A couple of days ago, I was walking down the street and passed by this advertisement.
I felt like a little kid, with one hand holding hands and the other pointing my cold finger to the sign, saying, “Those are Argentine women.”
The response I received was, “No, those are models.”
Then, on Tuesday, this topic on the female body in advertisements came up again in a conversation with one of my American friends. We noticed that in Buenos Aires, the ‘athletic’ woman isn’t so commonly displayed and that the women who are ‘sporty’ (in ads for athletic clothing) all have the same generic model body.
Apart from these images, we also noted the stereotypical behaviour surrounding women and sports, specifically focusing on the disparities between Argentine and American/Canadian culture. She described a recent weekend she’d gone away to a quinta* with her Argentine boyfriend and some of his amigos. A friendly co-ed match of soccer got started up and she described to me the situation:
“There was me and another American girl. Now, I’m not professional soccer player but… Cinthia, the differences between the girls were so obvious: this other girl had brought her cleats and was more than ready to play. I mean, when the Argentine girls got passed the ball, they would squeal and run to their novios. I talked to my boyfriend about it later, and he also admitted he noticed the differences.”
I found the account amusing and began to think about my own team.
How do the women on my team feel as athletes? Do they identify with that label? In my eyes, many of them are fantastic athletic role models: Maria Rosa is fast and explosive, something that I struggle with and watch in fascination. Carla is a constant challenge at the post, scoring on me most of the time. Marcela has an awesome hook, an insanely accurate 3-pointer shot, and her sense of humour never fails to make me laugh.
However, I have noticed differences between me and the other women, from a cultural point of view. The focus on appearance is very strong in Argentina (at least in the capital) and in most practises I hear at least one comment about how someone ate too much during last weekend’s asado, or how someone has to lose weight, or a treatment someone is doing for their cellulitis, or a magical cream someone’s daughter is using that is doing wonders to clear up her acne, or how their magical age number cannot be spoken of. Women’s stuff for sure, but sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if there wasn’t so much pressure to be this perfect female image. Do all these women actually relate to this image?
I believe women in Argentina are not restricted in the choices they make in their lives. There will always be stereotypes, but I’d like to think there is sufficient awareness for men and women to feel comfortable with whatever body they are blessed with.
My own feelings about calling myself an athlete are clear: I’m proud to say it and I feel no shame strutting on the 105 at night with my grey sweats, nap sack, and tight french braid. There are always stares, but I feel the representation is important…hopefully I change someone’s narrow image of what it is like to be an athletic woman (and Argentine/Canadian at that!).
* like a cottage