Women have risen to the top of war and foreign reportage. They run bureaus in dodgy places and do jobs that are just as dangerous as those that men do. But there is one area where they differ from the boys–sexual harassment and rape. Female reporters are targets in lawless places where guns are common and punishment rare. Yet the compulsion to be part of the macho club is so fierce that women often don’t tell their bosses. Groping hands and lewd come-ons are stoically accepted as part of the job, especially in places where western women are viewed as promiscuous. War zones in particular seem to invite unwanted advances, and sometimes the creeps can be the drivers, guards, and even the sources that one depends on to do the job. Often they are drunk. But female journalists tend to grit their teeth and keep on working, unless it gets worse.
Because of the secrecy around sexual assaults, it’s hard to judge their frequency. Yet I know of a dozen such assaults, including one suffered by a man. Eight of the cases involve forced intercourse, mostly in combat zones. The perpetrators included hotel employees, support staff, colleagues, and the very people who are paid to guarantee safety–policemen and security guards. None of the victims want to be named. For many women, going public can cause further distress. In the words of an American correspondent who awoke in her Baghdad compound to find her security guard’s head in her lap, “I don’t want it out there, for people to look at me and think, ‘Hmmm. This guy did that to her, yuck.’ I don’t want to be viewed in my worst vulnerability.”
The only attempt to quantify this problem has been a slim survey of female war reporters published two years ago by the International News Safety Institute, based in Brussels. Of the twenty-nine respondents who took part, more than half reported sexual harassment on the job. Two said they had experienced sexual abuse. But even when the abuse is rape, few correspondents tell anyone, even friends. The shame runs so deep–and the fear of being pulled off an assignment, especially in a time of shrinking budgets, is so strong–that no one wants intimate violations to resound in a newsroom.
Rodney Pinder, the director of the institute, was struck by how some senior newswomen he approached after the 2005 survey were reluctant to take a stand on rape. “The feedback I got was mainly that women didn’t want to be seen as ‘special’ cases for fear that, a) it affected gender equality and b) it hindered them getting assignments,” he says.
Caroline Neil, who has done safety training with major networks over the past decade, agrees. “The subject has been swept under the carpet. It’s something people don’t like to talk about.”
(h/t Greg Sargent @ The Horse’s Mouth)
Via Steve Benen, is the Edwards campaign getting “screwed” by the MSM’s fixation with the Clinton/Obama horse race? Greg Sargent believes the numbers seem to indicate just that. TNR’s Jason Zengerle is skeptical, however:
…I think Edwards received plenty of media attention in the year before the caucuses and primaries began. Maybe he didn’t receive as much as Hillary and Obama, but then his candidacy wasn’t as historic as theirs, plus he trailed them in the national polls. Edwards ran a very good campaign and I think you can make the argument that he actually had the biggest impact in terms of policy on the race–setting a progressive standard that the other candidates tried to meet–but he lost, and the fact that he lost wasn’t the media’s fault.
Conceding several points, Sargent still stands by his original post:
Whether it was the constant coverage of the $400 haircut; the subtext in much coverage that Edwards’ personal wealth rendered his populism little more than a phony and ineffective gimmick; or the constant and relentless portrayal of the race as a showdown between two political superstars, there’s just no denying that in terms of the scope and tone of the coverage, Edwards has basically gotten screwed.
I’m certainly no John Edwards partisan, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that, post-Iowa, Edwards has been noticably absent from the campaign news cycle thanks to minutia-obsessed MSM coverage of the “gloves off” Clinton vs. Obama slap fight. Whether the marginalization is circumstantial or deliberate, the effect is still the same: Edwards is now persona non grata.
Huckabee spoke to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough from Columbia, SC, saying enthusiastically, “South Carolina’s a great place for me. I mean, I know how to eat grits and speak the language. We even know how to talk about eating fried squirrel and stuff like that, so we’re on the same wavelength.”
“Mika, I bet you never did this,” Huckabee went on, addressing Mika Brzezinski. “When I was in college, we used to take a popcorn popper, because that was the only thing they would let us use in the dorm, and we would fry squirrels in a popcorn popper in the dorm room.
A popcorn popper. Now that’s authenticity. As dnA dryly notes, “if there’s anyone who can restore our international standing in the world, it’s this squirrel-eating motherfucker.”