I Didn’t Choose My Gender- But I Have Chosen To Be A Photojournalist

- - Blog News

Harry Benson responds to the Laura Logan assault in Egypt by writing “the last place for a young, attractive woman to be is in the middle of an extremely dangerous situation” (here) prompting this response from photojournalist Julie Dermansky “when on the front lines of any dangerous situation, one’s gender doesn’t change the fact you are in harm’s way. Thugs beat up men and women alike. Journalists can be a target anywhere when they are tell a story that someone doesn’t want them to tell.”

via, wowOwow.

There Are 26 Comments On This Article.

  1. Why do people keeping using the word ‘sex’ instead of ‘gender’?

    Of couse we choose our sex, but we didn’t choose our gender.

    • @JR, Sorry, but it’s the other way around. We choose (or our society chooses for us) our “Gender,” but not our “Sex.” “Sex” is how we are born, biologically speaking, “Gender” is how we identify in our culture/society. Your “Sex” can be Male, but your “Gender” Female, and vice versa. This is an over-simplification, but you get the point.

      • @Mike, We choose our sex, ie. copulation, when to have it, who with and in what manner. It is an act of copulation, fornication or other derivatives thereof based on foreplay and/or afterplay.

        Gender is biological, based on reproductive anatomy and it is the state of being male, female or neuter. We do not choose our gender, we are born male, female or a mix of the two.

        What you are referring to is not ‘gender’, but persuasian, as in male or female persuasian, what is in the mind and in the personality of the person.

        • @JR,
          What Mike is referring to is that in technical terminology (especially feminist theory and gender studies) “sex” is the term used for the biological/physiological differences between males and females while “gender” is the socially constructed male or female identity.

          Of course in everyday speech it is fine to use gender and sex interchangeably as synonyms. If, however, you’re going to correct someone for their use of language you better be sure what you’re talking about. And anyone who’s past grade school should have no problem recognizing from context when “sex” is used to denote the act of reproduction and when it’s used to differentiate biologically between males and females. From your spelling mistakes I take that maybe you are not a native English speaker so the confusion is understandable. However, in English speaking countries this use of the word “sex” (not meaning intercourse) is pretty common.

          • @Sam., If what you say is correct, why then does the dictionary support my argument?

            gender gen·der (jěn’dər)
            n.
            1. The sex of an individual, male or female, based on reproductive anatomy.

            • @JR, I think we’re all thinking a little to hard about this. Your Dictionary definition uses “sex” as an alternative term to gender.

              I think we’ve all gone beyond the point of the topic to be arguing about definitions

            • @JR,
              As Thomas points out, your dictionary is using “sex” as a synonym with “gender”. Like I said, in everyday speech its customary to use the two terms interchangeably. However, if you want to get technical about it and consider the academic discourse on the topic then “sex” is clearly the more apt term.

              If you want to read up on it, just go the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender

              Or at least get yourself a dictionary that’s a bit more thorough.

              • @Sam, Of course this topic is getting into detail now, beyond the original post, but I keep getting responses to which I do not agree with; hence, I will keep responding with my opinion until through someone’s argument, I come to know better.

                So, to say that one should get a better dictionary and then not provide an example of one, is the same as saying the dictionary that you have might not be sufficient.

                Please have a look to an online dictionary you think is correct and let me know.

                Of course, there are many English dictionaries from many different countries, so the usage of words might change according to these different cultures. Perhaps this issues of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ is the same as with other words such as ‘fanny’ (female genitalia) or ‘fag’ (cigarette).

                • @JR,
                  I have already provided you with the Wikipedia link, which is plenty informative. Have you bothered reading it? If you want to get a bit further into the matter you can check out this article on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-gender/

                  Anyways, it’s not an America vs. UK issue (as you are suggesting). In common usage the words “sex” and “gender” are completely synonymous if used in the same context. You can ask “What’s the sex of the child?” and no one will bat an eyebrow.
                  However, you corrected APE on his use of the word “sex” and Mike rightfully pointed out that if you want to make a distinction between sex and gender then the former is actually more apt in this context.

