There is this interesting phenomenon in Buenos Aires, and I will imagine throughout Argentina (though Buenos Aires and Argentina are as different as Atlanta and Georgia) that men are always in the spotlight and women seem to creep behind the scenes.
In all of the high profile activities and cultural treasures of the Porteño community, women appear to be largely excluded from the public eye. Let me expound.
Tango. The guidebook´s classic synonym for Buenos Aires. Despite it´s commercialization for the tourist industry, there is still an alive, underground thread of tango that plays music in small cafés for locals or dances in little rooms kept hidden as best possible from the tourist eye. Tango, the public display of a private intercourse (lyrics on love, lust, loss... all private interactions but sung to a public audience) is done by men. The lyrics of tango are those of men. The dance of tango originated between men. Tango clings to masculinity like a moustache to a man´s face. Where are the women in tango? They are objectified in the lyrics, sung to in an audience as if they weren´t there, and those who are now singing its ballads are few and do not write their own, rather sing the lyrics written by men of decades past.
Soccer. The lifeblood of Argentina. Where are the women in soccer? The field of soccer is the stage of a competition in masculinity. Refuse to step on a field and you are branded as feminine or homosexual (but apply harsh terms). The priests play soccer. The homeless play soccer. The rich and the poor play soccer. Fugitives play soccer. But women? Women watch. A few clubs are beginning to allow women to play the sport, but they are few and the play often ends in the early teenage years, no future for advancement.
So where are the women in the Argentine culture? You have to open your eyes and look deeply to see them because you will not see their image plastered on the street walls or on the television at night.
Women are everywhere, and yet not. They are the waitresses in cafe´s, carrying your café above their rounded, pregnant belly. They are in the laundry halls. They are in the business world. They are students. They are carrying carts of recyclable material to make a living. There are women here, but aside from Mrs. Kirchner and Mercedes Sosa, they are a backdrop. Nothing extraordinary.
Perhaps this is what drives the fashion fame and the never ending search for physical perfection that leads the Argentine women to astonishing levels of eating disorders in the global arena. Maybe, because they are so often objectified by culture or otherwise ignored, women here find it necessary to go to whatever lengths possible to obtain the spotlight, even if that means spending money they do not have on clothing and starving themselves of nutrition.
Though while the visible, forecedly gorgeous women roam the streets, it is the pregnant waitress in the café that I admire most. Women in Buenos Aires sport their blossoming bellies like a women in America would never dare do. Pregnancy and womanhood is not something to be hidden, but something public, something more public than women themselves at times. Womanhood and motherhood are highly esteemed values in this culture, and, as a woman, I find that very comforting and embracing.
It is an interesting mixture of estrogen and testosterone that fill this city, equsally expressed in high magnitude, leaving little room for sexual ambiguity in this culture.