Employees of economic research organization charge racism and sexism after show of scantily clad “mulatas” for foreign professors at event

Show of "mulatas" provokes controversy and accusations of racism and sexism
Show of “mulatas” provokes controversy and accusations of racism and sexism

Note from BW of Brazil: Today’ story is a bit ironic and begs a question in long-time debate. In almost any North American or European country, if one mentions Brazilian women or just Brazil in general to the average man, an instant smile comes to his face as he thinks of not only the beautiful beaches but most likely the beautiful brown-skinned women he’d been exposed to via Carnaval videos circulated on television, online or in tourist pamphlets.  Those images are surely connected to visions of easy sex with voluptuous, in fact available women or those in his imagination that are not available in his country. In more than a few articles and/or books, I’ve read Brazil described among black American men as a “black man’s paradise.” As discussed here in past posts, these images are without doubt divulged widely by Brazilian agencies themselves, and have been for decades.

There is no doubt that thousands of men descended upon Brazil in June and July not only for the World Cup but also for the famous pleasures of the Brazilian women they had heard about or already experienced in previous trips to Latin America’s largest country. As we saw, there were many agencies, hotels, etc. who were all too willing to take advantage of the images of Brazil as one enormous “bunda” to attract tourists to their places of business. Today’s controversy surrounding this sexually-charged image of specifically black Brazilian women comes ironically at the very moment that a controversial TV show called Sexo e as negas is being soundly repudiated by black women activists throughout the country for the show’s depictions of lower class, sexually insatiable black women. 

The issue at hand here is the fact that this image has been part of Brazil’s appeal to millions around the world for a number of years as well as the fact that there are countless women that, either freely or due to financial necessities, offer their bodies to continue this stereotype of the Brazilian woman. As the protest involving Sexo e as negas shows, there are more and more women who are standing up and rejecting this image that many feel reflects directly upon them.

Check the story below on the latest “selling” of the image of the Brazilian mulata. 

IPEA employees protest mulata show in academic congress

By Fernando Rodrigues

Manifesto relates images to sex tourism and violence against women. Sexism “is in the eye of the beholder,” reacts Marcelo Neri, former chairman of the organization

Samba school passistas were hired for the closing dinner of the 6th Academic Forum of the BRICs, in Rio de Janeiro, with foreign researchers.
Samba school passistas were hired for the closing dinner of the 6th Academic Forum of the BRICs, in Rio de Janeiro, with foreign researchers.

Images of samba school mulatas interacting with foreign professors at a conference organized by IPEA (Institute of Applied Economic Research) caused discomfort among employees of the agency, linked to the federal government.

Five workers released an open letter last Thursday 3rd (30.set.2014) in protest against the initiative of contracting the presentation of the mulatas, considered by them “racist” and “sexist”.

Images bothered IPEA employees, which defined the initiative as "racist" and "sexist" and released an open letter.
Images bothered IPEA employees, which defined the initiative as “racist” and “sexist” and released an open letter.

The incident occurred on the 6º Fórum Acadêmico dos Brics (6th Academic Forum of the Brics) (1), organized by the IPEA and the Secretariat of Strategic Affairs (SAE), in Rio de Janeiro in March of this year. The photos began circulating a few days ago.

The employees Natália de Oliveira Fontoura, Luana Simões Pinheiro, Antonio Teixeira Lima Júnior, Leila Posenato Garcia and Fernanda Lira Góes drafted the letter and divulged it to colleagues. They claim that the images contradict the federal government’s effort to combat sex tourism and violence against women.

Mulatas interacted with researchers from Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Mulatas interacted with researchers from Russia, India, China and South Africa.

For the employees, the show of the mulatas in Congress evokes “the alleged sensuality and availability of black female bodies (…) at the service of white men.” The letter cites the episode of t-shirts released by Adidas in the World Cup representing Brazil as a butt wearing g-string bikini, removed from the market after government pressure.

Marcelo Neri, now minister of SAE, presided over IPEA at the time of the congress and appears in one of the pictures. He minimizes the critiques of the employees and says the dancers represent a typical cultural manifestation of Brazil.

Marcelo Neri (gray suit, sitting at the table at left) presided over the agency at the time and minimizes the criticism. "That was absolutely normal in the Rio de Janeiro. They were exercising their job,” he says.
Marcelo Neri (gray suit, sitting at the table at left) presided over the agency at the time and minimizes the criticism. “That was absolutely normal in the Rio de Janeiro. They were exercising their job,” he says.

“That was absolutely normal in Rio de Janeiro. They were carrying out their work,” says Neri. The critique of racism and sexism, he says, “is in the eye of the beholder.” “We are in Brazil, we are not in Russia.”

The IPEA is a foundation established in 1967 to provide technical support to the government in the formulation of public policies and development programs. The agency was involved in another recent controversy in April when it divulged that 65% of Brazilians supported attacks on women that show their bodies. The alarming data sparked enormous repercussions in the country. A week later, the IPEA released a correction stating that the correct percentage was 26% and the director responsible for research, Rafael Guerreiro Osorio, requested his resignation.

The IPEA, via a note, said the passista show was offered by the City of Rio de Janeiro.
The IPEA, via a note, said the passista show was offered by the City of Rio de Janeiro.

The IPEA, via a note, said the show of passistas (Carnaval dancers) was offered by the City of Rio de Janeiro, co-organizer of the event. According to the website of the congress, the Academic Forum of the BRICs aims to establish networks among academic researchers from five countries that are part of the bloc.

PS 1: After the publication of this post, the blog received a message of the signatories stating that the letter of protest divulged is ‘nearing completion’ and was joined by dozens of new employees. The signatories also expressed concern about the exposure of servers and passistas. As this is a public institution (IPEA) and a subject that has journalistic relevance, the Blog believes that the correct thing was to publish the protest document – because the text (with photos) was being sent to many people and was not, even remotely, something reserved much less secret.

PS 2: The IPEA released a second note on Friday evening (3.out.2014), informing that it is a “custom” in Academic Forums of the BRICs to offer a presentation of a group typical of the culture of the host country. The organization hired a group of dancers from the Acadêmicos do Grande Rio samba school for the value of R$5,500 (worth about US$ $2,340 in mid March). In the note, the IPEA says it reiterates its commitment to “combating gender discrimination and racial in Brazil” and its support to popular culture.

Source: Fernando Rodrigues

Note

1. BRICS is the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The grouping was originally known as “BRIC” before the inclusion of South Africa in 2011. The BRICS members are all developing or newly industrialised countries, but they are distinguished by their large, fast-growing economies and significant influence on regional and global affairs; all five are G-20 members. Source

About Marques Travae 2895 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

3 Comments

  1. Well, this kind of thing really IS part of Brazilian, and definitely Rio’s culture. Cultural shows from hosts in academic conferences are a normal thing. They could have shown a “gaucho” or German dance from the south or maybe a northeastern “baiao” – all would be equally genuine manifestations of Brazilian culture. Would people feel outraged than? I doubt it.

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