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Notes from Underneath: Chile - evolving!

Notes from Underneath

A California girl in Chilsters (that's Chile to you)

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Chile - evolving!

I rarely listen to the radio here in Chile but I saw a billboard advertisement about a radio station that plays classic rock so I tuned in yesterday when I headed to the gym. I encountered good music but what really struck my fancy was a public service announcement (PSA) by a government agency here in Chile called SERNAM (Servicio Nacional de la Mujer or the National Association for Women, to loosely translate.) I, of course, only heard the audio version of this PSA but upon searching the SERNAM website, I found the video which contains the same message I heard yesterday. You can refer to the 30 second spot below:

Even for those of you who don't understand Spanish, it's clear that you see a man sitting on a stool who eventually begins turning into a caveman. Why is this happening? No it's not a GEICO commercial ... The reason for this is because the narrator of the commercial is asking the man "Felipe, what do you do?" and Felipe answers that he works. The narrator then asks "And do you have kids?" And Felipe answers "Yes, but my wife watches them." The spot continues with the narrator asking the same series of questions and each time Felipe answers the equivalent of "Me work, wife stay at home with kids" he starts turning more and more into a caveman, until eventually he's just grunting, pounding his chest and saying "me work!" The spot then concludes with the word "Evolucionemos" (let's evolve) and the narrator communicates that Chile needs men AND women sharing responsibilities (termed "co-responsabilidad" in the campaign) both inside the home and at work. We see Felipe and his lovely wife locking hands as the narrator tells us that we should make a pact to "grow together in a better country."

What can I say? I LOVE it! I love it because it's addressing something that is so outrageously prevalent in many societies, though it's something that needed addressing, oh, yesterday. The United Nations reports that though more and more women are now part of the labor force of many countries, "when hours in paid and unpaid work are combined, women tend to have longer working hours per week than men, and less time for leisure or sleep." On the flip side, the report states that men may work as many hours or more in a day, but that said work is most often paid work. In short, the norm is that home management and keeping is not ultimately a shared responsibility among supposed partners. Of course Chile is the rule, not the exception as we can tell from a report done by Channel 13 in Chile as the journalist took to the streets to ask men and women how much sharing is really taking place when it comes to the home.

Sadly enough (but truthful) most men and their wives will agree that the husband or male partner "occasionally helps" or just "helps" but it's a far cry from actually SHARING responsibility. Really, it's kind of sad that the first man interviewed in the video above can't, for the life of him, give an answer and so he looks at his wife/partner for help with the question of shared responsibility. She laughs and answers, "Sometimes he sweeps the balcony." Whoop-dee-doo!! That lady has got herself a gem!

So what's my reality when it comes to this? G is an exception to the norm. Though our reality is peppered with other variables that could very well explain why things are more shared in our home: he was a single-parent when his kids were 8 months & 4 years old, thus he had to handle many things pertaining to running his home and taking care of his kids every other weekend. Also contributing is the fact that we're fortunate enough to have a nana come once a week, which ultimately reduces the amount of cleaning and upkeep either of us have to do around here. Of course we can factor in that we don't have kids together and his kids don't live full-time in the house, though trust me our dog certainly makes up for it with his fair share of strewing toys about, shedding and generally being messy and slobbery (such is the case with bulldogs.) So yes, in our home I'd say it's 40-60 and I say this ONLY because I generally do the cooking and generally do the grocery shopping alone. But then again, he's the one who waters the plants and takes the initiative to do laundry when the nana isn't here. I do neither of those two things - ever. In any case, personally we are lucky to be an exception because really, whatever I do, he can do and whatever I don't do he definitely does.

But I have to commend SERNAM for starting this campaign. I'm all about sharing responsibilities because there is no reason that anyone in the house should be held responsible for the majority of the work. It's also quite unfair to women (what else is new) that we spend more time working - period, when combining paid and unpaid work. I like that they chose to make their point using a little comedy. In addition, I would imagine that being portrayed as a caveman is something that no man likes. I assume, with all of their ingrained competitiveness, that if they are shown in a manner to be the antithesis of evolving, they'll at least look at themselves and think "Hey now, I'm better than a caveman." I just hope that this campaign also evolves because I imagine that many men, namely the older generations but perhaps the younger ones alike, probably don't really get the difference between "helping out" and "sharing responsibility." After all, it seems that even the wife filmed above was ok with the husband merely sweeping the balcony every so often.

And of course, that's the other side of the battle. As long as women are accepting of this behavior and attitude, as long as women are ok with a little help here, a little help there, then the notion of shared responsibility will be lost and contained to a few reels of PSA's stocked away in a library of film.

