Version en español: ¿Y crees que soy sexy?
I believe Penelope Cruz is sexy (ever seen her in Bigas Luna’s Jamón Jamón?). I guess Justin Timberlake is sexy (he is the very reason we got “sexy” back, right?). My wife, also, is without any doubt super sexy (no need to comment on this one).
With this very specific idea of “sexiness” in mind, I was quite surprised to read that also the “water challenge” has become a sexy cause.
Appalled by such a definition, I checked “sexy” on my faithful Thesaurus, to find adjectives such as “arousing” and “libidinous”. While this is quite in line with what I had in mind (after a quick search in google, I had to erase all the cookies in order not to be questioned by my super sexy wife), I struggled internally to associate “water and sanitation” with arousing endeavors.
How and why did we start talking about water and sanitation as a “sexy” sector? Where did the need to do so come from? Has development become an industry that needs to sell “sexy” products to be appealing? To whom? To the “donors”? If so: has sexiness and PRs overridden substance? Just think about it for a minute.
The debate on our sector’s “sexiness” got quite heated back in 2011, with an interesting back and forth centered on the question: Is the water sector sexy enough? The articles were quite interesting and the points about resources allocations and sector “competition” worth debating. However, the use of the adjective “sexy” somehow upset me.
After much deliberation, about three year ago I move to Guyana, known as “the land of many waters.” Despite tremendous improvements, only 50% of the “sexy” water from the supply network is treated and about 20 % of the country population still lacks access to improved sanitation. On a larger scale: this very sexy water, when stagnant and contaminated, becomes the perfect breeding ground for the mosquito Culex, a vector of well-known as well as neglected diseases, which claim millions of life every year. Not to talk about the million children dying every year because of diarrhea.
Does this sound “arousing” to you? “Libidinous”? Does it in any way associate with sweet Penelope? If so, you got to be twisted. To me, it sounds very real. Painful to read and difficult to accept. What perverse mechanism made the whole thing “sexy” in the first place? I guess that nobody on the other side of the development equation (i.e. the beneficiaries) would define it as such. Have we forgotten the essence of development?
As if answering this plea, more recently people have started talking “real”, in a more assertive way, about our sector. Talking about crap, seriously. About shit (yes, I said it!) and the need to have proper sanitation. Even famous actors went on toilet strikes. The language probably sounds harsher, but it is certainly more genuine. It somehow provides legitimacy and substance to the work we do.
Or maybe, I have just been fooled to believe that talking about shit is just sexier?! This might be the case indeed. With all my naivety and idealism, I am, after all, sitting on the side of the development equation that needs to be charmed and seduced. Sexed-up. And if this is the case, could the whole charade be necessary? And if so, isn’t it so very subtlety tragic?
With this question in mind, if you’d excuse me, I will allow myself drinking what was sold to me as the sexiest sparkling water I will ever taste. Oh boy! Nobody is immune.
Photo credits: By Sexy_Mouth.jpg: Nyki m derivative work: H005 (Sexy_Mouth.jpg) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons