Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

Black women activists: The debate over the ‘Sexo e as negas’ series must continue; present open letter to congressman who voiced support of series


Vitor T's depiction of black women activists reactions to recent comments by Congressman Jean Wyllys supporting 'Sexo e as negas'. Caption reads: "My novela (soap opera)"

Vitor T’s depiction of black women activists reactions to recent comments by Congressman Jean Wyllys supporting ‘Sexo e as negas’. Caption reads: “My novela (soap opera)”

Note from BW of Brazil: It’s been a little while since we’ve approached the topic of the ongoing television  series entitled Sexo e as negas. And while it is true that the blog has focused on a number of topics and events in the past several weeks, the debate over this program continues and the divide over the TV program has produced a number of intriguing developments over the past several weeks. We will delve into these developments with more depth in coming posts. Suffice it to say that, the at stake here is much more than simply another series produced by Brazil’s most popular television network. Indeed, the debate and division over this program reveals much about politics, Brazil’s black community and how the powerful are able to use their influence to control those with no power while  maintaining an image of the benevolent boss (master) who truly cares for his workers (slaves). 

Jarid Arraes

Jarid Arraes

We still need to debate about Sexo e as negas

By Jarid Arraes

In recent days, an event has caused much uneasiness: various black artists, actors and personalities have publicly positioned themselves in defense of the show Sexo e as negas, among these people there is even Congressman Jean Wyllys. It’s true that debates like this, although in disagreement with the activists, are important and are part of democracy and activism as much as it causes discomfort to both sides. But a deeper analysis of this event is necessary.

There are, however, some flaws in favorable basis for Sexo e as negas demonstrated by these people. In his comments made in the video, Jean, who is considered one of the greatest representatives of social movements in Brazil, seems to have said that the Movimento Negro (black movement) criticized the series just because of its title, without having watched the episodes. But the story is not quite like this; along with the title, the announcement of the series also brought its synopsis and proposal that were received with discomfort by many black women, be they activists or not. The title in itself already sounds somewhat stereotypical, the cliché of a sexual representation of black women aired by Rede Globo. And after the first few episodes of the series, criticism of the program were not only maintained but also intensified.

Congressman Jean Wyllys recently recorded a video expressing his support of the program "Sexo e as negas"

Congressman Jean Wyllys recently recorded a video expressing his support of the program “Sexo e as negas”

Resorting to the renunciation of a very popular myth that the criticisms are nothing more than an attempt of feminists to “censor”, I quote a text published by a compadre from Fórum, the intellectual and activist Dennis de Oliveira. In his article published in the Quilombo column, Dennis examines an episode of Sexo e as negas that addresses the racial theme. It is evident that the problems go far beyond the range of its title – racism is tackled in an irresponsible and sexist way, putting black against black, and, finally, making the very serious issue of racial discrimination be settled in bed, where the black woman who was discriminated against forgives a black man in a sex scene.

As activists, we have nothing against sex; instead, we strive for the sexual emancipation of black women, white, Indian and any other color or ethnicity and culture of women. Except that this emancipation implies the breaking of paradigms and the questioning of crystallized roles because there is no choice when there are no alternatives. Many centuries ago the black Brazilian woman heard that her sexual role is that of the mulata, the Globeleza and a figure that doesn’t manage a relationship within standards of monogamy. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen because our society cultivates libertarian values, but because the black woman is represented as the “cor do pecado” (color of sin), hyper-sexualized and more provocative than white women. The very term Da Cor do Pecado is the title of one of the novelas that has already aired on Globo: one of the few times that a black woman was the protagonist of something by the network.

It also bothers me the perception that a person is infallible, whom we must blindly thank for giving us some space (1). This is not a healthy mentality because it demonstrates a relationship of dependency. The danger in this is settling for crumbs for fear of losing even that pious little piece of bread. Relationships of fear are not acceptable, especially when dealing with social movements and activism, where there is no place for resignation.

The truth is that the debate does need to happen. But that does not mean that each side must present their opinions, then establishing a silence where all agree to disagree. Debating something means providing means for the subject to be reviewed and reconsidered without the parties being stigmatized. Being part of the praxis of social movements, the constant struggle is in order that the society advance and this seems to have been forgotten by those who accuse the movement of seeking to censor the Sexo e as negas series. Censorship is something quite different from verbalized discomfort, even more so from people who are directly abused by racist and sexist standards of television.

