It is hard for me to get through a day in Lima without finding that my unsuspecting glance has stumbled upon a naked female derriere or bosom, and I am pretty vocal about how much I dislike it.
My taxi driver will steal a glance at the girl of the day on the back of his newspaper while we wait in traffic. Or in my casual post-work channel surfing I’ll find nakedness of the jiggling kind – ladies bouncing their voluptuous front and back ends in some musical intermission of a talk or game show. Female nudity is on the posters in front of the car mechanic\‘s and on a calendar hung up in the parking attendant’s office. It is even all over many of the Peruvian “news” websites that I browse.
I’m no prude. I get that there will always be a market for the partially-clothed, not only here but anywhere that men (and women!) have eyes. But I think that such constant bombardment of bare women is detrimental to the gender.
I remember the first time I casually flipped through a Caretas magazine. I thought that this was a serious magazine with a reputation for serious journalism. And yet somewhere a little past halfway through, the sea of seriousness parted and made way for two very naked, very well-formed breasts on a very attractive female figure. Is this what passes for “the naked truth” these days?
This sort of nudity brands journalism as men’s reading material, whether intentionally or not. I feel awkward picking up a Caretas, and to be honest, I haven’t since that first naïve attempt. I would never stand outside a newsstand attempting to read top headlines because it is uncomfortable to have women in contorted “sexy” poses staring back at me.
Even outside of “journalism,” all of the nudity and scantily clad women create a culture in which both men and women are trained to judge those of the female gender by appearance and engage their brains only when absolutely necessary.
The last time you had a conversation with a young girl, how did it go? Probably something like, “Wow! Your dress is so pretty. You look so cute! Did you pick your outfit all by yourself?”
Replace that girl with a boy, and it probably went something like, “So, you like dinosaurs? Which is your favorite?”
We start telling little girls from a very early age that it is their looks, not their brains, that matter. These biases trickle into almost every area of our lives and affect the ladies that those girls become. They are trained to think that the way they look [in a bathing suit or tiny dress] determines how accepted they will be, and that ultimately it is a man’s opinion of a woman that decides her worth.
Peru still struggles to provide equal opportunities to women, starting in primary school right up through employment. Women in Congress are outnumbered by men almost 3:1 and females are often paid less for doing equal work. It doesn’t take much research to see that women are undervalued.
And quite frankly, that’s a horrible shame. In the six years since I first stepped foot in Peru, I have come across some of the strongest, most intelligent, caring and determined women I have ever met in my life. Peruvian women are the tent poles that have held this country together in many a strong storm, keeping families grounded and homes afloat.
I remember once helping plan and lead a workshop in the outskirts of Lima for women subject to domestic violence. These women were unbelievable. More often than not, their husbands were unemployed and, instead of continuing to look for jobs, they had turned to alcohol. The women then had to find their own ways to raise income for the family, all the while caring for their children and taking beatings from the men in their lives when they would eventually stumble home.
These women should be appreciated, but instead they are subject to a culture that is still tainted with machismo, egged on by an inundation of female nudity and a devaluation of the female brain at all levels of the socio-economic spectrum.
So even if the nudity and partial nudity that litters the streets of Peru does not directly affect your everyday life, please be reminded that it is not about individual pictures, but about the culture they sustain.
And I mean seriously, people – winter is coming. Let’s let these women put on their jackets.