Thursday, March 5, 2009

Medium popcorn or CEO?

Some decisions are just too tough for a girl to wrap her pretty little head around.

Oh, silly me. I've gone and gotten ahead of myself.

This story begins about four years ago, when I made a pledge to visit all of Santiago's 30-odd comunas, or municipalities, before my study abroad year came to a close. Not just drive through them -- actually set foot in them and get to know them a little.

I didn't do it. I came pretty close, but to this day, there are comunas I've never been to. Until this evening, Cerrillos -- located in the southwestern quadrant of the city -- was one of them. I've always been curious about Cerrillos, in part because I rarely ever hear anything about it. From a logistical standpoint, it's relatively isolated, and an airport sprawls over a thick slice of its territory.

Since I didn't fulfill my mission the first time around, I figure the challenge is still on. This means I sometimes make an effort to do ordinary things -- like buying essentials or going for bike rides -- in places I've never been before.

Today, the ordinary thing of choice was going to a movie. The place: Mall Plaza Oeste in Cerrillos.

Now, I realize sitting in a movie theater in a mall does not qualify as getting to know a comuna. For that reason, I'm not crossing Cerrillos off my list just yet. In any case, I digress.

The bus dropped me off at a section of the mall called Las Terrazas, an outdoor patio ringed by restaurants and bars. As I walked inside, I passed a poster promoting Las Terrazas as a prime spot for summer fun. "Summer nights are open to all," the sign read. To illustrate, it featured two of the groups summer nights are open to: the "summer bachelors" and the "executive hunters."

The former were represented by two men in business attire rejoicing as they broke the chains that shackled their wrists together. In Chile, the term "summer bachelors" refers to married men whose wives have left town on vacation, frequently taking the kids along with them. Apparently, the first thing these fellows do after kissing their families goodbye is flock to Mall Plaza Oeste for a celebratory cold one.

The "executive hunters" on the poster were three young women clad in tight jeans and T-shirts and brandishing a lasso, a bow and arrow and a metal bear trap.

Well, goodness. Had I known the mall was the best place to bag a rich husband, I would have made myself up more and brought my tranquilizer gun.

I began to wonder if I shouldn't just skip the movie and bat my eyelashes around Las Terrazas until a CEO with a chiseled jaw and broken chains dangling from his wrists bought me a drink.

What do ads like this say about women -- and about men, for that matter? What assumptions underlie the choice to juxtapose men dressed for the board room with women dressed for bar hopping? Or men for whom marriage is tantamount to slavery with women desperate to walk down the aisle in very expensive pumps?

There was some measure of equality in the poster: Both genders appeared hell bent on misbehaving. But while the men's misbehavior was portrayed as liberating, innocent and even endearing, the women's was ensnaring and downright sinister.

Apparently, men leap at the chance to abandon responsibility and women at the chance to fill their jewelry boxes. With images like these posing as humorous publicity, can we really expect substantial advances in gender relations and equality?

Sure, sexist imagery and stereotypes abound in the United States. I think one would be a bit more hard pressed to find an ad like this there, though. I feel that in many cases, the sexism we're exposed to up north is more subtle, more camouflaged. Does that make it even more dangerous?


lydia said...

"substantial advances in gender relations and equality?" I wasn't under the impression that was a priority, unfortunately (slightly joking, but also true... the poster probably offends less people than it would in the US too)

We definitely we have our share of ads like this in the US. However regulation and competition kinda tame or tear them down, of sorts, more than here. Also, this type of image is more acceptable in Chile, just as is sexism, cheating, partying, etc etc basically every element what you described alluded to...

But then again, I'm probably biased as I studied advertising and am constantly on the lookout. You should've taken a picture. I like your goal too.

noel said...

Leigh -

You are so darned funny! One of the many reasons why I love you...