                  I have checked your link and it seems you’re from Germany (or at least located there). Am I correct in assuming that you are not a native English speaker? Why are you correcting APE on his use of English?

                  This has gone off topic too far so this is the last post I’m making on this topic.

  2. I think we are missing the point a bit here in talking about women covering conflict as being primarily about an individual woman’s choice and behavior. I would argue that the first misstep is not to challenge-on it’s face -the notion that any journalistic practice that marginalizes the reporting by women as a group could be complete and uphold the tenants of journalistic integrity. The underlying belief in Harry Benson’s comment in response to Laura Logan being assaulted that “the last place for a young, attractive woman to be is in the middle of an extremely dangerous situation” reveals not only a paternalistic judgement in the inherent frailty of women but more significantly that that men’s voices are primary, authoritative, and on their own–complete. This argument is fundamentally misogynistic. It is also a lie. Moreover, as a man he feels no responsibility or accountability for men’s violence against women. Rather, his solution is for men to do whatever they will do and for women to stay in the ‘safety’ of their homes. We all know that the domestic sphere is as violent as the public one for women.

    It’s important to look at the language we are using. Violence against women is not committed in the abstract. The term ‘violence against women’ is in itself misleading and incomplete as Sut Jhally points out in his extensive work on this subject. The term presents an action (violence) and an object (women) with no subject. Let’s speak accurately, the term is Men’s Violence Against Women. Men commit 90% of the violence against women. The vast majority of men are not violent but we need to question what is the responsibility of men within a conversation about men’s violence against women? The reason that men’s violence continues at an unprecedented rate is because men don’t take this on as their issue, don’t stand in solidarity with women, and blame women for being attacked.

    Significantly, as is revealed in Benson’s remarks, many men take for granted the belief that male authored narratives, governance, historical records, art, etc are fundamentally authoritative and complete, a troubling but hardly surprising idea.

    • @Sophia Wallace, Exactly right and well written.

      The first time I saw Laura Logan report, my reaction was, damn is she gutsy, quick on her feet and smart. Very similar to my response to Richard Engel who also reports from the front lines and does it well. Yet, there was – in the back of my thoughts – a secondary voice that told me she had to be a little braver than the rest because risks are higher for those who are physically more vulnerable. It is simply the facts of life and one that I’ll bet Mr. Benson was meaning to say and so in-artfully expressed.

      • @Bruce DeBoer,

        I think (could be wrong), Harry’s point was that some places and situations in the world are more dangerous for women to travel than they are for men. Philosophical debate about why that is aside, it is true. That does not reduce the heinousness of the crime at all.

        Harry reserves the blame for her editors not doing enough to provide adequate security or thinking about the real-life practical consequences of their decisions.

        Sort of strange that someone around here think this means Harry hates women. That’s quite a leap. I see his commentary as based on his real life observations of the ugly reality of conflict where men are beaten and women are raped.

        • @craig, I totally get that. I too believe there is too much leaping to conclusions even when, on face value, the comments are less than politically soothing.

    • @Sophia Wallace, Your arguments are a mess. Full of ideology, dogma, and distortion. There is a reality in the world, it does not behave in the way you seem to feel it *should* behave. That doesn’t make the facts any less real.

      As a male, what responsibility do you feel I have towards violence perpetrated on women in other country by people (men) in incidences which I have no knowledge or relation? As a male what responsibility do I have for the violence perpetrated on other civilizations by other males? For instance, what responsibility do I have for the violence Mubarak, Hussein, or GWB have perpetrated? As a women what responsibility do you have for the violence Sarah Palin may have incited in and on people? People can only be responsible for their own individual actions. Neither you, I, or anyone else can make another person behave or believe anything other than the other person wishes. Having said that I do recognize how tribalism affects and influences people’s behavior. (Your comments seem to have a tribal component as well).

