Note from BW of Brazil: It’s been a topic that’s intrigued me for a number of years. In any social network in which black Brazilians discuss issues that are important to their community, inevitably, this topic will emerge. Beyond the regular battle that goes down when the topic is how many black Brazilian men are flocking to white women and black men countering that they cannot complain as so many black women are doing the same, what I have noticed is that is quite easy to come across single black women in their prime years for developing long-lasting relationships. On the other hand, I don’t know many black men complaining of slim pickings in the dating arena and not being able to find “the one”. In recent years, there have been a number of articles mostly by black women, but increasingly by black men, who are voicing their opinions on the topic in some very thought-provoking pieces. I will be sharing them in the near future.
But let me just say that after listening intently to both sides, discussing and through my own observations, my conclusion is that Brazilian society has effectively undermined relationships between Afro-Brazilian men and women. There’s really no point in finger pointing; both black men and women have been victims of a society that tells each side, a black man or black woman at your side has no value in a society in which persons with white skin and European features are given a premium status. We see it in the novelas, the advertisements and we see it among black elites, be they men or women. The causes of this dire situation are many. In many ways, it seems that choosing a long-term relationship with another black person is a “political act”, as Kenia Maria Dias opined. I will expound upon this in future material, but for now, check out the observations of Yasmin Morais.
“I don’t wanna be your friend”: The precarious state of black women’s love lives
by Yasmin Morais
“I have the impression that I am an object out of use, worthy of being in an attic” – Viviane de Paula
Love. Respect. Affection. Companionship.
Do these words sound familiar to you? Obviously, yes. What if I told you that, despite the extreme familiarity, many women never knew and experienced the real meaning of such words?
Unfortunately, this is not a euphemism, but a real statement confirmed by statistical data:
“In the last census, conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) in 2010, data on the black Brazilian women drew attention. The survey indicated that, at the time, more than half of them – 52.52% – did not live in union, regardless of marital status.”
– Source: BW of Brazil
“Black female heads of households with up to a minimum wage of income (see note one) is 60%, revealing a lower level of education. In the families headed by women who receive three or more minimum salaries, the presence of black women is reduced to 29%.”
– Source: Mulher Negra, Dados Estatísticos
“Data from the Central de Atendimento à Mulher for the year 2013 indicate that 59.4% of records of domestic violence in the service refer to black women.”
– Source: Agência Patrícia Galvão (Violence and Racism)
“The Dossiê Mulher 2015 (Women’s Dossier 2015), from the Instituto de Segurança Pública (Public Security Institute) of Rio de Janeiro, points out that 56.8% of the victims of the rapes registered in the State in 2014 were black. And 62.2% of the homicides of women, victimized pretas (black women) (19.3%) and pardas (browns) (42.9%).”
– Source: Agência Patrícia Galvão (Violence and Racism)
I have to ask another question:
Is there anything in common among women cataloged in statistics, apart from the inferior conditions under which they are subjected?
Virtually all of them are: pretas (black women)
The principle of solitude
Since the dawn of Brazilian society, black women have been the weakest link in the social chain. Brought from Africa to be enslaved; have lost rights, family, friends and much of their cultural, religious and social expression. These events did not occur only in Brazil.
The enslaved, in general, did not work as hard on crops and plantations as men. However, they served their masters in the Casas Grandes (Big Houses). There were divisions of work: some served for domestic care, others child care, and all, sexually bound, they were subject to the whims of the masters and even of others enslaved. I believe that in this chaotic, torturous and repressive environment there was no space for love or good feelings. The slightest slip was enough to provoke brutal punishments. Aside from household chores and services as “amas de leite” (wet nurses), black women were also the womb of servitude. Commonly raped, they would give birth to the future workers from cultivation to the hills. This when they didn’t provoke abortions, to rid their future children of a completely miserable existence. The most beautiful ones were forced to become concubines of their masters, often giving birth to mestiço (mixed race) children who would be disowned by their “parents.”
