The female body has being a target of sexualisation around the globe since forever, especially in media. Half a decade ago, it was not difficult to find even food advertisments objectifying women in an extreme way.
Even though things have changed, does it really mean that all women worldwide have stopped being treated as an object, existing only to satisfy men’s desire? Well, ask anyone outside of Brazil what they know about the country and they will probably tell you three things: soccer, “hot women” and carnivals. Two of those consequently have a lot to do with the over-sexualisation of Brazilian females, but why do these things always come in mind?
Firstly, the clothes that people wear here could be considered “provocative” to some outsiders. But, it is important to keep in mind that Brazil is a tropical country and, by consequence, the temperature is very high. In this way, seeing women wearing clothes considered “short” is not uncommon, because we have to dress according to the climate. It is not viable to use jeans all the time. So, keep this in mind: a short skirt is not an invitation, especially if it is used due to geographical reasons.
Secondly, the carnival is celebrated for a few days at the beginning of the year (it can happen in February or March), so it is important to understand that this celebration does not happen all the time. And another significant point: those famous carnival vestments are not used by regular women, but by the specific dancers that are present on the parades (the suit is used to make apparent the dance moves). Even if you consider that they are not wearing “respectable clothes”, just be aware that they are only doing their job, which is an iconic part of the carnival tradition.
In 2019, the current Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro caused a lot of controversy when he encouraged tourists to come to Brazil to “have sexual relations with the women”. It should be expected that a leader (especially one that declares himself as a conservative and patriotic) should defend his country of these abusive practices that dehumanize women, so it is extremely disappointing to see someone with such power reinforcing sexism.
Brazil is well-known for its miscegenation: the mix of European, African and Indigenous people. However, the history is not as romantic as it may seem, since the majority of interracial relations was rape committed by the colonizers against the native and enslaved women. Encouraging foreigners (purposely white European/North-American men) to sexually exploit Brazilian females, returns to the colonial narrative and strengthens rape culture, implying that we, even after proclaiming our independence as a country, have to be subservient to them.
Fortunately, the State Governments released campaigns in order to showcase local tourism as it is and fighting against the view that female citizens’ bodies belong to anyone other than themselves. This contradicts Bolsonaro’s discourse that reduced women solely to their sexual potential. The campaign was clear: “this state is available for the tourists; the women from this state are not”.
In September 2020, the nail polish brand OPI faced backlash for a similar reason. The selling of a product named “Kiss me, I’m Brazilian” reinforced negative stereotypes, such that was deemed acceptable to advance on us because we are “warm people” or because Brazilian women are “easy”. After a petition against the name of this nail polish, OPI opted for removing it from its catalogue.
It is problematic how these kinds of ideas pass through the marketing team as something acceptable. This narrative of the “spicy” and “exotic” woman does not affect only the Brazilians, but other women from Latin America as well. It is not ethical to treat women only as a fount of desire, especially when you are taking advantage of their social-economic situations or of a cultural matter. Our bodies do not exist to be exploited by the low-key racist media that embrace us solely as an attractive product targeted to male audiences from “developed” nations.Overall, it is very important to discuss how the offensive assumptions against women from Brazil are not viewed as problematic to people from other countries. We deserve respect and, over all, to be treated like the hard-working people we are, not like a piece of meat.