I WAS NEVER THE PERSON to take offense in the name of good taste. Rather, I enjoyed the idea of a world where experiences rose and fell on their own merits.
There are those days though. Those days when even the most jaded intellect can be stirred. This was me not too long ago in a parking lot in Estonia. This was me holding our youngest daughter as we got out of our car and saw a poster for a bicycle shop.
Six, sun-bronzed ladies in string bikinis, each one in a row, each straddling a bicycle on a beach. The bicycle wheels, yellow, matched the color of their neon swimwear. Their round buttocks stood at attention above the seats, bringing to mind the delicious baked color of hot cross buns straight from the oven.
I see these kinds of sexy signs all the time. Once, when I was standing outside of Seppälä admiring the Finnish models in the storefront advertisements, our eldest daughter asked me how I felt about the smiling women in lingerie. “It does make me feel good, when I see them,” I admitted. “Like a breath of fresh air.”
But this advertisement bothered me. Was it ridiculous with its bikes and bikinis? Its taut hindquarters roasting in the sun like hams? Something about the scene troubled me. I think it was this: I have reached the point where I feel responsible for the world.
I understood that somewhere, some men devised this poster. Sex sells, they thought. It makes you look. I imagined the photo shoot, how the director set it up, told them what to do. “Okay, everybody has their string bikini on now? Good. You over there, could you tighten your butt muscles just a little bit? No, a bit tighter. Clench, clench, beautiful! Hey, could you spray their butts with some oil? We need shiny butts. Shiny. Terrific. Action!”
Then I wondered how could I ever justify such a grotesque image to Maria, a four-year-old girl with bangs who likes ponies and rainbows, whose face I turned quickly away from those shiny buttocks for fear that she might ask me some strange questions. But I couldn’t justify it. Not for the sale of more bicycles. Not for the sale of more anything.
I am still not offended. But I am disappointed in my fellow man. So much of the discussion over these uncomfortable experiences is dominated by women. It is women, we are told, who are most offended. It is women therefore, we are told, who must speak out. I am part of a Facebook group called Virginia Woolf Sind Ei Karda, where I read women’s opinions, and sometimes see that men have shared their thoughts, too, in a context set by women.
But where are the men? We are the target market, are we not? We are supposed to see those butts and spend thousands on new bikes. Are we really so cowardly that not a soul will stand up and tell the world for once and for all that we are really not so stupid?
In the end, I took my daughter into another shop, and my moment of distress soon passed. That advertisement did make me worry about her future, though, and all the other things she might see. I couldn’t shake the feeling of being responsible for it either, knowing that all of it had supposedly been created for me.