One of the pillars of the violence suffered by black women in such a period was the hatred they aroused in their senhoras (mistresses of the masters). They punished them intensely, for futile reasons based on the frustration they felt at the knowledge that their husbands preferred the enslaved in sexual practices, without even counting on the fact that it was a rape. Nevertheless, some served as companions for their senhoras, which didn’t render them immune to mistreatment.
Black women were subjected to an existence of complete physical and mental servitude to the white patriarchy for 358 years of our history. Certainly, there would be sequels.
The consequences of such abuses persist in our society until the present time. Black women are still the weakest link in the social chain. We left the senzalas (slave quarters) and migrated to the favelas. The enslaved becomes “the poor”, once again experiencing hostility, cruelty and marginality. Research shows that in our country, the largest share of single mothers supporting their children with one minimum salary (see note one), or less, is made up of black women. We are those who go out to work early, often those who grew up without the male presence in their homes. One doesn’t have to go very far to face such reality. Which of us does not have a dark-skinned grandmother, aunt, cousin, or niece who, for some reason, supports or supported her children without the male presence in her home? And were they abandoned by their husbands, left to their own devices? We live the precariousness of affection, still in our childhood and in our homes.
The oppression suffered by black women is strictly greater, for, besides machismo, we are oppressed by institutional racism in our society. That does not only affect our opportunities for social ascension, but also our affectivity, constantly. Going back to the colonial period, our bodies are still synonymous with easy sex, animality, and absence of feelings. We are coveted on account of nossas coxas, bundas voluptuosas, lábios carnudos e silhuetas (our thighs, voluptuous asses, full lips, and silhouettes). Our flesh speaks louder than our soul, in that society in which we are practically worthless: NOTHING.
We are passed over, therefore, men and women in our society learn from their infancy to worship Eurocentric beauty and to detest that which comes from the African diaspora. Traços finos, a pele branca, cabelos lisos e olhos extremamente claros (fine features, white skin, straight hair and extremely light eyes), are exalted. While the features of African origin become a motive of ridicule, shame and humiliation. Our contours are considered undesirable unless they are in the body of a mulher branca (white woman). This constitutes an enormous contradiction, for, despite the exacerbated desire for our bodies, there is also an enormous hatred of our origins. This hatred doesn’t blind only homens brancos (white men), but also, the pretos (black ones). Because of sociocultural issues, they end up preferring to relate to white women, in order to achieve social ascension and “embranquecer” (whiten) their families. In most cases, many go through life without ever seriously relating to a woman of the same color, and never realize it.
For this article, I interviewed some women, thus explaining a material reality to which we are all subject. I waited for the most varied answers; however, I was surprised to realize that they all possessed, practically, answers based on the same assumption. These are the questions:
01 – Have you ever felt rejected for being a black woman?
02 – Have you ever felt that men were looking for sex, but not for long-lasting relationships?
03 – Have you ever dealt with black and/or white men?
04 – What differences did you notice between the two?
05 – Have you ever felt pressured by society about your sexuality? “
These are some of the answers given by the girls who were part of the interview:
“Yes, every moment. I was always the person who served as a friend, while the white girls served to be a girlfriend, even though they were not partners. “
“Yes, I was objectified even during a relationship. She was the “whore,” while he was charmed by the “charm and delicacy” of other white women. “
“I delayed getting into a serious relationship”
“I was hypersexualized by both of them, deprived by both, hidden by both, but I felt the black faces the negation of seeing themselves as black, where they did not automatically assume their color, becoming whitened at all times (clearly the fruit of self-hatred)
“The white man is racist and blinded by the privilege, the black man is victim of racism and tries to whiten the maximum because of this. I even had a relationship with a black man who saw that I had an opportunity to lighten up the family, clearly because he could not get a white one so a light-skinned black was what I had.”
