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In Latin America, new ads aim to steer men away from machismo

A growing number of men throughout Latin America are bucking traditional 'machismo' roles as a wave of anti-machismo ads and campaigns attempt to redefine what it means to be Latino.

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That "ongoing ferment" is fueling, and being fueled by, rising female participation in politics and labor as the evolving role of men frees up opportunities for women.

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Rising female participation in labor, politics

Four decades ago, many men told Mexico City car dealer Antonia Suaste that they wouldn't buy from a woman. Today, she says, more men are willing to trust that a saleswoman knows her cars. "There's less machismo, although it hasn't disappeared," she says.

Within the past five years, Argentina, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Chile, and Costa Rica have all elected female presidents. Women doubled their presence to 19 percent in the region's legislatures between 1990 and 2009, according to the United Nations. And in 2009, women took home more than a quarter of all university diplomas awarded in the typically male-dominated fields of engineering, manufacturing, and construction in Brazil, Argentina, Panama, and Uruguay.

Big players are stepping up to keep that trend moving. Chile's National Mining Society said in January that increased hiring of women is a top priority. (Four percent of miners in Chile are female.)

New television shows 'promote distinct view'

As machismo comes under attack in popular culture, shows are cropping up with themes that challenge stereotypes. "The Weaker Sex" ("El Sexo Débil") a telenovela launched this month about macho men abandoned by their women, has the slogan: "As long as we remain macho, we'll always be the weaker sex."

Epigmenio Ibarra, general producer of "The Weaker Sex" and founder of Argos Comunicación, says there are still not enough outlets for the growing number of producers trying to fight male chauvinism. "We think it's urgent to promote a distinct view because this country has machismo as a second skin," he says.

To be sure, police in the region are rarely trained to take domestic violence seriously, wage disparities linger, and ads for office jobs still specify "good-looking young women, no experience necessary."

But after decades of battling sexism, says Professor Gutmann, Latin America may now actually be ahead of the United States. "Much of Latin America has been making tremendous strides," he says.


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