|All Points West: Rising above ourselves|
|May 27, 2016 Frank Marquez|
I am an alumnus of a fraternity called Sigma Alpha Epsilon, an organization founded by the University of Alabama on March 9, 1856. Our creed, The True Gentleman, is memorized and recited by each prospective member because it is an important hurdle in passing initiation rites. The creed penned by founding member John Walter Wayland emphasizes placing others before self. The last few phrases of the creed read, “The True Gentleman is the man … whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own, and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.”
I’ll repeat, with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.
Before I go on, I’ll offer this disclaimer: I’ll be the first to admit, among some of its members, the men of Phi Alpha do not always live up to these words. As my fraternity’s treasurer for a year, I realized we did not always have our priorities straight. We did however, spend time in soup kitchens on Thanksgiving, and picking up trash around campus and the surrounding town of La Verne, California, as a way of giving back and keeping up good community relations. Jim Tinker and Mario Capozzoli, leaders and founding members of the chapter I joined, pushed community service and may as well have set the groundwork for present-day Sig Alphs. The chapter at my alma mater this past school year received two awards from the Greek community for Outstanding Service and Greek Organization of the Year.
Granted, as I said, some members slipped on occasion. Yet, most of us, who believed in the creed, stayed true and policed those missteps made by some of our other brothers. In pursuit of being true gentlemen, on the whole, we sought to respect women.
As an honor to the fairer sex, there were several of us who adopted little sisters (some of them actual younger sisters to our members). They helped us to cultivate a well-heeled environment – one that was safe and welcoming. They also were a group of young women that offered their own views as to how that should happen.
We did not publicly promote the misconception that it was OK to objectify girls and women. The opposite occurred; we placed them on pedestals.
Since the dawn of mankind (I say that purposefully), women have oft played a behind-the-scenes role. You have most likely heard the saying, “behind every great man, there is a great woman.”
This implies she plays a support role. This needs to change.
In light of recent events in the valley, one involves a young man facing charges for allegedly seeking to collect images or imagery of girls in the locker room at Gering High School. At the Citizen, one of our first concerns about the breaking story two weeks ago was ‘what about the girls?’ This must have been a traumatic experience. What we hoped – although there was some reaction to the incident by the girls whose families were recipients of one of the 26 letters delivered by the Gering Schools administration – was that some of the girls (or students overall) took advantage of counseling.
While a judge listened to legal motions filed by respective lawyers in the case last Thursday, members of the Soroptimist International of Scotts Bluff County gathered at Scottsbluff Country Club to present cash awards to several area non-profit service organizations to advance the cause of women and girls, what the organization does globally. Through a Soroptimist program called Dream It, Be It, the movers and shakers of this group work to empower young high school women, boosting self-esteem, in vital contrast to media messages saying otherwise.
So, how are girls viewed in the larger society?
In a Washington Post story on Calvin Klein’s recent up-skirt ad, and how it is scandalous but hardly surprising, Danish actress Klara Kristin, 23, crouched over the view of a camera lens, leaving her underwear exposed. It is not the first time a sexually suggestive ad has prompted the scrutiny of moral judges, and sparked heated debates about what lines had been crossed.
Sex sells is not a reason or even an excuse for the images foisted upon teen consumers, especially those girls who probably buy apparel made by Calvin Klein. Nor should this kind of widespread view give any teenage boy license to invade the privacy of his female classmates.
As high reasoning beings, in what ways do we provide more wholesome family guidance? In a 1999 film starring Freddie Prinze Jr., and Rachael Leigh Cook, a girl, an unpolished beauty hiding behind painter’s overalls and glasses, prides herself on being on artist. Prinze’ character, a popular jock but do-gooder, accepts a wager by peers to make Cook’s character a prom queen. The casual message, because this is not a deep movie with much layered meaning, asks viewers to value those masked qualities, not just looks. Skills or talent aside, she’s a budding artist, with the willingness and courage to be herself.
I’m sure Klara’s Calvin Klein ad might have bought her 15 minutes of fame, and likely advanced her career, but at what cost? As the father of a beautiful 19-year-old daughter, I would have been outraged if she had posed this way for all the world to see. I’m blessed; I know my daughter is more than that. She is a talented versatile composer-musician, with an incomparable work ethic, a dedicated college student, consistently showing kindness to others, but if it comes up, she lets others know she’s more than just a pretty face.
Boys recording video of girls in the locker room is more than boys being boys. Though, I can see how myriad messages serve to conflict boys’ thinking. It would be a disservice to our young women, if as a community, we dismissed this alleged incident as such, placing it into a category of unimportant, and easily forgotten.
On a large scale, objectifying women is not OK, and can lead to more serious crimes, on top of chronic problematic behavior.
In taming our baser instincts, let’s do our best to rise above them.
In my fraternity, we prided ourselves on having that kind of wisdom.