“I do not want to be your friend”: The stereotype of the black friend
“I was always the person who served as a friend, while the white girls served as a girlfriend.” – S. G. (Interviewed)
This phrase reminds us of one of the stereotypes most harmful to the affectivity of black women. As is to be noted, in several films, series, animations and novels with some female protagonism, this archetype always, or almost always, is present: “the black friend.”
Generally, it is a personage that at all times stays in the shadow of the white protagonist. She has an underdeveloped personality in the plot, practically no autonomy, extremely caricatured behavior, and, as one would expect, most of the time she ends up alone, while the white protagonist lives an intense love story.
In real life, it’s no different.
The vast majority of black girls go through this in their teens. No matter how beautiful, interesting, caring or intelligent you are; it will never be a match for that blond, white girl by which all black, white, and non-white boys’ hearts melt. We feel it in our skin even in the early passions, and this stigma, unfortunately, accompanies us to the end of our lives. Such a situation makes a period of discovery essential to the human being in an open and visceral wound that may never be closed. We dream of a socially constructed love that denies us at all times. While our white or fair-skinned friends regularly go out, date and are treated differently by boys, we are deferred and silenced.
A real example, which we can cite, is the Globo TV actress Taís Araújo. As we all know, Taís is considered a beautiful woman, and today she is extremely acclaimed for her looks. However, through her reports to the G-Show site regarding her relationship with others during adolescence, we realize that it is not about how beautiful we are or can be, but rather the color of our skins:
“I studied my whole life in a place where most people were white. Only I was the one who did not date anyone in high school or in the condominium. To give my first kiss, I had to go to Bahia. I even worked as a model, was considered pretty, but no one wanted to date me; or didn’t have the courage. I suffered, right? I liked the boys, they didn’t like me'” (see note two) – Taís Araújo
The passing by intensifies when we live in environments mostly occupied by whites. At all times, attitudes and positions are afraid to remind us that we are in a place that we “do not belong to” and will never allow us to belong.
Light-skinned girls, “are meant to marry,” build family, and experience relationships. We are “to fuck,” to live dissolutely for the sake of male pleasure, and then be discarded and end our lives by raising children of men who have simply abandoned us. Often, we are relegated only to friendship, when we relate to boys, they see us as good friends, but never consider the possibility of being there, as partners. Others, however, seek us, almost desperately, for uncompensated sex. Every black girl has heard something like: “vocês são as mais quentes”, “vocês são mais gostosas”, “essa pele da cor do pecado me deixa louco”. (“you all are the hottest”, “you all are sexier, “this skin of the color of sin drives me crazy.”) We are unable to experience a healthy sexual and affective life. Most of the time, either we repress ourselves, or we end up in some asshole’s bed.
This unhealthy society sexualizes us cruelly, especially girls who are in poverty. From the age of 10 or even less, many of us were and still are taught to wear tiny shorts and act provocatively and permissively. They teach us to appreciate such treatment, to reproduce it for other girls and to accept it without ever questioning. While men have always been taught that the color of our skin is a free pass for abuse, rape and pedophilia. Never for love. Regardless of what you’re like. They teach us that this prison constitutes freedom, when truly we are only enjoying our own oppression.
Our suffering, like our loneliness, is structural. Yes, dear ones, it is not a simple “preference” when you exclude black women from your hall of serious relationships, friendships and social attachments. But yes, an exclusionary social construction that fixes on our minds from childhood. Black women are beautiful, intelligent, have feelings, are companions, friends, and good people, just like any other woman can be. We are not inferior, we are not pieces of meat on display and we are not here to satisfy anyone. We need to deconstruct years and years of harmful stereotypes that undermine the affection of black women to this day. For we deserve to experience love in all its fullness.
- Just for clarity, in Brazil, the current minimum salary is R$954 per month, which is worth about US$288.
- This was a common experience of the 2016 Miss Brasil Raissa Santana, who spoke specifically of black boys/men.