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Comparative culture

American woman critiques art in a Spanish bar

Spring of 2001 —

I was in a small place in Seville when three Americans came in — a young woman and her parents, by the look of them.

Above the only available table hung a large, rather artless drawing of a semi-nude woman.

"Gross," the American girl said, standing in front of it.

It was, quite simply the depiction of a woman lying on her belly with a sheet playing over her. For the American girl, it was disgusting, and her duty to say so.

She didn't say any more. But she had said a lot. I remembered America.

For the American women, there's a fine line between acceptable masculine expression and "gross." The presumption is common that public appreciation of a woman's body is disrespectful and even abusive.

The Spanish do not equate masculinity with oppression. If a man enjoys the look of a woman, that's considered natural.