Showing some skin to reach Mexico's macho consumers isn't new. Sexy women sell everything from tools to beer. But using a Playboy model in ads to protect sea turtles has put one U.S. ecology group in the middle of a feminist flap.
Argentine model Dorismar lies in a provocative pose in one poster. The words "My man doesn't need turtle eggs" appear in large type above her, as three turtles scoot along a Mexican beach, "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 this month.
It features three posters with Dorismar (www.tortugamarina.com). They 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 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," the head of the federal government's Women's Institute, Patricia Espinosa, told 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 Guerrero state government, which have signed on in support of the $30,000 advertising campaign but provided none of the money, are caught in the middle.
The Federal Environmental Prosecutor's Office said that it had "not designed, financed nor distributed these posters in any manner," although its phone number appears on the posters to report violations. "The prosecutor's office considers it an obligation of all to protect the sea turtle, without 'offending the dignity of women.' "
Guerrero Environmental Minister Daniel Monroy Ojeda said state authorities could not prevent the privately financed campaign from going forward, while the state Women's Ministry suggested that it be "modified."
"Such campaigns do not need to be carried out utilizing the image of women as sexual objects and consumer goods," said the head of the ministry, Rosa Maria Gomez, in a statement.
Although turtles deposited an estimated 14 million golf-ball-size eggs on one beach in Oaxaca state last month, environmentalists insist that the aphrodisiac myth is a serious threat to the turtles and worthy of an edgy campaign.
"I was surprised at the reaction and I consider myself a feminist," said Fay Crevoshay, communications director for Wildcoast. "Being a model is not a career one should be ashamed of. What are we supposed to wear, burqas?"
Hundreds of thousands of the eggs are consumed annually, mostly by Mexican men 23 to 75 years old, she said.
In Mexico, the fight to save the sea turtles is akin to saving whales or baby seals in the United States. Music groups such as Mana and Los Tigres del Norte have joined the latest campaign.
The consumption of turtle meat and eggs nearly wiped out the green turtle in the 1990s, Crevoshay said. Tough laws to protect it have resulted in a rebound for that species. A different one, the leatherback, is endangered as well.
Homero Aridjis, president of Mexico's ecology-minded Group of 100, said some feminist groups are overreacting to the turtle campaign, which is, at heart, trying to get the attention of men who obviously have sex on their minds.
"I'm glad Dorismar agreed to cooperate, but next time I would prefer a Mexican actress," Aridjis said.