Note from BW of Brazil: So what else is new here? Before addressing this latest controversy, allow me to refer to a comment posted on a previous article on a similar topic (black woman used to represent a reminder of Brazil’s slavery era) back on April 16th. Here is the comment posted by that reader:
“I understand your point. But this is a bit hard. If the picture was of a blond eye white woman, wouldn’t you complain it does not represent the Brazilian population? Wouldn’t that be considered another obsession with whiteness?”
This comment, in fact, is a legitimate question but it makes the issue a little simpler than it appears. Here’s why. It is true that one could argue that using a photo of a blond, white woman to represent Brazilian maids could be considered exclusionary considering that the majority of maids in Brazil are in fact black. But here’s the point. Brazilian media advertisers have a long track record of presenting Afro-Brazilian women in only a handful of roles. They is either the sexually available vixen, a maid, cleaning woman or a cook. And this stereotype has long been associated with black women in the Brazilian psyche. For example, if a salesman knocks on the door of a middle-class Brazilian home and a woman answers the door, if the woman is black it is far more likely that the man will ask to speak to the ‘lady of the house’ as the assumption is that a black woman in such a house has to be the maid or babysitter.
It is also not an issue of disrespecting the work of domestic workers. It is a service that is millions of people want or need in their households (regardless of the condescending way these workers are treated). The issue is that 1) most people don’t dream of growing up to be a maid. Often times the acceptance of this type of work is due to a lack of educational opportunities or financial necessity. And 2) Although there is also a large percentage of white women who are maids, in the media, white women play a variety of roles and as such there is no one “place” that society associates with white women.
The issue here wouldn’t be, “why is a white woman playing the role of a maid?” when it could be a black woman, but rather why can’t black women be as consistently portrayed in a variety of roles as the white woman is? The company featured in the piece below really doesn’t need any more issues of race connected with their product. If you’ve followed this blog for some time or live in Brazil, you also know that the product, a brillo/scouring pad, is a long time racist insult associated with cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) that has affected black Brazilian women for a number of years.
Bombril is accused of racism due to campaign featuring a black maid
Courtesy of iG
An advertising piece by Bombril on Facebook sparked controversy last Monday (27). In honor of the Dia do Trabalhador Doméstico (Day of the Domestic Worker), the company posted a picture of a black maid on its page on the social network, announcing the social project Casa Bombril, a free training center for domestics.
“We will honor the one who most shines in homes all over the country! Take advantage of the date to learn about Casa Bombril, a social project that helps to further develop the professional life of domestics! After all, their brightness is one of the things that make our house a real home!” said the brand.
Within minutes came the first comments from Internet users accusing the brand of racism.
“It seems like a typical as from decades ago. For Bombril it seems like no time has passed, people have slav.., I mean, black domestics, women serve their husbands, etc. It seems that this is the society that Bombril believes,” said one user.
“Always black and northeastern women … In all the advertisements!!! Sad!!!! ..” said another.
In a statement, the company said that the choice of Tania Aparecida, who is in homage by the brand on Facebook, was not random: it is a consultant to Casa Bombril.
“Tania is a competent professional who won the first edition of the contest of Melhor Doméstica do Brasil (Best Domestic of Brazil), held in 2011 on the Raul Gil Program and since then is part of a group of collaborators of Casa Bombril. Bombril has a history of encouraging and valuing Brazilian women, regardless of race, social class or any other classification. The company pays homage with the figure of Tania, to the whole class of domestics of Brazil, that Bombril has always valued and recognized,” affirmed the brand.