Thus, I consider primary that scripts, titles, scenes and dialogues be questioned and debated, in order that racism and sexism present there can be examined and understood. We want that prejudice is denaturalized, that people can see what is discriminatory and understand that it is possible to produce quality content without resorting to these age-old stereotypes. The whole country would gain with more black protagonists: black women depicted as intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, with a sexual repertoire beyond the cliches of the hot “mulata”, giving to these black women the opportunity to be sexually well resolved without being reduced to the sexual factor. After all, women are much more than their sex lives – sex should never define the role of a woman in the world.

We have, in fact, many questions. But people need to be willing to listen to us, without that closing us down before they even listen to the arguments and historical data we have to show. This is not an invention; hostility towards black women has secular roots in Brazil. Anyone can easily search for and read (things) in this respect – only in this column, you can find dozens of short and accessible texts on sexual and racial stereotypes. The fact is that one doesn’t end up with racism receding when the shoe begins to tighten. If the shoe tightens the toes of even the most progressive, maybe it’s time to take off the shoes. Ceasing from reproducing racism is uncomfortable, but it is with important discomforts that awakens the consciousness.

Note from BW of Brazil: In reference to Congressman Jean Wyllys from the article above, we present an open letter to the congressman written by the Pretas Candangas, a black women’s collective from the nation’s capital. 

Open letter to Deputado (Congressman) Jean Wyllys

Open letter to Deputado (Congressman) Jean Wyllys

Open letter to Deputado (Congressman) Jean Wyllys

Dear Deputado Jean Wyllys,

This letter is motivated by your position on the show Sexo e as negas of Rede Globo (TV).

First of all, we would like to express our extreme disappointment with your positioning of little solidarity referring to “sectors of the black movement,” that we interpret here as especially black women with the words “without discernment”.

We do not understand at what time you rebelled with this dishonest, low and inhuman repetition of excluding standards and that wants to put us in the place we are always put: the hot mulata available for sex, it reveals a lack of discernment.

Could it be that this almost “natural” association that made with women, especially black women, a lack of reasoning and development come to by one of the few parliamentarians in whom we felt some confidence? This attitude toward black women disappointed and deeply troubled us.

Could it be, Jean, to guarantee employment of black actresses and actors in roles that in no way change the standard and the representation of black bodies on television is a motive of uncritical appreciation?

It is certain that black people that survive in the arts in our country need jobs, opportunities and have to eat. But it’s certain still that we know that there are a thousand other ways to ensure such access. Here we have spaces for recognition and belonging such as the Bando de Teatro Olodum (Olodum Theater Band), who reveals to us year after year, huge technical capacity of artists, combined with a strong discourse of empowerment of black people. This indeed, it is motive of praise.

It is unfortunate that we have, once again, to listen and echo the teachings of Bantu Steve Biko that “we are on our own.” If it is true that we will not find spaces of solidarity among white women, or among black men, what do we have left?

What drives you to position yourself in such a forceful, aggressive way with the least generosity in the middle of the week of Black Consciousness?

To have any chance that we continue believing that we can have as allies men like you, that even within the entire screen of exclusion, still making use of the privilege of being men, we would ask an urgent and more than necessary retraction. So that we learn from the differences, but so that they do not violate us.

The power to determine what attacks black women, is, and always will be black women.

That’s all for the moment

Pretas Candangas

Source: Portal Fórum, Pretas Candangas

Note

1. A reference to the creator of Sexo e as negas, Miguel Falabella

One comment on “Black women activists: The debate over the ‘Sexo e as negas’ series must continue; present open letter to congressman who voiced support of series

  1. bamabrasileira
    December 4, 2014

    I am so happy to see the collective effort of those who oppose this show in flexing their collective muscle. It is SO easy in Brazil (as in the rest of the world) for those who are not being oppressed in any way, to try to de-legitimize the opinions of those who are being oppressed in some way. I am happy to see the Black people of Brazil begin to force the public dialogue about how racism manifests in this country. The show is an excellent aid in this discussion. I am also happy to see the involvement of political figures in this issue. It will be very interesting to see how this show – and the backlash to it – will change the Black presence in the media here. I suspect that the white supremacist media will have trouble imagining black people outside of their deeply ingrained stereotypes. However, over time, I believe more positive portrayals of Blacks in the media will occur.

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This entry was posted on December 4, 2014 by in Globo Network and tagged , , , , , , , .
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