The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent
Note from BW of Brazil: As most fans of Brazil’s most exuberant, most exciting time of the year already know, it’s Carnaval time! But in today’s post we bring you another in a rising tide that seeks to effectively bring an end to one of Brazilian Carnaval’s most recognizable symbols: the Globeleza. The role of the Globeleza is one that we’ve touched upon in numerous posts in the past, and for good reason. The near completely nude, hip shaking “mulata” represents all that black female activists stand against in the desired re-construction of the image of black Brazilian woman. The broadcasting of the Globeleza transmits images of the sexually available black woman to millions of men outside of Brazil as well as maintaining her in one of the two prominent roles that she is associated with inside of Brazil: sex or menial labor. As presented in a previous post, a number of black Brazilian women are fed up with this image in much the same way as the American women who saw the images for the first time. The piece presented below by two activists whose work has been featured on this blog on numerous other occasions, is not be taken as slight or a stab at the current woman who portrays the Globeleza, but rather a call to bring down the sexist, racist standards that keep women who look like her confined to such stereotypes.
The Mulata Globeleza: A Manifesto
By Stephanie Ribeiro and Djamila Ribeiro
The Globeleza Mulata is not a natural cultural event, but a performance that invades the imaginary and the Brazilian televisions during Carnival. A spectacular created by art director Hans Donner to be the symbol of the popular party, which exhibited for 13 years his companion Valéria Valenssa in the super-expositional function of “mulata”. We’re talking about a character that appeared in the nineties and still strictly follows the same script: it is always a black woman that dances the samba as a passista (Carnaval dancer), naked with her body painted with glitter, to the sound of the vignette displayed throughout the daily programming of Rede Globo (TV).
To start the debate on this character, we need to identify the problem contained in the term “mulata”. Besides being a word naturalized by Brazilian society, it is a captive presence in the vocabulary of the hosts, journalists and reporters from the Globo broadcasting. The word of is of Spanish origin comes from “mula” or “mulo” (the masculine and feminine of ‘mule’): that that is a hybrid originating from a cross between species. Mules are animals born crossing donkeys with mares or horses with donkeys. In another sense, they are the result of the mating of the animal considered noble (equus caballus) with the animal deemed second class (donkey). Therefore, it is a derogatory word indicating mestiçagem (racial mixture or crossbreeding), impurity; an improper mixing that should not exist.
Employed since the colonial period, the term was used to designate lighter skinned blacks, fruits of the rape of slaves by masters. Such a nomenclature has sexist and racist nature and was transferred to the Globeleza character, naturalized. The adjective “mulata” is a sad memory of the 354 years (1534-1888) of escravidão negra (black slavery) in Brazil.
The black woman exposed as Globeleza continues including a standard of an aesthetic selection near to that made by the masters choosing enslaved women that they wanted near. The slaves considered “beautiful” were chosen to work in the casa grande (big house/master’s house). Likewise, the future victims of harassment, intimidation and rape were selected. Black women subjected to the yoke “of the owners.” It was common for lighter-skinned slaves, with features closer to that of branquitude (whiteness) judged as beautiful would assume these posts of service. The bodies of the women were not seen as their own property, they would served only to be exploited in exhaustive menial jobs in addition to serving as a constant deposit of sexual abuse, humiliation, vexation and emotional violence.
Luiza Bairros has a very interesting phrase that explains very well the place that society gives to the black woman, “we carry the mark.” No matter where we are, the mark is the exotificization of our bodies and subordination. Since the colonial period, black women have been stereotyped as being “hot” naturally sensual, seducers of men. These classifications, seen through the eyes of the colonizer, romanticizes the fact that these women were as slaves and thus were raped and abused, in other words, her will did not exist in front of her “masters.”
Just look at how true this is: in 2015, Globo swapped the Globeleza Nayara Justino, elected by popular vote in the Fantástico news program, for one with lighter skin, the current Globeleza Érika Moura, chosen internally, as the first “would not have aligned herself to the proposal,” according to them. Reaffirming Eurocentric “taste” choosing the black woman fit to be exposed as a sexual object. In other words, guided by racism and sexism (in a roundabout way for some, for us, very clear) they selected which standards of black women they will exploit in their vignettes following a criteria of lighter skin, features considered finer and a slimmer, but voluptuous and luxurious body “tipo exportação” (of the exportation type). The black woman, in this position, again loses autonomy over herself and the place she should occupy comes to be defined by others.
