Thursday afternoon, winter exam period. I thought going for pizza was a good idea: great fuel for the brain, possibly one of the best revision breaks for a Glasgow Uni student. And then I saw it, lying behind my pepper mill: Paesano’s dessert menu. As soon as I picked it up, something very unusual happened: how the hell did I jump back into the forties?
In front of my eyes appeared the image of a highly sexualised pin-up model: big breasts, thigh highs and all that stereotypical stuff – highly boring, no need for a detailed description really. On top of her high heels, she is standing on one leg, showing off some impressive balancing skills that would cause some jealousy even among flamingos, let alone other human beings. Why is she smiling? But most importantly, what is she even doing there, on a dessert menu?
I know this is the season to be jolly, but can we tolerate this without even vocalising a tiny bit of loathing? Let’s analyse this menu a bit more thoroughly. Paesano’s pizza menu is plain, with blue text on a white background. And so is the dessert menu, but with the "highly valuable" addition of a sexy pin-up model. Of course, women have historically always been associated with sweetness, almost as if their beautiful bodies constituted a sweet treat for the male gaze; unsurprisingly, the image of the pin-up model fits perfectly within western beauty standards. Mr Paesano, did you really need that image on your dessert menu? Call me prosaic, but I think that an ice-cream illustration would have worked just fine. And, it is worth asking: is this menu setting unrealistic expectations of women’s bodies and "feminine" behaviours, somehow affecting Paesano’s staff too? How dare women keep from looking sexy and happy while working in one of the most fast-paced restaurants in town!
This, as degrading as it is, is not even the worst bit about this menu: the bottom part of it reads “Tart of the day. Ask server for details”. Please, Paesano, tell us you’re not trying to be funny, because you’re not. Words, associated with images, enrich themselves with new meanings: you don’t need a degree in Media and Communication Studies to know that. And words are used not without reason to exercise and reproduce oppression, in many different ways. Ladies and gentlemen, here I present you with a practical example of what a sexist menu looks like.
Will this keep me from choosing Paesano in my next exam-time pizza raid? Most definitely. Am I expecting to change your eating out habits? Of course not. But I really think we should use this as an opportunity to ask ourselves: why don’t we start questioning a bit more what we see and consume? Happy New Year everyone - it’s already 2019 and we are still fighting the same old crap we were at the time when pin-up models were actually a thing.
(Backstory: I obviously sent them an email to present my displeasure on the 8th of December, and it has been kindly ignored by Paesano’s staff.)