Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

“Your hair down there must be hard as that of your head.” Black university professor a victim of sexual harassment; bar owner “acted as if he were actually choosing a slave”


Sexual harrassment

Note from BW of Brazil: “Branca (white woman) for marriage, mulatas for fornication, negras (black women) for work.” Such goes the old Brazilian saying that has been mentioned a number of times on this blog. Why? Because in many ways the images laden in this saying continue to victimize Afro-Brazilian women. Recently a popular black actress, Sheron Menezes, was put on blast after she posted a photo of herself seated among the backsides of a bevy of brown-skinned women. The women were already participating in an event that many saw as a re-enforcement of a centuries old view of black women and one black’s woman’s recent experience highlights this. Is there any wonder that many are demanding policies to address the image of black Brazilian women (see here and here)?

USP professor denounces restaurant owner for racism and sexism

“Your hair down there must be hard as those of your head,” the owner of the Dueto Bar allegedly said to Adriana Alves.

USP professor was besieged by owner of Dueto Bar

by Silvia Nascimento and Isadora Otoni

Adriana Alves, geologist and professor at the University of São Paulo, claims to have been the victim of racism and sexism in the Dueto Bar on August 8. According to the Mundo Negro site, the teacher went out to celebrate her birthday with friends at the restaurant near USP, in the Butantã region of São Paulo. However, the birthday girl had to leave the place after suffering verbal aggressions from the owner.

Black university professor says she was a victim of sexual harassment at the Duet Bar in São Paulo

Black university professor says she was a victim of sexual harassment at the Dueto Bar in São Paulo

“It’s a bar frequented mostly by graduate students and professors from USP. It was my favorite bar, I went there almost weekly for four years,” said Adriana to Mundo Negro. During the night of celebration, the professor went to the sidewalk of the restaurant to smoke and chat with friends, when for the first time, the Dutch owner named Peter walked up to talk.

Adriana reported that Peter tried to approach: “He started asking if my teeth were real, because they are so white, I laughed and said yes. We tried to change the subject of conversation when he asked me if I would like to have breakfast with him the next day.” Peter, however, is married and when the professor asked him about his wife, he replied “that she had nothing to do with that.” To get away from him, Adriana went to the bathroom, but when she returned she was questioned again, this time about her waxing.

To end the embarrassment, the birthday girl said she had no hair. So the bar owner said, “I bet you have and down there it must be hard as those of your head.” Adriana’s colleagues present at the restaurant hadn’t noticed the harassment, then Peter even asked “when was the last time she had came really good,” before the professor left.

“I got home and started to cry. I thought, yes, that the motivation was racial. There are several complaints on the restaurant’s website, but all for rudeness. Then he found himself in the right to speak that way to me, and it’s because I’m black and we know very well how black woman figure in Brazilian imagination,” stated Adriana to Mundo Negro. After the episode, the geologist contacted the Delegacia de Defesa da Mulher (Women’s Defense Department of the Police).

In the first attempt to establish an investigation, the case was rejected because it was a crime of racism, which should be investigated by a regular police department. Only on November 14 did she manage to make a police report at the 3ª Delegacia de Defesa da Mulher (3rd Precinct of the Defense of Women).  “The owner of the restaurant not only harassed her, but made a relative association with her hair, which obviously has a prejudiced connotation,” explained Daniel Oliveira, Centro de Estudos das Relações de Trabalho e Desigualdades (CEERT or Center for the Study of Labor Relations and Inequalities) to the site.

He acted as if he was choosing a slave, says USP professor

According to Adriana Alves, restaurant owner allegedly said that her “hair down there must be hard as those of your head.”

by Isadora Otoni

The geologist and professor at USP Adriana Alves alleged that she was a victim of racism and sexism in the Dueto Bar, close to the university, on the 8th of August. Adriana says it was not the first time she experienced a similar situation of “racist bias”. Check out the interview below.

When the owner of the bar made ​​the racist comment, were you alone?

No, I was with a Chilean friend who did not understand anything at all, and a Brazilian friend.

