There are risks to being an uppity woman. The down side of being a role model is that women who act like they own the place inevitably tick people off as much as they inspire.
Lara Logan, the glamorous and seemingly fearless CBS Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent who was attacked last Friday in Cairo during the moments of chaos following President Hosni Mubarak's resignation, is the kind of woman who gets noticed. She has one of the hardest and most prestigious jobs in journalism and she got it in spite of, or because of, a habit of saying and doing whatever she wanted to.
I don't know Logan personally, but as the newest diva on the oldest and most respected TV news magazine in the business, her work is inescapable. For what it is worth, in the tiny world among her co-workers and neighbors, where we both live and toil, she is also a force. Even before joining the ranks of legendary journalists sharing space with Sunday night's tireless ticking clock
, Logan was putting a fresh face on the iconic image of girl reporters
. During the early days of the Iraq war she emerged (allegedly from South Africa
but possibly from a planet of Amazons) as the straight-talking CBS war correspondent who had the rare quality of looking like she was born in front of a camera
She was embraced as the thinking man's news babe with attitude, not afraid to criticize even her own news department. Appearing on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" in June 2008, she told Jon Stewart, if she had to watch the watered-down version of the war in Iraq the American public was exposed to, "I'd blow my brains out.
The fall of Egypt's government, after weeks of public demonstrations in the very square from which she was seized, had been televised by Logan herself, along with her colleagues in the international press.
On Tuesday, CBS reported, in the most economic of dispatches
, that she was brutally sexually attacked and beaten by a mob of thugs. It was several hours after the melee
had separated her from her crew before she was rescued by some courageous Egyptian women accompanied by armed soldiers. It was the second time in the short, televised revolution that Logan had been captured, interrogated and released
, the previous incident by the Egyptian army.
It seemed to some like her risks put her on a collision course with catastrophe. But risks are the stock in trade of both war correspondents and ambitious women. Sure the job is dangerous, her fans noted, but Lara Logan is brave. Courage however does not protect -- it simply helps one to endure.
The circumstances of Logan's personal peril, however cursorily related, have been extraordinarily affecting because, like Logan, they occurred in a larger-than-life moment of history. But for women, the violent incident has a familiar and intimate resonance. Until this tragic attack, the "60 Minutes" correspondent came off as a wonder woman whose "intrepid hotness
" paired with sassy self-confidence, brains and ambition made men notice her and women envy her. The day of her attack, Foster Kamer at Esquire asked her not unkindly, "Is CBS insured for this shit? Are you insane?
" Her answer, with typical Logan confidence: "You know, I don't worry about things like that."
Now inevitably, the question of whether those confident qualities also got her burned occurs. Should she have dimmed the wick a bit? Even in a throng of thousands of Middle Easterners, a towheaded Western woman in lipstick draws attention. A head scarf would seem prudent from hindsight -- but it's difficult to argue that the gesture of cultural consciousness would have guaranteed her safety. It might be that her intense gravitational force helped her survive at least as much as it incited aggression. After she was detained and interrogated by the army Logan was sent back to the U.S. but returned to Cairo in time for Mubarak's departure.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the situation we were caught in before, we are now arriving into again," she told Esquire
. "We were accused of being Israeli spies. We were accused of being agents. We were accused of everything." (The New York Post reported
that during her subsequent attack and beating, the mob was chanting "Jew, Jew.")
These questions and more for her anguished crew will no doubt eventually be answered (a reporting shoot requires a tiny family to function: the correspondent out front and wired with a microphone; a producer wearing the hat of business manager, organizer, fixer, and paterfamilias; a cameraperson, who assures once-in-a-lifetime images are captured -- and heavy expensive equipment is vouchsafed; and a sound technician who hears and checks whatever comes through the correspondent's microphone). Although the "60 Minutes" team is in the news business
, that report will wait until she is ready. In time, we will hear directly from the reporter how she persevered in the moments and hours after they were separated. That is her story to tell.
In my experience, near-death experiences are often followed by great periods of productivity
. As Logan recovers, I expect, as strong women often do, she'll find a way to make use of her unthinkable experience to enhance our understanding of the times. That is her calling and her craft.
In the meantime, as a sister in arms, I'll light a candle to women who "woman up" despite what consequences await them.