Thinking about Rape and #Lara Logan


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.

Rising Steelers Star William Gay, On Intimate Partner Violence


Here we go: Pittsburgh’s Going to the Superbowl.

Thanks to William Gay.   His touchdown in the last game cinched a tense, drawn-out conflict.  The cornerback also tops the list of Rising Sports Stars to watch in February, 2011.

When Mr. Gay  was eight years old, his stepfather murdered his mother.  Although his grief and rage might have driven him to despair, his inner strength–the quality that makes him truly manly, and great, saw him through.

Watch and listen to his amazing story here, and here:

Bikram in the Steel City, Day 75


The Strip, where my yoga studio is located, has been choked with people and cars since Christmas.  Now, just days before the Superbowl, it is jammed with CRAZED STEELER FANS.  Everywhere round, black-and-gold clad Black and White Pittsburghers move slowly along the sidewalks, perusing crowded tables of hats, gloves, socks, tee-shirts, sweatshirts, dog collars, pins, scarves, and, naturally, Terrible Towels.    It’s hard not to get into the spirit, impossible not to smile.  On every street corner Yinzer stores blare “Let’s Go”

In Penn Mac, the great, old-time grocery where you can buy all the cheeses of the world from a plump middle-aged lady who calls you “dear heart,” and choose from the greatest selection of pasta, anchovies, tomato sauces, olive oils, vinegars, salami, and all things Italian, for the best prices in town, you hear this song:

Prestogeorge’s, which has been roasting its own coffee beans and selling fine teas and cheeses for thousands of years, put up a sign that said “NO WISCONSIN CHEDDAR WILL BE SOLD UNTIL AFTER THE GAME”.

A man with bizarre headgear and a Steelers cape was reportedly dancing up and down the streets at six o’clock this morning, crowing with joy.  And we could hear the vendor below our studio calling out, “5 Dollars, 5 Dollars” all through our yoga practice today.  We giggled a lot during sivasana.

So, as you can imagine, it was almost impossible to find a parking spot. I was running late this morning, so I squeezed into a space that I probably would have skipped had I had more time. As I was easing my car into place, I very lightly touched the bumper of the car behind me, and heard an angry shout.  I popped out of my car and apologized sincerely.  The man–as wide as he was tall, bald, and very red–began to curse me out.  “I see you down here all the time and you drive a stupid, shoebox for a car and you can’t drive and you’re an asshole and blah-blah-blah-blah blah.”   “I’m really sorry, but there is no damage,” I said again.  “I don’t give a shit!!!”  he screamed, and continued to insult me, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.  Then he threatened to ram my car and push it out into traffic.  I told him that I would call the police if did that, and wished him a nice day.

Seventy-four or even sixty days ago, I probably would have gotten into it with him and yelled back. Instead I kept my cool.  I even  felt sorry for him and made the sign of Namaste (it means: I acknowledge the divine in you and in me).  When I told a friend about it in the studio, he said.  “Men are always trying to intimidate women, you know.”  It hadn’t even occurred to me that he was trying to bully me, but that was obviously what had been going on.   I just figured that he was in a lot of pain and decided to take it out on me.  This was not my usual response.  I have a temper, especially when some,”man,” who is really a wuss,  is trying to scare me.   I get pissed off and escalate the violence.  I’m not proud of this.

Yeah, I worried about whether he was going to hurt my car, off and on, throughout class, but not very anxiously.  I was working too hard in some poses to think about anything but staying upright, or lifting, and too tired afterwards to do anything but catch my breath.  I giggled as the Vendor outside interrupted sivasana crying “5 dollars, 5 dollars.” I even bought a Terrible Towel after class.

The mean, red-faced man’s car was gone when I returned to my car.  And he had not rammed it.   I thought about going into the café where he works to complain to his boss, but decided against it.  It would only have escalated the bad feelings.  Plus, I felt great.  Relaxed, loose, easy.  The sun was out. Everybody on the street was excited about the end of the work week, and the coming football game.  Why fight when you can simply walk or drive away?

Feminist Discovers New Love for the Steelers


It has been hard for me to cheer for the Steelers ever since we found out that Ben Roethlisberger sexually assaulted two women, and that he wasn’t going to be prosecuted for the crimes.  But I’ve just found a reason to root for them with full-throated passion.

No, not because they’re poised to win the Division Finals, but rather because of William Gay, who lost his mother to domestic violence, and has spoken out about it to help the Women’s Center and Shelter of Pittsburgh.  Listen to William Gay here:

What is domestic violence?  According to the National Institutes of Health,

Domestic Violence is control by one partner over another in a dating, marital or live-in relationship. Domestic violence occurs in every culture, country and age group. It affects people from all socioeconomic, educational and religious backgrounds and takes place in same sex as well as heterosexual relationships.

Domestic violence is difficult to quantify because the crime is often under reported and police and social service agencies have no uniform method for collecting statistics.  We know that it is pervasive in our culture and that most perpetrators of domestic violence are male.

One in four women has been a victim of domestic violence.

(Sources: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The National Institute of Justice, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, July 2000;  The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, 1999; Matthew R. Durose et al., U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 207846, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Family Violence Statistics: Including Statistics on Strangers and Acquaintances, at 31-32 (2005), available athttp://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/fvs.pdf )

Domestic violence includes verbal abuse, intimidation, isolating a person from friends and family, emotional and financial control, and routine “joking” that amounts to putting another person down.   Abusers are often charismatic and deceptive, seemingly caring and considerate when friends and family around, and frightening and violent when they have their victims to themselves.  People who have suffered domestic violence commonly speak of their abusers in terms of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

I’ll be cheering loudly for the Steelers this weekend.  Whoever you’re rooting for, I urge you to be like William Gay, and work to support the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, which provides a 24-hour crisis hotline, temporary shelter, counseling and support groups, advocacy and support services for women victims of domestic violence and their children.

You can donate money, items (needed: new clothing, especially size 14 & up, pajamas, socks, underwear, bras, especially larger sizes, slippers, casual shoes, baby soap, lotions, toiletries, journals and notebooks for women), or your time.