And did the Brazilian friend understand the situation?

I think so. Pedro kept looking at my face waiting for an indication of what he should do. But I was just frozen.

After you reported the owner of the bar, how did your friends react?

It’s enough for people to stop going to the bar, a boycott. What I keep wondering…I don’t know, I never told people “boycott the bar” or anything, it’s an initiative that they started. But all my close friends, who know how much I liked the bar, had the same reaction.

Where do you think the sexist and racist behavior of the bar owner, who is Dutch, comes from?

I think it’s an objectifying behavior of the Brazilian women in general. What we spread of the Brazilian woman abroad is Carnival, is naked women, and usually she has some resemblance to me. All told, in fact, because he is a nasty person, according to rumors that surfaced afterward. But he went too far this time.

Had you been through similar situations before?

Yes. For example, a guy called me to fazer um programa (do a program or turn a trick) at the bus stop once. Then I said: “I’m not a prostitute.” And he said: “I don’t know why you’re angry, a black woman is for fucking, not marrying.” Racist bias, this was the second time. He acted as if he were actually choosing a slave, you know? First he looked at my teeth, asked if I wax or not because it was important for him to know, and continued. And when I paid him no attention, he said: “You have hair and those down there must be as hard as those of your head.”

Depiction of black women on a slave auction block

Depiction of black women on a slave auction block

When he said this, what was your reaction?

I went outside the bar, the bill was already paid to leave, and Pedro, my friend said he needed to go smoke a cigarette. So we went with him to smoke a cigarette at the door of the bar, because it was still open, but the last question that the owner asked was when was, “the last time I came real good.” At that time I said: “Guys, I need to leave.” Then everybody noticed that my silence was not connivance or approval, it was embarrassment. So much so that he didn’t speak even say good night. He realized, I think, that he crossed the line, got into his car and left screeching.

Did you manage to make the police report, is the case is being investigated?

It is being investigated. This happened on a Thursday and I came home crying thinking about what I had done wrong to imply that he could talk to me that way. I stayed the whole weekend thinking, retracing my actions, my posture, to reach the conclusion that I hadn’t done anything wrong, and as an owner of an establishment, he had no right. On Monday I did the BO. I mean, I went to the Women’s Defense police station, the police chief found that it wasn’t a case of aggression against a woman, but the BO was referred to a regular station. My lawyer now wants to take a step back, asked to initiate the investigation at the police station department for woman, then the first BO didn’t go forward, and the investigation will be initiated in the women’s (defense) police station. But the BO date is August 13, if I’m not mistaken.

Do you expect compensation and public apology?

A public retraction, yes. On indemnification my lawyer told me a very serious thing. I told him I did not want financial compensation, nothing like that, I just want him to acknowledge that he was wrong and that as a service provider he does not have that right. My lawyer, who is from an NGO, said: “Adriana, people like this only learn when it hurts the pocket. Even if you take it and donate it to an NGO, to donate to whatever you want it to be.” But I don’t know yet. In fact, I didn’t want this to involve money so that people don’t think that there is some selfish bias. I don’t need this, because I don’t strike against anyone. If I were indemnified, I would donate the money in full.

Source: Revista Fórum (1), Revista Fórum (2), Mundo Negro

3 comments on ““Your hair down there must be hard as that of your head.” Black university professor a victim of sexual harassment; bar owner “acted as if he were actually choosing a slave”

  1. JNas
    December 2, 2013

    was it the restaurant owner or the man at the bus stop that said “your hair must be as hard down there…” you have this twice…

    • JNas
      December 2, 2013

      Oh I’m sorry. I understand now. =)

  2. palmeirense1984
    December 5, 2013

    Luckily the bar has clarified the situation and Peter Wasch apparently wasn’t an owner of the bar, just the ex-husband of the owner. Still doesn’t make the situation any less dreadful however I think it’s only fair to note that the business itself is trying to make amends of the situation….

    http://www.duetobar.com.br/nota-de-esclarecimento.html

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This entry was posted on December 1, 2013 by in São Paulo, slavery and tagged , , , , , .
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