Case No. 1 brings us back to Lara Logan, the foreign correspondent who was brutally attacked and raped in Egypt, and then tsk-tsked by many observers for, you know, being there in the the first place to do her job. Writing for both ProPublica and the New York Times, foreign correspondent Kim Barker tells us precisely why we need women in jobs like hers — and why they need to speak out. She writes of a time when she herself was groped by several men while covering a story on the Chief Justice in Pakistan:
At the time, in June 2007, I saw this as just one of the realities of covering the news in Pakistan. I didn’t complain to my bosses. To do so would only make me seem weak. Instead, I made a joke out of it and turned the experience into a positive one: See, being a woman helped me gain access to the chief justice.
And really, I was lucky. A few gropes, a misplaced hand, an unwanted advance — those are easily dismissed. I knew other female correspondents who weren’t so lucky, those who were molested in their hotel rooms, or partly stripped by mobs. But I can’t ever remember sitting down with my female peers and talking about what had happened, except to make dark jokes, because such stories would make us seem different from the male correspondents, more vulnerable. I would never tell my bosses for fear that they might keep me at home the next time something major happened.
You caught that, right? To complain means to be sent home. As in: See, girls? This job, it’s not for you. Barker continues:
I was hardly alone in keeping quiet. The Committee to Protect Journalists may be able to say that 44 journalists from around the world were killed last year because of their work, but the group doesn’t keep data on sexual assault and rape. Most journalists just don’t report it.
The CBS correspondent Lara Logan has broken that code of silence. She has covered some of the most dangerous stories in the world, and done a lot of brave things in her career. But her decision to go public earlier this week with her attack by a mob in Tahrir Square in Cairo was by far the bravest.
And then there’s the case of 17 former and active duty military women who have filed a class-action suit against the defense department for, according to the Washington Post:
…alleging that the military had failed to stop rapes, investigate reported crimes or prosecute perpetrators. Despite ample evidence of the problem, the suit alleges, Gates and Rumsfeld “ran institutions in which perpetrators were promoted . . . and Plaintiffs and other victims were openly subjected to retaliation.” While the suit is new, the problem of sexual assault of service members by other service members has long been known to the military leadership.
But nonetheless, kept quiet. When women soldiers bring such stuff to light, it just verifies the outdated notion that they shouldn’t be there in the first place.
And finally, there’s the (appropriate) firestorm over last week’s House vote to deny federal funding to Planned Parenthood because they provide (whisper) abortions. No matter that Planed Parenthood also provides a number of other health services, including contraception, for poor women who have no other access to health care. (And no matter that while funding was denied to Planned Parenthood, funding was approved for Pentagon sponsoring of NASCAR) It took California Congresswoman Jackie Speier to stand up and courageously talk about her own “procedure” — something she says she did not take cavalierly nor did she welcome — to make the debate real. As Amy Davidson writes on a New Yorker blog:
Is there a way to talk about the health of women and children that is about women and children’s health, and not about politics? Part of the issue is abortion, of course, as when the House voted today to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood, even for other services. (It still has to pass the Senate.) In the debate over that measure, right after Chris Smith, of New Jersey, made a graphic anti-choice speech, Jackie Speier, a California congresswoman, had her turn: “You know, I had really planned to speak about something else, but the gentleman from New Jersey has just put my stomach in knots.” She said that she had had an abortion, years ago, because of complications in a pregnancy:
I’m one of those women he spoke about just now…. That procedure that you talked about was a procedure I endured. I lost a baby. But for you to stand on this floor and to suggest, as you have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous.
That was brave of her. That is also why it would be helpful to have more women in Congress: to make these discussions normal.
Our point exactly. Whatever our jobs, we need to be part of the conversation in order to normalize it. And to do that, we not only have to stick around — but like our sister sufragetttes, we need to multiply.