Another ad, another controversy. I always like a good debate because I am always curious to know the thought process of someone that has a different opinion than I. So, take a look at this ad and tell me what you see. First, a little background about the company. The ad is for a company called DuLoren, a Brazilian company that sells women’s intimate apparel, lingerie, etc. According to its website (in English), DuLoren has been selling women’s goodies for 38 years and recently opened up shop in the US.
So, before I get into the details about the ad, a little background about the image of black Brazilian women. For years, Afro-Brazilian activists have complained about several aspects of the black Brazilian woman in the Brazilian media. They denounce the invisibility of black Brazilian women in not only ads, but also on fashion runways, beauty contests, and on television. This in a country where more than half of the female population is considered Afro-Brazilian. Besides the invisibility of black women in the Brazilian media, another complaint is the portrayal of black Brazilian women when they do appear in the mass media. The argument says that when black women appear on television or in film, they always portray maids or some sort of sexually titillating vamp. In Brazil’s history and mythology, the black woman is seen as possessing special sexual powers that non-black women do not have. Speaking of the term “nega”, a form of the term “negra”, meaning black woman, anthropology professor, José Jorge de Carvalho, tells us that the term can be used for non-black women also. According to Carvalho: “When a man calls a woman of fair skin nega,…this means she is able to preserve for him…something of the sexual mystery attached to the real other.” In other words, if a non-black woman can provide the same sexual satisfaction of a black woman, she symbolically become a black woman in the sexual sense.
In the season of Carnaval, for instance, the images of hundreds of nearly naked Brazilian women of African descent parade in front of the roving eye of video cameras which divulge these images to millions of men around the world, no doubt acting as a huge stimulus for thousands of gringos to visit the country every year, especially during the Carnaval season. Antonio Jonas Dias Filho tells us that black and mulata women of the northeastern state of Bahia are regularly featured wearing bikinis, swimsuits or appearing topless in catalogs, ads and leaflets aimed at attracting European tourists to Brazil with phrases enticing them to come and “desfrutar as delícias (enjoy the delights)”. We’ve already seen one example of an ad playing on the sexual image of the black Brazilian woman, so what are we to make of this new ad?
In the above ad, we see a pretty black woman, beautician Ana Paula da Conceicão Soares, standing in her bra and panties with what appears to be the cap of the white man who is knocked out in the background. The words to the right of the model read: “Pacifying was easy. I want to see (how to) dominate.” So what are we to make of this? What do you think? I already know what came to my mind, but I was curious to know how my Brazilian friends reacted to this ad. After seeing the ad, below are some of their comments. At the very bottom you will the comments in the original Portuguese.
What do you think of this ad?
Adriana: Racism…Why not (use) a non-black woman…it means that the black is marginal….Always! The media always will make it so that the black is shown as an inferior and marginalized.
Vieira: I agree completely, pure racism and (in the) wide open.
Nanne: They could have inverted the races. Why is it not a black man and a caucasian woman?
Eduardo: A great brand name reminds us that people consume (things). Congratulations to Duloren and the model for the work. I could be being ingenuous, but I see it with good eyes. This is resistance of the black people (powerful and beautiful black woman) that will not let themselves be dominated by the state (white policeman knocked down on the floor). The struggle continues.
Nanne: Looking at this side, I agree with Eduardo! But still I DO think that they could revise the details.
Lidia: I don’t agree that the media inferiorizes the blacks, no…The majority of the racism comes from the blacks themselves that don’t accept the color and always think that they are dealing with racism.
Richard: Lidia, who taught blacks to hate themselves? Who benefits from this hate that blacks feel for themselves?
Eduardo: I agree with you Nanne. But it will always be like this. Images always will give various interpretations. Photography is good for this. It would be very simple to put a black couple in bed (I would love to see this). But this doesn’t get the ratings. The idea of miscegenation…it furthers the discussion.
Richard: The black woman as sexually insatiable that knocks down even the stronger white man. The sexual slave of always from the country of the moreno ideology.
Lidia: And there’s always some black speaking bad of white people also, not that racism doesn’t exist, blacks have many opportunities nowadays and the blacks have to stop seeing everything as if it was racism
Gabriel: Isn’t this the same brand that used an ad with a white woman in bra and panties representing (the goddess) Yemanjá??
Richard: Racism doesn’t exist, the relations are harmonious, (it is) the blacks that are more prejudiced…it’s the whites that are persecuted, the slavery was beneficial to the blacks, the blacks didn’t resist slavery, the blacks are inferior, we should have relations with whites in order to improve the race, lightening the family. Long live the eugenics!!!
Note: In the previous comment, Richard is clearly repeating popular ideals, myths and beliefs that one hears on a daily basis in Brazil
Lidia: It has nothing to do with blacks being inferior, my family is black and always had and have co-existed with white people. This (thing of) feeling inferior doesn’t have any color or race, one can feel like this depending on the situation.
Cynthia: The reality is that there are blacks that think that everything is racism and they exaggerate. But to say that racism is a thing in the head of the others also seem to me very disingenuous…The black man that was beat up in São Paulo a few days ago what was that? A thing in my head? People have judged others by the color of the skin for years, this is a fact! It’s already a part of history. I don’t find this dignified and I don’t even accept this and because of this I have friends all styles, colors and options…But still there are those that see skin color as a barrier. In the photo, I didn’t see racism…Although I understand the point of view of whoever saw it, I saw the force of the beautiful woman of the photo.
As we can see, the discussion went way beyond a simply question of the ad, because in Brazil, as in the US, anything dealing with race must be considered in an historical context where the society gives privilege to one group at the expense of another. Let me say, the dialogue and debate on the topic was great and I can consider all of the points of view but my thing is this: Again, the black woman had to use her sensuality and/or sexuality in order to “pacify” the man and have her way. Whether sexual relations actually happened or they didn’t doesn’t really matter. The point is, she still had to use her body and assumed sexual powers to have her way with a (white) man who occupies the highest status in the social hierarchy. If I’m not mistaken, Halle Berry won an Oscar for this type of role back in 2002. Am I trippin’? What do you think?