Thoughts by Richard Bleil
He walked into my office from off of the street. It’s not really a surprise; the campus security is lax and I tend to be a workaholic, so the building was open and I was the only person on this particular summer day. He sat on my couch and told me that he had an idea for a perpetual motion machine that he was sure would work. Of course, I had my doubts, but I like to encourage people and I know enough to realize that while exceptionally unlikely, it’s not impossible. So, I listened to what he felt comfortable sharing with me and we discussed why it is believed no such machine could ever be made (the argument is indeed flimsy), and the problems with his idea as I could see them, but I encouraged him to give it a try.
There was something off about him. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I certainly didn’t feel as if I were in danger, but at the same time, something was, well, wrong. A couple of days later there was a story about a sexual predator who had purchased a house with his wife near an elementary school. Sure enough, right there in the photo included with the story were the same eyes staring at me from my couch that day.
They’re among us. Sexual predators are unfortunately far too common in our society. I guess I’m thinking about this because just this past week I learned of a former student accused of trying to arrange a meeting with an undercover detective he thought was an underage girl for the purpose of sex. He has since been arrested, and according to the story has bragged about sexually abusing (or worse) children as young as still being infants. I’m truly hoping that this is the exaggeration of a braggart, but unfortunately, this does happen. I didn’t work in forensics for long, but it was long enough to have seen the devastation.
Unfortunately, I believe that our society breeds such behaviors. No doubt this will not be a popular opinion, but let’s take as an example JonBenet Ramsey. If you don’t recall the story, she was a six-year-old girl who was killed in 1996. She died at six, and her biography lists her as a “pageant queen”. In fact, she wore the crown of five beauty pageants, local and national, that she had won (Little Miss Colorado, Little Miss Charlevoix, Colorado State All-Star Kids Cover Girl, America’s Royale Miss and National Tiny Miss Beauty).
All before she was seven, because she was murdered at six.
Our society puts so much value on physical beauty in women. Well, and girls, obviously. If you look at photos of JonBenet, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one where she looks like an actual child. The photos have huge professionally done hair, heavy makeup, thick red lipstick, all designed to make her look like a sex object but hidden beneath all of it are the innocent eyes of a child. We sexualize children in this society, and it’s time we stopped. It’s easy to blame the parents, but the reality is that it’s the corporations that sponsor these pageants, the viewers who attend or watch, the advertisers that take advantage. I’m sure JonBenet enjoyed the praise every time she won, and no doubt so did her parents, but what she is learning is to be pretty, and pretty in our society is a dangerous thing to be, especially for girls.
It’s hard to blame the pageants alone. It’s the attitude of our society that has given rise to competitions based almost exclusively on looks. Yes, you can argue that there are other aspects (like the “talent” portion and the questions and answers), but if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s looks that win the pageants and the attention of our society.
How do we change this? I don’t know. I wish I had the answer. I’ve written in the past of the beauty to be found in the depths of women; the heart, the intelligence, the spirit, but my writing won’t change anything. It can only change if we decide, collectively, that we want to change, that we want to see people as people first instead of gender and looks. But I can tell you this; as long as we judge the value of women (and girls) on their looks, they will be marginalized and targeted in our society. The war on women is real and it begins with the attitudes of our society as a whole.