelmingly peaceful and harassment-free demonstrations. In fact, there’s reason to believe that Logan’s attackers may have been pro-Mubarak thugs or apolitical opportunists. The right wing response to this story was inevitable, but liberal response was also problematic. Film critic and outspoken liberal Roger Ebert tweeted this today:

“The attack on Lara Logan brings Middle East attitudes toward women into sad focus.”


Oy.

I’d like to call Roger Ebert’s attention to the case of Roman Polanski, who has enjoyed a long and celebrated movie career, in spite of his status as a fugitive child rapist. When Polanski was arrested in September of 2009, while attempting to accept an award at a film festival in Switzerland, supporters circulated a petition on his behalf. Over a hundred people in the film industry signed that petition which gratuitously called Polanski’s crime “a case of morals.” Some weeks later, Gore Vidal went so far as to smear Polanski’s 13 year old victim as “a young hooker.”

Has Ebert ever decried the Polanski case for the way it “brings Hollywood’s attitudes towards women into sad focus?” Has he ever criticized Polanski, Vidal, David Lynch, Wong Kar Wai, Harvey Weinstein or any of the dozens of cinematic luminaries who signed off on this petition? Nope. On the contrary, he gave a big thumbs up to a documentary which argued Polanski should be given a pass for his crime.

I hardly expected Russ Meyers’ former writing pal to be an exemplar of feminist discourse, but his tweet yesterday was especially myopic. Does he really believe that the West is so much more enlightened about rape and sexual violence than those primitive, backwards Middle Easterners?

The opportunistic use of feminism is a common feature of the “liberal” discourse in the culture war against Islam. Just look at how Ayaan Hirsi Ali is trotted out by the media (especially Bill Maher and Steven Colbert) to justify imperialist wars and burqa bans, all in the name of protecting Arab and Muslim women from their own cultures. Meanwhile, many of these same commentators ignore the fact that rape and misogyny are also endemic to our own culture. (And that includes our movies, Roger.)

Rape is sexy

The other type of response to Logan’s assault was the usual victim blaming, made extra creepy by the focus on Logan’s good looks and alleged sexual history. The worst offender was LA Weekly blogger Simone Wilson, who, in an extraordinarily trashy piece of writing had this to say:

Logan was in Tahrir Square with her “60 Minutes” news team when Mubarak’s announcement broke. Then, in a rush of frenzied excitement, some Egyptian protesters apparently consummated their newfound independence by sexually assaulting the blonde reporter.

Wilson conflates the historic Egyptian revolution with gang rape. Classy stuff. But she’s not through. In addition to “blonde reporter” we’re also treated to these descriptors of Logan:

“it girl”
“firecracker”
“shocking good looks”
“Hollywood good looks”
“gutsy stunner”
“homewrecker”
(this courtesy of a NY Post article from 2008)

As has already been noted, focusing on a sexual assault victim’s good looks and allegedly dubious sexual character amounts to victim blaming. But it also does something even more insidious. It makes rape sexy.

This is par for the course at the LA Weekly, where almost anything can be sexed up. LA Weekly‘s cover art department in the last couple of years has managed to make nearly every topic sexy, from murder and food to toxic mold and overpopulation.

Murder is sexy.

Toxic mold is sexy.

Overpopulation is sexy.

Food is sexy.

Books are sexy.

Rarely do the sexy women adorning the covers of the LA Weekly figure as the subjects of these stories. They’re splayed on the cover to boost circulation, because sex sells and, after all, “what’s wrong with being sexy?” (This isn’t even to mention the content of the Weekly– its abundance of ads for plastic surgery, or its routine back page ads from American Apparel– subjects for a longer post.)

Given this particular aesthetic, it is not at all surprising that an LA Weekly blogger would choose to play up the sexy side of the Logan assault story, taking extra pains to emphasize her “Hollywood good looks.” Even an “alternative” newspaper upholds the local value system. Arab Muslim rapists are bad. Sexy women make great victims. And cinematic geniuses should get a pass.

  • Paulcamaro5

    You peace of human gerbage,are you expecting people to believe that the savages who are responsible for this horrific crime were anything more then muslim? How else would you explain the word JEW with every thrust of the muslem scums penis into that beautiful innocent women.It is now impossible to fly cover for this murderius grotesque ,perverted satanic, cult.Islam must be destroyed and cleansed from planet Earth.Islam must be destroyed with hydrogen weapons beginning with Mecca and Medina.I hope you, your , mother your sister and all your female friends are raped like that poor women Laura logan.I wish you and your family a slow painful death

  • She Got What She Deserved!

    Lara Logan breaks up someone else’s marriage. Later on in her career she gets beaten and raped by stinky disease infested Arabs for 20 minutes straight. It sounds like god was punishing her for being an adulteress whore to me.

  • http://twitter.com/youngpatrick Patrick Cleary

    Great post, Matt. This now infamous attack on Logan has once again revealed that people on all parts of the political spectrum see no problem in using a woman’s rape to advance their agenda. Unfortunately, the most enlightening thing to come out of this was the article in ProPublica (http://www.propublica.org/article/breaking-the-code-of-silence) which exposed the epidemic of rape and sexual abuse suffered by female journalists all over the globe when covering unfolding events. This should automatically tip one off that Logan and her history/looks is not the issue. Fellow journalists should be credited for defending Logan’s dignity but should go one more and be self-critical about the need to address this epidemic. If they look deep enough, they’d see their own culpability. In many ways, this is a structural problem that mirrors the crisis in the military (though not on the same scale) that 60 Minutes just covered, regarding rape cases that go unreported (the vast majority) or are simply ignored when reported with no accountability for the perps and retaliation against the victims.

  • Masai

    Men (not all but many) from every country, every nationality, every religion, those who have no morals rape. Catholic priests rape, Africans rape (check the horrible news) US army raped Iraqi girl before burning and killing her family. British army is sued by masai women who were raped. in the West fathers rape their daughters. Muslim men rape as soon as they get a chance. This is because some men don’t have any morals and/or they were not raised properly by their mothers. Women should teach their sons the right and wrong from young age.

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  • http://mattcornell.org/blog/2011/04/ta-the-la-weekly-has-got-it-covered/ My Own Private Guantanamo

    [...] attractive blonde senior.” (As we learned in the case of Lara Logan, it’s always important to note when victims of sexual assault are [...]

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