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Alyssa Pinsker

Alyssa Pinsker

Posted: February 22, 2011 04:44 PM

A lot has been written about the brutal tragedy of Lara Logan, a war reporter in Egypt. My one observation is that the defense and even justification (this happens in America too! she shouldn't have been flashing her body!) of her gruesome sexual attack has allowed for any remarks about the situation to be seen as Islam-phobia. I have noticed with the exception of Debbie Shlussel, a writer whose work I have come across while reading about the tragedy-and whose politics I do not align myself with, that few of the pontificators have actually been women who've been abroad in foreign lands, not just on holiday. These armchair commentators confuse any criticism about cultural differences with intolerance. Having lived on three continents, most recently India, I can assure you that as my Muslim ex-boyfriend used to say, "This isn't America baby, this is India." The case is being made that she had no right to be there as this wasn't America, but our goal as global citizens is to be able to cover news/travel abroad/experience the taste of freedom as any gender, race, religion or nationality without fear or violence. It is the ultimate irony that in celebrating democracy and so called freedom, Logan's was literally stripped away.

The point that I have made repeatedly-being a global dater, traveler, and writer- is that while stereotypes are not true, cultural norms are. Cultural norms mean that things are different when you leave the USA (or even when you travel within the USA.) Sure, we have similar crimes here, but the degree of the crime, the anti-semitism and misogyny behind it-and most importantly, the legal, medical and social outcome would be different in America.

Anti-Semitism and lack of rights for women outside of the New York (or a major city) bubble are real, and dangerous. As a whistleblower myself in India, I finally experienced those feelings that all the sheltered aunties from the neighborhood would say to me; aren't you scared to go abroad all alone? Watching "Locked up Abroad" -- my mother's favorite show -- I would often remark how lucky I was that I never got into any major scrapes besides depression, isolation, culture shock and of course heartbreak with a minor taste of accidental sex tourism.

Outside of America there is strong anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism that we as Americans are in denial about, as well as misogyny and lack of rights and respect for women. As my Muslim friends, Jewish friends and minority in opinion friends always say, it's a few bad apples... America isn't perfect in its levels of freedom and tolerance for all, but Instead of shrugging off these Egyptian criminals as a few bad apples, we should get the message behind their crime.

Women are not safe world wide. This is an idealistic hope that we one day can be, carried from my years as a college feminist activist. But as an idealistic romantic I was shocked to discover that I didn't feel safe walking alone at night in India. I needed an escort to travel in order not to be harassed. Once when I was alone in Dharamasala at a hotel, the owner threatened to beat me in front of his wife and children -- and he meant it. When I said I would call the police, I realized only afterwards that the police might not help me, just as the young woman I met who was raped in Rishikesh, was threatened to be raped again by the police. My friend, who punched a man during Holi in Goa for grabbing her breasts, was brutally beaten by a group of men in return.

The entire world can be a savage place, and incredibly ignorant. I write from the comfort of New York City, but while in India, I lost all of my rights when I tried to report a crime. "This was India baby," -- corrupt and not into respecting my rights or even those of the "criminal" who was presumed guilty until proven innocent. "I am an American!", I countered expecting that the legal outcome of my report was to be handled as it would back home. I learned, what I hope our nation will learn as a result of this tragic example. When we defend what occurred in Egypt, we try to use cultural relativism to perceive it in our Western eyes. That's not how it works abroad, see what happened to Lara Logan. Other countries don't play by our rules, and women still aren't safe abroad. I hate to use Ms. Logan as an example to further our cause for universal tolerance, but we have to learn from mistakes made and not gloss over what happened abroad. I will continue my travels and seeking but with a little more caution of what my rights are as a writer, woman and citizen of this world.