The Dangers of Being a Female War Correspondent

As details emerge about the attack on CBS News' Lara Logan, journalists weigh in on the "bizarre patronizing" female war reporters face

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Last week, CBS News correspondent Lara Logan was assaulted while covering Egyptian protests in Tahrir square. As details of the attack emerged, the incident sparked a pointed debate (and stupidly offensive rhetoric) over the place of female reporters in violent war zones. Over the weekend, a number of female correspondents have weighed in with their take on Lara Logan's well-publicized situation and on the double-standard that all too frequently occurs when women go on war reporting assignments.

  • Women Reporters Face 'Bizarre Patronizing' In the Field  figures Susan Reimer at the Baltimore Sun, herself once told by an editor that "he would be willing to send me on an assignment where I could be killed--but not one where I could be raped." Of the many lingering questions after Logan's assault, Reimer is preoccupied with this: Why did it take CBS five days to report the details of Logan's assault? Was it because of "some vestigial concern about identifying victims of sexual assault?" And,  Logan has been "asked repeatedly by interviewers about leaving two young children behind in order to cover war zones, and she has been candid about the irreconcilable conflict her work presents to her motherhood. But I don't recall anyone asking Mr. Woodruff what business he had riding the deadly roads of Iraq when he had a wife and four children at home."
  • Lara Logan Assault Has Broken 'Code of Silence' For Female Reporters  "In the coming weeks, I fear that the conclusions drawn from Ms. Logan’s experience will be less reactionary but somehow darker, that there will be suggestions that female correspondents should not be sent into dangerous situations," writes war correspondent Kim Barker at ProPublica. She fears that male editors may make "unconscious" decisions to send men to cover the fighting--which would be a mistake. Women "do a pretty good job of covering what it’s like to live in a war, not just die in one," Barker writes. "Without female correspondents in war zones, the experiences of women there may be only a rumor." 
  • This Type of Abuse Occurs Frequently, and Not Just in Islamic States  In the New York Times, Sabrina Tavernise gives a first person account of her experience as a war reporter in Russia, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey. "In none of these places was I dragged off and raped, but I have encountered abuse in many of them," she writes. "In my experience, Muslim countries were not the worst places for sexual harassment. My closest calls came in Georgia with soldiers from Russia, a society whose veneer of rules and civility often covers a pattern of violence, often alcohol laced, toward women."
  • I Was In the Same Mob as Lara Logan recounts the Daily Mail's Angella Johnson, who nevertheless notes her experience "cannot be compared to the trauma Lara suffered, [but was] deeply upsetting." Here's how Johnson responded to critics who say that Logan was attacked because she was "petite and attractive": "I find such comment offensive. No one ever says a male journalist asked for it if he gets beaten up.  And I could not have covered up more – apart from wearing a burka."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.