On the Beijng Subway 1: Conservative vs. "Kaifang"

The topic of "openness" is one that I've brought up before, in China it is overwhelmingly understood that Chinese are "traditional" and "conservative" while all foreigners are "kaifang" (ie open) when it comes to choices about personal life, sex, etc. This stereotype is so simple, but fits into the image Chinese want to have of themselves. A stereotype usually has some truth to it and while maybe it made sense during (or up to) the mid 80s, in today's China (as well as today's conservative Christian movement in the US) this stereotype is somewhat flipped on its head.

Going beyond this simple stereotype, though, its interesting to see how societal standards in this area differ in the two countries and it was never so striking for me than when I entered a Beijing subway car the other night after a long day of work to be struck by new ads that were all over the place. The ads? Along the top section were ads for "Pigeon Manual Breast Pumps" (including a picture) and near the doors were ads for "Pigeon Disposable Breast Pads". As someone whose spent much of his life in the US, this seemed shocking to me, this is not the kind of thing that would be put in such a public place in the US. This is not the kind of thing that would even be advertised in the US.

This wasn't the most shocking example of advertising I've seen in China, though. The worst was in front of a Watson's drug store in Shenzhen, located in a mall with a KFC to the left and a McDonald's to the right, regularly full of middle and high school students. The offending "ad" in this case was a large (4 ft high or so) blow up cartoonish version of a Jissbon (by the way, what a great name) condom. I still truly regret not taking a picture of that.

Another example is on the Sina sports homepage, there is a regular section called "Sexy Border" (among others) with pictures that would make those looking for sports news during the work day blush. We're talking straight out of the Victoria's Secret catalogue/SI Swimsuit issue or worse.

Yet another example of how US society is prudish (or is it just that Chinese society is more open than they'd like to admit)?

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