The cheerleaders of the Free World have had the tassels prematurely shaken from their pom-poms. What were those pesky Arab revolutionaries thinking? Positioning themselves as the new Lords of the Dance and provocatively doing away with the well-known moves of yesteryear’s stability waltz.
Thus, to ensure the full registering of their displeasure, certain cheerleaders-of-the-media-pundit types have gone into damage overdrive. The result? A modern day, not-cricket-spin on the need to civilise the barbarians.
Last week a story ran in a British weekly, The Spectator, warning that the fallout from Tunisia’s Jasmine revolution was best epitomised by Islamists running wild, torching the country’s brothels, legalised since the Ottoman era. Not only that, the interim government has vowed that these establishments will remain permanently closed.
Of course, the cheerleaders are right to raise alarm bells if, and when, it appears that women’s status and protection before the law are in peril. But such concerns would be less open to accusations of a selective approach based on self-serving interests if the same level of respect were accorded to all women.
But they are not, as has been highlighted by the case of a foreign female journalist reportedly subjected to a sustained sexual assault at the hands of around several dozen Egyptian men that left her with internal injuries.
Yet reactions to the ordeal suffered by Lara Logan, chief foreign correspondent for American television network CBS, have varied from the dismissive and opportunistic, to the downright offensive.
An American academic has resigned over laments that Logan has now become an international household name when she had likely only suffered the usual groping that Egyptian women endure every day. A British journalist has likened her own groping, also at Tahrir Square, at the hands of a lone individual as being akin to the Logan attack. This is not to create a false hierarchy of sexual assaults on women, but to simply point out instances of perceived opportunism. Why did Angella Johnson only speak up after the Logan case went viral?
More disturbing, however, has been the response of conservative American pundit Debbie Schlussel who took to her blog to hold Logan herself responsible. “No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows.” Logan’s crime, apparently, was to have strived to portray Islam as a peaceful religion. Schlussel believes that such an attack on a mainstream media reporter had been unheard of “when Mubarak was allowed to treat his country of savages in the only way they can be controlled.”
Of course, Schlussel ignores reports that Logan and other foreign journalists covering the pro-democracy protests were targeted by pro-Mubarak elements. The regime has also been known to employ sexual harassment as a state tool of repression, according to reports.
Yet the bias does not end there. One British tabloid has gone out of its way to highlight Logan’s appearance as an attractive blonde, repeatedly mentioning and printing photos of her days as a swimwear model. Also relayed without fail is how she got together with her second husband while he was separated from, but still legally married to, his first wife. There is no place for such salaciousness when covering the sexual assault of a journalist who was simply doing her job.
These cheerleaders would do well, then, to learn from some Egyptians. Admittedly, many women’s rights groups have stressed the need to work behind the scenes to ensure that the new constitution addresses the sexual harassment of Egyptian women, rather than focusing exclusively on the plight of one foreigner.
Nevertheless, one American-Egyptian has other ideas. Karim Mohy is the man behind a protest, which was scheduled for March 4 in downtown Cairo, to demand justice for Logan. The aim was to shed light on sexual harassment, which he describes as a plague on Egyptian society.
This is the kind of activism that Ms Schlussel might want to take note of.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2011.
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