But we're on the right path with this campaign and personally, I'm kind of digging SERNAM for making the right to a balanced and fair life for all, men and women, enough of a priority so as to spend some dollars on communication to the masses.

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That is AWESOME. I hadn't seen that, thanks for sharing.

I think I often forget that this is problem (anywhere, not just in Chile) because pretty much all our friends in Chile are married to or dating someone who is more "evolucionado" in that sense. In Seba and I's case, it's probably far close to 80/20 (80 him, 20 me) but that also has to do with our work situation, which is....special. But yeah, all of our friends' husbands do their fair share, and I think that's kind of obvious. What gringa is going to move all the way to Chile to marry a crappy non-helper?!?
The campaign's video is cool, but I think the actual drifter behind the change we are fortunately observing in the world is many women gaining economic independence, and as a result choosing whether they want to stand a caveman or not.

Men who don't share household work are simply abusing their power. It's just a milder shade of slavery. I hope the world get rid of this one too.
"What gringa is going to move all the way to Chile to marry a crappy non-helper"
Me, apparently. hahaha. of course now we're back here so nix the moving all the way to chile part. but i wouldn't say it's so much that he does nothing and i do everything. i think it's much more that both of us do very little, hence why i'm in the market for a house cleaner. which brings me to a separate note: don't drink the Chilean koolaid that chile's the only country where you can get help. now that i'm a bit older and all of my friends work v/s go to school i'd say the majority have some sort of house cleaning service. i was so happily surprised. sure it's more like 60 bucks for 3 hours v/s 30 for a full day but hey, it's something!
This is such an amazing POST!!! I rarely comment in on chile ex-pat blogs, I just like to check in now and again and see whats happening, but not only am I so excited about SERNAM´s campaign, but your words hit a strong cord with me! My chilean husband and I recently were arguing about men's role with children and in the home in chile because he was saying how it is much better than I portray it to people here in the US. So I hope that it is improving, like he says. GO CHILE!
I am always just irked that it is called "helping" which kind of implies that it is the women's job to begin with. I hope it keeps evolucionando towards real progress and equality. my case right now is weird because I am home at the moment with the kids, so I do a lot of the work, but once he gets home, it is more shared--even when I am working though, I am kind of the orchestrator, so the job of delegating is often mine-which I don't like and have been working on ;-) I guess, on the positive side, there is nothing my husband won't do--though I wish he had a love of cooking!
Anonymous, thanks! Hopefully your husband is one of the more "evolved" men and it sounds like he could very well be considering he notes that things are better today than in the past. Annje, I totally relate! I work at home so of course, since I'm physically here, I tend to do more of the menial things, like wipe down the counters (which takes all of 2 seconds so not sure I can count that?) I wonder what it will be like when I work outside the home, though I think that G will still be a partner-in-crime with me when it comes to domestic activities. We'll see I guess, but I have faith in the new generations. Plus I believe that shared responsibility is a great example to set for children.
Love this post!! Ro and I just moved into a new house so finally 100% of the responsibilities are ours. As far as bringing in money, right now Ro brings in 100% of it until I find a job. So, since he is at work all day, I do most of the house work, but he has his chores that are just his like taking the garbage out and setting it in the street on trash days, picking up the living room, and he clears the table after every meal. Since I am not working right now, I do kind of feel like its fair that I do most of the house work, but I know that when I start working he will take on a few more chores around the house. I love that commercial and I think it would be a really big step forward for Chile to share the household responsibilities. Of course, my MIL and grandma in law?? they think its the woman's job to take care of the house...
Great post! It’s about time some of those cavemen everywhere, not just in Chile, start getting the message. The first caveman in the video proudly announces that he "works". Doesn’t his partner/wife work also?

I am not going to toot my own horn but I do help around the house. I vacuum, wash dishes, do laundry, do grocery shopping. And when our daughter was a baby I did change diapers and did laundry, etc, etc.

Kudos to SERNAM. Play that video until it wears out!

Women have been shouldering most of the work for too long. Only honest men have the bxxxxx to acknowledge that.

Yes, I am a male, but a modern cave man.
Great post! It’s about time some of those cavemen everywhere, not just in Chile, start getting the message. The first caveman in the video proudly announces that he "works". Doesn’t his partner/wife work also?

I am not going to toot my own horn but I do help around the house. I vacuum, wash dishes, do laundry, do grocery shopping. And when our daughter was a baby I did change diapers and did laundry, etc, etc.

Kudos to SERNAM. Play that video until it wears out! Women have been shouldering most of the work for too long.

Yes, I am a male, husband and father. And modern cave man if you will.

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