I have spent a lot of time staring at the photos that the media has chosen to publish of Colonel Russell Williams. And I have spent a lot of time reading and rereading the media coverage.
Williams is a sexual predator and murderer. Society needs to be protected from him. But, I am very disturbed at the media representation. The focus – particularly the visual focus through the photos – is of a man who wears women’s lingerie. The Montreal Gazette saw fit to publish an entire series of the photos. At least the Toronto Star only put one on the cover. Many other print and on line news media have done the same.
A cross dresser. And the words “depraved” and “extremely disturbing” are juxtaposed with the images of Russell in bras and thongs.
Dressing in women’s underwear is not a crime. It may be a fetish. But, most folks with fetishes – I’d go out on a limb here and say something like 99% of them – do not murder people.
There is a perverse, voyeuristic obsession with the cross dressing.
Williams broke into women’s and teenage girls homes, masturbated while they slept, sexually assaulted several, and then murdered two. This is appalling. This should be the story.
But, the fact that he was obsessed with dressing in women’s lingerie seems to be on equal footing with these crimes. Stealing the lingerie from his victims and potential victims is definitely part of the sexual predator story. But, the focus is over and over again on the shock value of just seeing him in the bra and undies.
It is as if the transgenderism – wherever he was on that spectrum – is being put on trial, rather than his criminal sexual behavior. I wonder what the media would be doing if he had actually bought the undies at Victoria’s Secret. I fear that it wouldn’t matter much – the cross dressing is being made part of the crime.
And cross dressing is not a crime. Rape and murder are. I will undoubtedly stand accused of some form of political correctness (a phrase I would like to see abolished from the English language). But, it would be nice if the media could report this horrifying story with a little more subtlety and complexity.