      There may be a wonderful idyllic world were everyone is respected, happy, prosperous, and healthy but these conflict sites are not that world. The world today does not exist as your ideal. The fact is, Egypt during this conflict has violence (towards men & women), and a beautiful young blond reporter may be a bigger target than an average (in appearance) male reporter. Harry Benson’s comments reflect reality today. His words may conflict with your ideals, but your ideals are not the practiced by the mob (force majeure) in Egypt or the rest of the world today.

      While culture may be a primary influence on violence in civilization (and specifically male perpetrated violence), culture is in general a much larger thing than one person (individual responsibility) can change. As an example how effective was any one individual or small group in changing the recent world wide financial crisis? Ask the same question with regard to racism, totalitarianism, or religious bias. Culture is created over thousands of years, understanding how culture has been or could be influenced does not change behaviors or culture in our present time, and may not produce any significant cultural changes in our lifetimes.

  3. “One’s gender doesn’t change the fact you are in harm’s way. Thugs beat up men and women alike. ”

    Very true, although as a ‘thug’ I would most likely attack a woman than a man. The risk factor in your own personal safety is high when potentially fighting a man.

    I don’t know if anyone has read ‘War Reporting for Cowards’ but its the first person account of a wimpish small guy who goes to Iraq to report there – how much does this affect his reporting? If you are scared to report, fear for your safety? Fear for your body? Will you properly file a good report on the issue, or even a non biased one?.

    I think that the strength of ones mind is important rather than strength of ones gender, and yes I agree men get attacked just as much as women – but honestly I think a woman as nice as Logan will bring with it undesirables, and turn the media into the story -which is bad planning.

    Al Jazeera wanted to be so detached from the story they were covering and did a remarkable job (save for some incidents). Yet with Logan – editors at the news-site should look at the incidents that have happened locally during the issue http://harassmap.org/ first before making a judgement on who to send.

    Sexual harassment towards women is climbing in the area then dont send a young, blonde girl to report from the middle of it with no backup then. It’s not sexism, its common sense.

  4. Well said, Sophia.

    The fact that men are still misogynistic enough to reduce women to being too “young and attractive” to do what they want is disgusting. As if their talents would be better served keeping themselves safe for their men, since Mr. Benson is implying that to do as much is the purpose of women. I can only infer that he hates women if he does not view them as equals, or at the very least views them as inferior. This is only reinforced by his half-hearted attempt to say that he is “all for women doing whatever job that men do”.

    I might understand if he had said something more along the lines of maintaining better security for photojournalists/news correspondents in dangerous situations (regardless of gender), but his concern was purely selfish and incredibly pathetic. After reading his words, I am left feeling like he is defending the lack of self-control of men who abuse women. Like he is afraid of being one of them so he has to almost unconsciously defend their weakness. What a sad man.

  5. so the bottomline is that Lara Logan is emancipated but most of the media reporting about her incident are not. that situation was surely no fun for her, but that’s part of her job description. a lot of people risk the same kind of treatment when going to a music concert and even pay money for it..

  6. If something is too diabolical for the perceived “weaker sex” (not that I agree with that phrase), then maybe it’s the actions and deeds that need to be evaluated and not the gender of the participants and observers.

    I feel this way in general about war and violence. For example, I feel that if a war is not worth putting your wives and daughter’s in harms way or having them cover the reportage on the ground, then perhaps the war itself is not cause worthy of the enormous toll.

  7. The bias and dominance of patriarchy in the media once again reared it’s head in the recent reporting on the gang rape of an 11 year old girl by 18 men and boys in the New York Times. In the article, similarly to in the reporting on the rape of Laura Logan (who was rescued by Egyptian women) the victim is blamed and her appearance is of primary concern.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/us/09assault.html?_r=1&ref=us

    As the NY Times is slowly backpedaling, great counter coverage can be found on Alternet, among others.

    http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/513829/11-year-old_girl_horrifically_gang-raped;_new_york_times_article_blames_the_victim/

  8. The discussion about gender and sex misses the point. I do have to say when a woman journalist is in any country where women have minmial rights, the proper safe guards need to be in place. a security team if need be.

    It might be a brave ballsy thing to go by yourself, but you better be prepared for the worst case scenario, man or woman.