Sunday, May 8, 2011

What Lara Logan's gang rape at the hands of 200 Egyptians means

Women in Egypt--from devout Muslim women shrouded from heat to toe to Western women in Western garb, young and old, have been complaining for many years about their appalling treatment at the hands of Egyptian men on the street. Individual complaints to the police are useless. Complaints on behalf of the women are equally useless, met either with bland denials or claims that the women in question were only Western women dressed like--from the Egyptian viewpoint--prostitutes. A recent study revealed, however, that veiled women got sexually harassed/assualted just like Western-dressed women.

Such behavior isn't unknown in the West. Gang rapes occur, at the hands of football teams (recently, in my area), or half a dozen black loiterers near a high school dance (also recently in my area), or the Central Park jogger in NYC, at the hands of several dozen blacks. The Jodie Foster movie "Accused" retells the true story of a party girl gang-raped by Portuguese-Americans in New England. With a little research you can find gang rapes by every major American ethnic group's members.

But I don't recall reading about a women being sexually assaulted by a mob of over 200 men in a public area in a city--ever in our history. Nor do I recall reading about such a thing in Europe, or in Japan.

I have heard about women getting touched/fondled in Japanese trains and busses and on the streets in Italy and Greece and suchlike.

All of which is to say that it's not a black and white situation--but the Arab world does appear to be in a class by itself when it comes to treating women like objects.

Lara Logan--despite the 40 minute sexual assault she suffered in Cairo--probably can't say "Arab society treats women like things." Note that I didn't say it was misogynistic--that would mean the men hate the women. That doesn't seem to be the case. More that women are simply treated the way American sociopaths treat everyone.

So it's no wonder Arab society has such strict rules about not wanting women in one's own household to go out and about by themselves. If I lived in an Arabl country I'd feel that way myself--because Arab men represent such a clear and present danger to women who aren't guarded by a phalanx of family members.

Islamic Sharia law forbids gang-raping women, to be sure, but it also enshrines treating women as lesser creatures than men--for example, via the rules of testimony in court, in which a man's word counts for more than a woman's word.

Of course Arab society isn't the only one that treats women like property. And we shouldn't forget that women have had the vote in America for less than a century. OTOH a century ago women may not have had the vote but the didn't risk being gang-raped on the street by hundreds of male citizens either.

Arabs would hotly deny the idea that Arabs themselves see men as brutes menacing all women who aren't being actively protected by others--their apologists say that women need to be protected from themselves. That's certainly the rationale behind female genital mutilation--done to many millions of Muslim girls in Africa (including Egypt). But individual Arabs surely realize how much Arab male attitudes and behavior endanger women.

I don't think any of this has much to do with Arab-Western "clash of civilizations." It's a feature of Arab society--one of the things that marks it as backwards, having much more in common with rural Indian, sub-Saharan African and Chinese societies than with modern Western ones.

Though even those areas don't gang-rape women in public by large crowds of men as far as I know. Nor is "honor murder" of one's own children remotely as common.

None of these are universals. 200 men gang-raped Laura Logan--but many other Egyptian men surely wouldn't have done so in the same circumstances. But while such behavior isn't universal in Arab countries--it's much more common there.

That's my point and my indictment.

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