Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Just STOP sexually objectifying Brazilian women!

When I first met my husband I knew almost nothing about Brazil.  I knew that Brazil was in South America, that they spoke Portuguese there (NOT Spanish!!), and that they were good at soccer.  That was it.  We met in Europe and there everybody thought that they knew something about Brazil. I was constantly hearing how Brazilian women were the most beautiful women in the world (the more insecure me at that time wondered why my husband was with me then?), I heard about Samba, and carnival.  

My husband, though, painted a very different picture.  He told me of growing up in a poor neighborhood where  he saw horrific violent acts as a young child, he told me of his overworked father, spiritual-minded mother, and a crazy family that underwent many humorous events.  I heard quirky, funny stories of antics that he got up to with his childhood friends.  As someone who grew up poor in the states and also had an insane family, I felt like we had more in common than we had differences.  

I share that to point out how a living, breathing Brazilian  differs from the stereotype.  Everywhere we went in Europe he was asked if he played soccer or liked samba and caipirinhas (no, he detests it, and only if they're free).   As a Brazilian male he had it freaking EASY. 

My Brazilian female friends paint a very different picture when it comes to their time abroad.  I've had friends who have been accused of prostitution, I've had friends and family who have had their visas denied due to these same stereotypes, I've had friends who have been sexually harassed and I have heard of more stories than I can count of foreigners coming to Brazil and expecting to get laid (and many times hitting on a woman in front of her husband because of this very attitude). This has got to stop. 

Exoticizing Brazilians

Both North America and Europe are very guilty of exoticizing female Brazilians. When foreigners come to Brazil they tend to stay in a little bubble that is close to the nicer beaches in Rio de Janeiro. 

 Oh, they might visit a favela to see how them poor people live (seriously, who does that?!?) and in the process probably hand over some money to one of the local drug dealers to ensure their safety while there (again, who does that?!?).  They'll sip their caipirinhas on the beach watching women in string bikinis and eating lots of delicious fresh fruit and think that life in Brazil must be grand. They might even meet a local girl and go back to their home countries raving about her beauty and cute accent. 

All of that, though, is just a fantasy sold to tourist and so many people swallow it whole.  They really seem to believe that Brazilians sit mostly naked, drinking, having sex, and having a good time.  This is part of exoticizing a culture.  A country made up of almost 200 million people does not function like that, trust me. 
But this stereotype just won't die and it has some pretty dangerous consequences.  Eventually, people come to Brazil expecting to get laid. They feel that Brazilians are promiscuous and that clearly they're asking for it what with wearing the tiny bikinis and all. This leads to a higher rate of Brazilian females getting sexually harassed while abroad. This leads to mass discrimination against Brazilian women because apparently they're all prostitutes, duh! 

Most recently, it has lead to these appalling T-shirts:

Adidas Shirts for the World Cup 2014
So basically, you get to come to Brazil to watch some soccer and get laid.  It's my God-given right as a soccer fan! I paid for the ticket, right? Can no one see the inherent problem here?  

Thankfully, these horrible shirts go removed after only one day.  What upsets me (A LOT) is the comments on that article are just like "eh, what's the problem? Brazilian women wear tiny bikinis, we all KNOW that!".  Don't you get it? That's not the problem here.  Yes, Brazilian women wear small bikinis.  Brazilian men wear small speedos too, so what?  

The problem is, is the expectation that you come to Brazil, you get laid. The problem is when you assume that a land of 200 million people are all the same and that it's filled with beautiful women and soccer players that have sex and party all the time.  The problem is when you have celebrities coming here and sleeping with women and then you constantly have to hear it about it afterwards

Brazil is a huge country and incredibly diverse in terms of religion (guess what, a lot of people here believe in abstinence!), skin color, sport of choice (believe it or not everyone here doesn't play soccer), political views, and thoughts on parties.  Pointing to Brazilians wearing small bikinis as a reason for sexually objectifying them is stupid.  It's the same logic that leads to someone saying a women wearing a low cut blouse wants to be sexually harassed.  

But, but, but... Carnival! 

What about carnival and all the half naked women there?  Isn't that normal in Brazil?  Aren't Brazilians just more free sexually and we shouldn't force our Puritan ways on them?  Well, first off. The Adidas shirts were made in the US and it was the Brazilians who were pretty upset about them and got them removed.  Secondly, just because some people choose to wear less clothes at carnival doesn't mean that everyone does. Third, Brazil is really, really HOT so, of course, people wear less clothes than if you live in Norway..
But the biggest thing, is that even if (and when) sexism and sexual objectification occurs in a country, it does NOT give you a free pass to continue that and exoticize a culture and sexually objectify women.  Yes, there are some horrible people here in Brazil and some horrible TV shows.  Faustao has got to be the WORST.  Basically, it's an old white guy that talks about crap while a bunch of scantily dress women dance in the background.  He brings on other white guys to talk to him and even when there are women on the show I've seen him bring on some random male and have him start massaging his guest (even when she was clearly VERY uncomfortable).  Yes, Faustao is the slime of the Earth when it comes to sexism. 

Faustao, working on being the worst show on TV
That being said, that does NOT make it OK for YOU to sexually objectify women.  It's not cute when you put sexual innuendos on shirts implying that going to Brazil means that you're going to get to have sex with lots of beautiful women.  

Look, the US has a lot of crappy things too.  Do you want all foreigners to assume that if you go to the states you can buy a gun and start shooting all black people?  Yeah, I didn't think so.  Do you want Brazilians to go to Germany and ask where is all the dirty porn or go to Italy looking for the Godfather? Maybe we can distribute this helpful map?

If that's a no, then it's really simple. STOP SEXUALIZING BRAZILIAN WOMEN.  They are normal women just like you'd find in anywhere in the world.  Some are pretty and some are not, some are young and  some are old, some are tall and some are short, some are fat and some are thin.  But ALL of them deserve your respect.  All of them are humans, not sexual objects.  So if you come to the world cup this summer please keep in mind that it's not Brazil's job to make sure that you get laid.  


  1. I love your post, as usual. I am Spanish and fully understand the stereotypes you are talking about
    (....of course as I write this I am wearing my flamenco dress, waiting for my husband -. who is a bullfighter - to come home tonight. Sorry - I had to vent...)
    I can't say I did not have that Brazilian streotype in mind, until my oldest son ended up in university in the US where his best friends (men and women) were from Brazil and my opinion changed, of course for the better.
    You are making such important points in your post. It should be published in all in-flight airline magazines to Brazil before and during the world cup.

  2. I love your post and thank you for it. I understand the frustration you feel, but in a different way. My Family comes from Ghana, West Africa and there is nothing more frustrating then to see how the rest of the world views "Africa". Africa is a continent, but the way it is spoken about in the news all around the world, you would think it was a large country. Africa is also viewed as one large safari with a bunch of malnutritioned children running around controlled by one large corrupt government. .

  3. I couldn't have said this better myself! It's baffling to me how pervasive this stereotype is, even among seemingly intelligent people. As a Mexican, I used to be annoyed that Brazil was the only Latin country that had a positive image abroad (everywhere else, Latin America equals poverty and drugs), but this is a perfect example of how seemingly positive stereotypes are still harmful.