One thing that really surprises me in the US is just how dated some of the imagery and language is around here when it comes to women.
There are numerous adverts on TV exhorting women to buy workouts such as the exciting sexy dance workout DVD that comes with a free work out through lap dancing added extra. Then there’s the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition phenomenon that I still can’t get my head round. It’s an accepted thing here, with little recognition that it’s basically the grubby page 3 experience with added layers of gloss.
It’s more than accepted, in fact, it seems to be one of these things that joins American men together. Baseball on summer’s evenings, the Superbowl and looking at some birds in nice swimsuits, that’s what made America great. If you believe Mad Men (which I’m apt to do in many things), that might not be far from the truth.
Recently I even saw it used as a great example of how an iPad app can enhance the print experience with video and sound. It looks like it will become an iconic new thing as well as an iconic old thing. Mind you, with big chunks of mobile internet use being porn related but very little porn available as on-device applications, Sports Illustrated swimsuit could be the thing everyone has been waiting for.
Well, maybe not everyone. Some are so open about their old-school sexism that they don’t need the cover of a socially acceptable app to get their rocks off. I had the joy of a short flight this week in the seat directly behind the business class section. There were two or three big Texas guys in front of me getting stuck into the bourbon merrily (I know they were from Texas because they told everyone, loudly). In a very short flight they raced through at least three refills, each time telling the poor (elderly, this is internal US airlines) stewardess that she was the most lovely thing they had ever seen.
On landing, one whips his phone out and has a very loud conversation with someone about his plans to go to Atlantic City on the weekend and to get some action that his wife needn’t know about. He could have left the rest to the plane’s collective imaginations but no, in case we had missed some of his subtle nuance, he then explained what it was his wife didn’t need to know about. Why he thought we needed to know wasn’t clear, but we found out all the same.
The one bright spot was the stewardess apologizing to everyone for ‘that prick in business class’ on the way out. What amazes me is that there can seem like such a fine line between that prick in business class and mainstream culture here. In the US, even in cosmopolitan New York, it’s not just the roads, bridges and railways that are old and crumbling.