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Pyle: Don’t punish young women for being what they are

By George Pyle

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published May 30 2014 12:09 pm • Last Updated May 30 2014 05:20 pm

"The Force is strong with this one." — Darth Vader

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Wandering through the shopping area of The Gateway, which stands between The Salt Lake Tribune offices and its primary provisioner — Starbucks — one often encounters, on a summer afternoon, many attractive young women nonchalantly dressed in shorts up to there and tops down to almost there.

A wise old companion, torn between remaining politely aloof and feeling it would be rude not to notice the wonder of nature that had just passed before him, would softly remark, "They’re cute at that age."


Except, perhaps, at Wasatch High School.

There, helping to fulfil the annual quota of Stupid Administrator Tricks that often multiply around graduation time, somebody in authority ordered some of the yearbook photos of that school’s young women to be altered.

Through the wonders of digital photography, sleeveless dresses grew sleeves. Relatively low-cut tops got higher. Tattoos were obliterated.

(Note to all educators: If any of you are still running your high school yearbooks as a journalism training program, rather than just as a PR puff piece, you should know that pulling a reality-bending stunt like this at a newspaper will get your fired faster than you can say "Adobe Photoshop.")

Some of those young women were deeply offended at the suggestion — no, the outright insult — that there was something wrong with them, with the way they look, with the totally normal clothes that many of them probably spent hours selecting, if not agonizing over. (Or is that an unfair gender stereotype?)

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They rightly went public with their displeasure.

The next day, school officials released a particularly wan excuse. They couldn’t really justify what they’d done. But they claimed that there had been a notice posted at the photo session warning that unacceptable attire would be subject to such computer alteration.

Except much of what became unacceptable in those yearbook photos were articles of clothing those young women had often worn to school without being challenged. In the examples provided to the Tribune and other media outlets, none of the actual clothing was remotely provocative.

There is a problem in this media-frenzy culture with young women falling victim to the tendency to compare themselves to others — supermodels, movie stars, videogame characters — and find themselves wanting.

The result, all too often, is women starving themselves, submitting to excessive cosmetic surgery, or just maintaining a low but constant level of deep personal dread.

With all of that battering them on one side, the last thing women need is some Americanized Taliban on the other side decreeing that a glimpse of bare shoulder or an inch of clavicle is the difference between a proper young woman and an irredeemable slut.

If we have to choose which thought process most rudely and irrationally over-sexualizes innocent young women, it would obviously be the latter.

Such thinking was clearly one of the demons that drove America’s latest Second Amendment poster boy, Elliot Rodger, to kill six people last week in Isla Vista, Calif.

Like many men his age, Rodger felt he was surrounded by sexy young women, which he was, and that they were unfairly denying him the same favors that they were offering to every other man around, which they weren’t.

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Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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