When I first heard about Lara Logan, I was a senior in college. My journalism mentor was a New York Times war correspondent reporting out of Baghdad in the height of the Iraq war. We would talk on AIM and he would tell me about the horrific things he’d seen that day, like a defense contractor shooting a dog and nobody having the proper medical equipment to treat it, so they had to Surran-wrap its guts back in as life-support. I’d tell him about the insignificant drama of life at the college newspaper. He probably thought it was as stupid as I do now looking back on it, but he must have appreciated the opportunity to mentally escape from his surroundings.
I decided that I wanted to do what he did. I was taking Arabic classes in college and learning everything I could about reporting from a war zone. But it all seemed improbable. One day I asked him how the hell I was supposed to do that being a woman who typically gets harassed just walking down the street because of the way I look. He told me it was possible, and that I had to be professional and not take shit from anyone. Then he told me to look up Lara Logan, and said if she could do it, I could.
I was amazed by her. She’s undeniably gorgeous, which at the ripe old age of 20, I’d learned could be detrimental for women in my industry. I watched all of her interviews on YouTube, noticing how some male interviewers would become visibly flustered while talking to her, while others would approach her with seemingly unfounded aggression. It’s always been quite obvious to me that men will step out of their way to make your academic, professional, or social life a special kind of hell if they are attracted to you and can’t express it in an institutionally accepted way. I read about how news stations wouldn’t air some of Lara’s well-researched content about street fighting in Iraq, citing that it was too “controversial” for the news, and remember thinking in the back of my mind that it was probably because some senior editor had a hard on for her, and was punishing her because that was the only way he knew how to behave.
Yet she carried herself with class and spoke with authority and conviction, and never allowing anyone to interrupt her while she was speaking in an interview.
I wanted to be like her when I grew up, and I still do.
When people say she was “asking for” the beating and sexual assault she incurred on her last trip to Egypt, simply by going to a place where there may have been a higher possibility of such a thing occurring, it sickens me. That’s saying that pretty women should know men want to fuck them, and should just avoid all situations where someone might not have the frontal lobe capacity to control themselves. When really, the emphasis should be on getting men to control their violent impulses and punishing the ones who don’t.
Lara was in Egypt doing her job, a job that she did better than almost everyone else in the industry, man or woman.
For people who go into potentially dangerous situations to report, which I have done before and will do again, there is always the knowledge that something could happen to you. I live in Brooklyn, I know something could happen to me walking down the street at any given moment. But you keep going back, and you keep putting yourself in those situations because you know you can. And you know that somebody has to, or nobody will. Somebody has to get those stories out, so you risk your life and you risk your sanity, and every time you come out of it unscathed you say, yeah, I just fucking did that and it wasn’t so bad, even though you know that it could have been.
Everyone lives life knowing that bad things could happen, but that they probably won’t. And when they do, it is devastating. I am devastated for Lara, and wouldn’t wish physical and sexual violence on anyone, ever—especially someone who is doing such a noble job by risking her life so that other people can have information about a situation they wouldn’t understand otherwise. But we can’t look at what happened to her and conclude that it’s too dangerous for women to be out there reporting, just as we can’t look at the dozens of journalists who were killed in Iraq and close up the bureaus there.
Lara Logan is a role model of mine and always will be. She knew what the risks associated with her job were and accepted them, and unfortunately encountered the ugly side of humanity in a chaotic situation. But people shouldn’t for a second put this on her, or blame her for the decisions that she made. It is the criminals who assaulted her who are at fault. End of story. I only hope that her situation will serve to prevent such crimes from occurring, not to make women who would do what Lara did want to stay home. I won’t stay home.