'Sexy' save-the-turtle ads are criticized

September 02, 2005|By Laurence Iliff | Laurence Iliff,Knight Ridder / Tribune

MEXICO CITY -- Showing some skin to reach Mexico's macho consumers isn't new. Women sell everything from tools to beer. But the use of a Playboy model in ads to protect sea turtles has put one U.S. ecology group in the middle of a feminist flap.

In one poster, Argentine model Dorismar poses provocatively as three turtles scoot along a Mexican beach. "My man doesn't need turtle eggs," says the text. "Because he knows they don't make him more potent."

The "sexy campaign," as the San Diego-based group Wildcoast calls it, is designed to stop Mexican men from consuming raw turtle eggs that have been illegally marketed as an aphrodisiac. The eggs are sold on the Pacific coast, in Mexico City and elsewhere.

"No more Smokey [the] Bear," the group said in announcing the campaign recently.

The posters are to be hung in restaurants, bars and public places beginning this month -- the height of turtle breeding season.

There also are plans for the ads to appear on billboards and buses.

Women's groups, which now cope with issues such as rampant sexual harassment and a wave of sex killings of mostly young women, want a cold shower dumped on the "sexy campaign."

"It's outrageous," said the head of the federal government's Women's Institute, Patricia Espinosa, in an interview with the Mexico City newspaper Reforma. "It lacks the least respect for the dignity of a woman and places her only as a stereotype, an ornament."

The federal government and the state government of Guerrero have signed on to the $30,000 advertising campaign but provided none of the money.

The Federal Environmental Prosecutor's Office said in a statement that it "considers it an obligation of all to protect the sea turtle, without 'offending the dignity of women.' "

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