An example of the stigmas that are placed on the bodies of black women and demonstrating how the imposition of the place we occupy is the case of the Venus Hottentot. Her original name is Sarah Baartman. Born in 1789 in the region of South Africa in the early 19th century she was taken to Europe. Sarah Baartman gave a body to racist theory. She was exhibited in cages, halls and arenas because of her anatomy that was considered “grotesque, barbaric, exotic”: voluminous buttocks and genitalia with large lips (a characteristic in women of her people, the Khoi-san). Her body was placed between the boundary of what would be an abnormal black woman and a normal white woman, the first considered wild.
Finally, the body of Baartman didn’t receive a proper burial. After death, her skeleton, genitals and brain were preserved and put on display in Paris at the Musée de l’Homme (Museu do Homen/Museum of Man). Even after her death she was managed and experienced as a specimen, a collection piece at the service of research and white European scientism. Only in 2002, at the request of Nelson Mandela, were her remains returned to South Africa. And for many, over 200 years later, she was not considered people.
Baartman’s story happened centuries ago, but this stigma still rests with us, black women. Currently we see an influential channel like Globo that, for nearly 30 years, has exposed naked black women at any time of day or night during Carnival period, refusing to represent us beyond that place of exploitation of our bodies in the rest of the whole year. How many black women do we see as actresses, hosts, reporters on the ranks of the big broadcasters? And when we see actresses, what are the roles they are playing? Rarely do see black women in the Globo grid hosting programs or being protagonists, but in the period of Carnaval, the station promotes “mulata hunts” to elect the new Globeleza, which only appears naked and at this time of year.
It is necessary to understand the reason one criticizes places like Globeleza. It’s not the nudity itself, nor by whom performs this role. It’s because of the confinement of black women to specific places. We have no problem with the sensuality, the problem is only confine us to these places denying our humanity, multiplicity and complexity. When we reduce humans only to certain roles and places, we are withdrawing our humanity and turning us into objects.
We are not protagonists of novelas (soap operas) – not the mocinhas (good girls) nor the villains, at the most maids who serve as mere setting, a prop (including apt to abuse) to the story of the white household. Just remember the last part of the great actress Zezé Motta on the station, where she was the maid Sebastiana in the novela Boogie Oogie. In contrast, some actresses like Taís Araujo and Camila Pitanga stand out, but we cannot pretend that this is not because they are young and black women with lighter skin. Women like Ruth de Souza are forgotten in an environment that values greats such as Fernanda Montenegro. This has nothing to do with talent, since both the first and second have versatility and plenty of technique, but rather the color of the skin of each and the opportunities they are given.
What will be the fate of the current black Brazilian actresses?
Or black girls who dream of studying theater and film?
Is there no place for them? If so, what is this place?
Perhaps the same of the older black actresses and Globelezas: disposal and oblivion when their bodies no longer serve. The naked truth is that Globeleza currently only reinforces a fatalist, cast, pre-set place, to the black woman a racist and sexist Brazilian society and this fixed place must be interrupted, broken, starting with the end of that symbol/character.
We don’t accept having our identity and humanity denied for those who still believe that our only place is connected to entertainment via the exploitation of our body. No longer do we accept our body as hostage of preference and at the will of the third party, to the delight of a male audience and an audience that deprives itself of hypocritical puritanism only during Carnival. No longer do we accept our body narrated from the point of view of Eurocentrism aesthetic, ethical, cultural, educational, historical and religious. No longer do we accept the shackles of the media on our body!
It’s necessary to exit from common sense, break the myth of racial democracy that camouflages the latent racism of this society. We can no longer accept that black women are relegated to the role of exoticization.
This Manifesto not only calls for the end of Globeleza as born of urgency and screams (there are too stuffy) for the opening and incorporation of new roles and spaces for black women in the Brazilian art scene. A new paradigm needs to dawn on the horizon of the black artists ever so talented, but still without the embrace of recognition.
What is missing for black women, as emphasized by the American Viola Davis in her speech after winning the Golden Globe, are opportunities. In Brazil, they need to go beyond ideology propagated by attractions like Sexo e as Negas and Globeleza (both from the same station, Globo). The question is about the end of this only place for women who are multiple.
The construction of new spaces has already been made in an arduous way in real society, in the poor classes, in organized collectives, in peripheral youth, student and workers where black women are the majority among the devotees of programs such as Prouni, or are already cotistas (quota students) in universities. However, this new place is not yet reflected in the media, at least not the most reliable and probable possible. It is evident that there is no interest in representing us as we are. We appear to be a nuisance and the few prominent black voices are made-up, interrupted or scripted to ease our reality and when they’re not, glamorizing the favela (slum).
We can no longer naturalize this concealed violence of culture. Culture is constructed, thus its values are also. It´s necessary to realize how much the reification of these subaltern and exotificized roles for black women denies opportunities for us to perform other roles and occupy other places. We do not want to star in the gringo imagery that comes in search of sex tourism.
Enough! It’s past time!
Source: Agora é que são elas