“The difference in their stories seemed obvious to me. Ann kept a low profile, dressed conservatively, installed a burglar alarm, locked her sturdy front door at all times and kept a gun her front hallway. Sarah, on the other hand, dressed like a flower child (she wasn’t a druggie, but she looked like one), had no burglar alarm and only the flimsiest of front doors; and in any case she often kept her front door ajar, where she could be seen puttering around her living room in shorts and a halter.”
It’s unclear if Rottenberg attributes the attempted rape and daughter’s molestation to the way Sarah dressed and the burglaries to her door-locking habits, or what. Did the burglars bust in while the door was ajar? Did an intruder molest her daughter, or as is statistically far more likely, a family member or friend? Is Rottenberg seriously writing about the molestation of a young girl he seemingly barely knows and affixing blame on her mother?
In the end, it’s not just the offensive statements that make this piece so bizarre. To return to Logan for a minute—the woman whose boobs started it up—Rottenberg writes like he’s reading our simple minds.
“Yes, yes, I know: Each of us wears many personas,” he wrote. “A woman journalist like Lara Logan should be able to celebrate herself as both a journalist and a woman, even a sexy woman. But the operative word in that sentence—should—is the sticky point.”
Yet, one line earlier, while still rattling off Rottenberg’s Rules for Women, he writes, “If you want to be taken seriously as a journalist, don’t pose for pictures that emphasize your cleavage.”
While Rottenberg condescends to women for wanting to have it both ways—to be able to be both openly female and produce serious work—Rottenberg himself is trying to have it both ways. He disingenuously concedes that a “woman journalist” should be able to wear a flattering gown at a social event and have her work taken seriously, while declaring that she shouldn’t be in a photo with cleavage; he calls Logan’s rape “outrageous” while questioning what message she was sending by showing cleavage in another time and place; he advises that being “forewarned is forearmed” while admitting it’s him we may have to shoot.
Bottom line: Of course women and children should be careful of our surroundings. Everyone should. Women are more than well aware of the additional danger we face every time we leave the house and get followed, harassed and sometimes attacked—by men and boys who believe the very ideas that Rottenberg’s so smugly endorsing.
The lies that enable sexual assault to be practically a rite of passage while growing up—1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are molested—are already everywhere, so deeply rooted in our culture you have to dig deep to yank them out. Staying silent has never helped a situation of sexual assault, ever. We say no. We say there is no better time to learn more and write more reality checks.
Savage Love: Sondheim is solace