September 29, 2015

Violence Against Women Is No Respecter of Beauty,
And we shouldn't be either

[Trigger Warning: I'm going to be talking about sexual violence, and specifically violence against women and attitudes about it. There are no particularly graphic descriptions, but if you find this subject matter triggering,  you may want to skip this post. Thanks.]

Two years ago, Briana Rabon was found murdered in Kershaw County, South Carolina. Yesterday, her murderer was sentenced to 50 years in prison, after a very short trial, because he accepted a plea deal.

I have a somewhat tenuous personal connection to the case, in that my spouse attended college with a young man who dated her, and other people that knew her, and so we have followed the case with some interest.

The new broke yesterday, and the reactions were quick. Most people think that the young man was sentenced far too lightly, with some thinking that he should have received life without parole, and still others agreeing with the sentiment that he should be taken to the roof of the courthouse and tossed over, with or without a noose about his neck. There's a fair number of prison rape jokes too.

All of that is troubling, but what concerned me most, personally, were comments like this one:

I took this screen shot yesterday, because this was one of multiple comments I saw referencing how "beautiful" this woman was.

Today's not going to be a long post, and I don't want to be a biddy, but it bothers me. It bothers me that, in death, this young woman is being consistently reduced to her looks.

I grabbed some more examples this morning:

There were other examples, but editing them grew tedious.

It just struck me that there are so many adjectives that would encompass not only her physical beauty--and she does, objectively, appear quite attractive in the pictures accompanying the various news stories surrounding her death--but this is the one that appears most often. If people reference her at all--and many of them don't even do so--this was the single most common descriptor of her. You could use amazing or wonderful or great or marvelous or lovely. There are a lot of options.

But this is the one that they chose. And I can't help but wonder: How would the story change if she wasn't pretty?

The idea that an attractive person's life could be, consciously or unconsciously, valued more than someone else's...that's mind-blowing.

Murder isn't a shame because of the victim. There's not a hierarchy there. It's not more brutal if it happens to one person versus another. It's a transgression not because of the person who is murdered, but because a person is murdered.

It's the action itself, and not the human it happens to, that's reprehensible.

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