Note from BW of Brazil: The preparation, spectacle and eventual outcome of the 2014 World Cup will no doubt be discussed, studied, researched and debated for many years to come, both inside and outside of Brazil. While the most memorable (or should we say forgettable/regrettable) moment of the Cup was Brazil’s 7-1 thrashing at the hands of eventual winner, Germany. The jokes, comments, tears and disappointment from the Brazilian perspective will not be forgotten for a long time. The previous villain of Brazil’s World Cup disappointment lived a tormented life for 50 years after until his death in 2000. And that was a close game! Imagine how long it will take for the 2014 humiliation to pass over. But these are facts related directly to the game. There are so many other ways of analyzing the Cup. The number of tourists, the profits, the image of Brazil after such a major event.
In fact, Brazil’s image around the world is indirectly one of the topics of today’s post. For another intriguing topic involving the Cup is the sex industry. As reported on this blog back in March of 2013, working girls were also preparing to get their slice of the billions of reais that the Cup was expected to bring into the country. And to be sure, there were probably plenty of tourists who indulged in that part of Brazil as well. And as the dust from the Cup continues to settle and attention now moves towards the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio, maybe it’s again time to consider how the country sees itself, how it presents itself and the effects on its citizens.
As written on the blog several times in the past, in general, when non-Brazilians think of the country, they think of great soccer, sun, sand, samba and sex. And positive or negative, Brazil plays a huge part in promoting those images. Not only through its marketing but also due to a continued exclusion from access to paths out of poverty for the majority of its citizens. And with so many avenues to better lifestyles still out of the reach of millions of people, the power elite take advantage of the situation to further exploit the citizens who find themselves stuck on the bottom rungs of society and willingly/unwillingly partake in the selling of these images.
A good example of how elites exploit the situation is the story of popular television host Luciano Huck, who was criticized for seemingly promoting the prostitution of Brazilian women to “gringos” during the tournament. In a tweet and online message that was “liked” 22,000 times and shared 3,000 times, the TV host wrote, “Are you in Rio? Are you single? Do you want an enchanting prince among the ‘gringos’ that are in the city? Send your photos and the reason; email@example.com”, the e-mail address meaning “girlfriend for foreigner”. He posted a similar message on his Globo TV website. Typical of an opportunist, keep in mind Huck’s connection to the whole fiasco in which he promoted a t-shirt with the slogan “we’re all monkeys” on the front to “fight racism”.
With these types of attitudes being part of the “Brazilian way” for so long, how does this reflect on women who are not part of the “program”? And what about the women who are actually willing participants? Are these women willing participants because they’re getting a “piece of the pie”? Have they just numbed themselves to a Brazilian reality? And how does the whole sexual tourism business specifically affect women/girls according to skin color? Too many questions and opinions to consider, but here’s one woman’s perspective.
My flesh doesn’t belong to Carnival, nor the World Cup!
by Paula Nunes
Originally posted at Blogueiras Negras
Only a few weeks ago the most anticipated event of the year, the FIFA World Cup 2014, ended. Much has been discussed about the legacy of the world, which left thousands homeless in exchange for the construction of stadiums, made the federal government invest millions of reais into policing and weapons and keeping to this day people in jail for protesting. In the stadiums, only the white elite and the Brazilian middle class, i.e., we pay the bill but who those saw the Cup up close were foreigners and the wealthy.
During the period of the realization of the event, another subject (which in no way is detached from the global project of the realization of the Cup) drew much attention: tourism and sexual exploitation. The theme was not as reported by the mainstream media as the defeat of Brazil by a count of 7 × 1 against Germany in the semifinals, but since before the start of the event, the social movements warned about how the level of exploitation would increase with its approximation and with advertisements that made women attractive to tourists.
According to a report in the newspaper Folha de São Paulo earlier this year, businessmen involved in sexual exploitation had estimated an increase of 60% in the prostitution market during the World Cup. It’s not easy to find official data on sexual exploitation during the World Cup, but it was enough to walk near the stadiums or the streets most frequented by tourists in the host cities to see women, children, transvestites and transsexuals selling their bodies as a commodity on every corner. The British newspaper The Mirror reported that girls aged 11 to 14 years were prostituting themselves in the region of the Itaquerão stadium in the east zone of São Paulo. For us, nothing new, but a great reason for revolt.
Sexual exploitation has a race, gender and class. The image of the “mulata” is sold as an exportation and advertising product to invite tourists to visit our country during the World Cup while the federal government and the mainstream media attempted to convince the population that we should receive the tourists well in our house.
The origin of the word “mulata” is very curious. In the post-slavery period, the idea that white women were for marrying was strengthened; women of very dark skin were so ugly that they served only for work; and “mulatas”, the fruit of the mixing between black with white, were only for having sex (2), just like the animal (mule) that could not have children, and if they did, they were exclusively their responsibility. It seems to me even today little has changed…
As if not that weren’t enough, there was the scandalous propaganda shirt from Adidas with a heart that simulated the butt of a woman or a nightclub billboard containing a picture of a black woman performing oral sex on a futebol player, we are obliged to see every year at Carnival time the hyper-sexualized image of black women on television, in magazines and in advertisements for travel agencies.
The myth of racial democracy continues trying to put in our heads that we are not black, all the time trying to whiten us (3), it’s just interesting that we recognize ourselves as negras in the moment of exploiting our bodies. They export the idea that we are the face of Brazil, we complete the idea of the country of soccer and samba, but unfortunately for some women prostitution is not an option. For many black women residents of the periferia (periphery, outskirts, poor neighborhoods), who on average have 5 years of education, according to research by IPEA released in 2013, prostitution is perhaps the only alternative to sustain their families.
The precariousness of labor, low education and sexual exploitation are social problems, but also racial. We were champions of the World Cup, but we are in the world ranking of champion countries in sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
It’s time to give a red card to sexual tourism!
1. While the term espanhola refers to a Spanish person, it also refers to a sexual act in which a man simulates the friction of sexual intercourse between a woman’s breasts.
2. The long time Brazilian saying, “white woman for marriage, mulata for sex, black woman for work” has been used in a number of posts on the blog. And as Nunes’ reference shows, it’s for use reason as this hierarchy clearly still exists.
3. Several articles on the blog deal with the Brazilian discourse of persuading persons of visible African descent that they are not in fact negros. People are routinely defined as “mulatas”, “morenas”, “pardas”, etc. One group was recently thrown out of a restaurant precisely because they were negros but then not defined as such on the police report. In another case, a government agency didn’t even offer the term “preto” or “negro” (both meaning black) to choose from on an ID application. All of these cases are simply extensions of Brazil’s long history of attempting to erase blackness.