Friday, February 18, 2011

Dangerous Choices

My family was big on leadership.

I can't remember how many times I had to sit through a speech about "leaders" and "followers" from my mother and father after I or my brother had screwed up. They were convinced that most of the mischief we engaged in was the result of us caving to peer pressure. Some of that was true, but some of it was just the fact that I had the Devil whispering in my ear hard when I was a kid... But I digress.

One of the key principles of leadership was the willingness to deal with the consequences of your choices. My mom always taught me that it was always easier to live with your choices, good or bad, than with those made by someone else for you. Over the years, I've found that piece of knowledge to be incredibly valuable.

I have thought a lot about the lessons of my mother and father recently while discussing the sexual assault of a CBS reporter while covering the Egyptian revolution.

Sexual assault holds a strange position in American culture. Despite the efforts of feminists and intelligent men, people still insist on believing that if victims would act differently they wouldn't be raped. In addition, we all get more excited or agitated about rapes by certain types of people (non-white men) against other types of people (white women) then any other types of rape. That's what makes the Egypt situation such a volatile issue.

I have heard from a few people that CBS was dead wrong for allowing this woman to go over to Egypt when they knew of the potential dangers she could face because of that country's complicated issues with sexual harassment and violence. Those folks believe that women should be barred from certain activities simply because those activities just aren't safe for them.

In addition, there are other people who are using what happened to advance their own views about violent and lawless Muslims hell bent on attacking everything that is sacred to Americans ("Sacred" being represented by a white woman of course) but I won't unpack that issue. Instead, I want to discuss the safety issue.

In my world, any adult who can perform a job competently should be allowed to do that job. Period. Whether it's a male day care worker, or female foreign correspondent, gender should not determine whether someone is allowed to do a job if they have the necessary skills and acumen to perform the work.

From my seat, much of the angst about this woman's ordeal stems from the idea that only if she had done something differently, she wouldn't have been raped. It subtly shifts the blame for the incident from the perpetrators to the victim and her employer. Then, using that blame shift, people are trying to create new rules that would only reinforce the glass ceiling women of all races, but particularly of minority races, still face in corporate America.

Who gets to decide which jobs are safe for women? How will they make the decision? What if the only way to advance in a chosen field is to take jobs that involve danger? Are women then confined to the lowest rungs of their profession? Have the people who advocate protecting women even thought about these questions, and the dozens more that are out there?

I think not.

Instead, they are using a current event to advance a longstanding agenda. And it's sad. It's really sad. This woman's assault is not an opportunity to push some sort of traditional gender role agenda. Hell, she's already lost much of the anonymity that sexual assault victims tend to be provided. Her rape was a terrible ordeal that will leave lasting scars, but so was the beating of Anderson Cooper and the murder of Daniel Pearl. Yet, nobody is telling me their jobs are too dangerous for them.

Nobody is attempting to take away their choices. 



Anonymous said...

I understand what you are saying and I'm also curious that if this woman were an Egyptian who was working for a local station would it have gotten as much coverage.

Big Man said...

I believe you know the answer to that question.

Raving Black Lunatic