International WHITE Women’s Day: Popular department store ad reduces black women to a pair of arms pampering white women

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Note from BW of Brazil: I suppose we should start this post off with a pleasant wish for a Happy International Woman’s Day as it is March 8th. But after seeing a recent promotional ad by a popular retail store, my mood changed drastically. As I proceed to introduce today’s post I can already hear the nay-sayers: “You people see racism in everything!” Well, if you’re a person who thinks that way, this post is probably meant for you. But for those who view the media with a critical eye and attempt to interpret blatant but often times subtle, subliminal messages, check this out. 

Riachuelo: International Women's Day
Riachuelo: International Women’s Day

Riachuelo is Brazilian department store that’s been in operation since 1947 an has 187 locations in 20 Brazilian states and the Federal District. As stores always try to come up with original, interesting ways of promoting their goods, this was surely Riachuelo’s intention in promoting the upcoming International Women’s Day with an eye-catching black and white commercial. But watch the commercial from a racial perspective and ask yourself, what are they trying to say? Is this yet another case of the fear of featuring a black face?

Brazilian Woman
Riachuelo: Week of the Brazilian Woman

Of course if you’re not familiar with the Brazilian way of keeping black women silent in kitchen, or shaking their “bundas” on TV (that is when they’re visible at all) you may not understand the context. In reality its quite simple. The media consistently upholds the white woman as the standard of beauty and womanhood while maintaining the centuries old Brazilian view of black women belonging in the kitchen or in the bedroom. And considering how Brazil consistently upholds its part in keeping blacks “in their place”, the racial messages within this ad can be applied on a global level. See the full commercials in the videos below as well as Riachuelo’s spring/summer 2013/2014 collection commercial. The message should be pretty obvious!

International Day of the WHITE woman

By Zaíra Pires

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Another March 8th approaches and we receive that flurry of manure in our female existence in  “homages” for being gentle, loving, resilient, submissive, mothers, wives, ladies in society and ardent lovers between four walls.

All this sudden love has an hour to start and finish, lasting for the period of March, of the week of the 8th or only just for that day, in accordance with so much of the bullshit that each one manages to produce.

In this sense, the homage women are always the same: white, young, slim, Western, Christian and cisgendered.

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And in order to not miss the custom, we, neurotic, repressed, hardly loved and who see racism in everything black women direct our destructive criticism to the scapegoat of the time: Riachuelo and its campaign for Semana da Mulher Brasileira 2014 (Brazilian Women’s Week 2014) (read the irony in my words, please).

As we can see in the video, the standard Brazilian woman, that from the commercial, corresponds exactly to the average standard of the Brazilian, after all, we are predominantly white, blond, with fine facial features and as thin and tall as mythological sylphs. Wow, are not we?

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And then the black presence in the commercial is a hand that serves. A body without a face, it doesn’t consume, it doesn’t have desires, it’s not even there, it only serves. A semi-living shadow that only lends support to the existence of its mistress.

Yes, because the woman who should be honored in woman’s week is that white woman that works outside, independent, well resolved, that cleans the house, takes care of the children, serves her husband and is always with her nails and hair done on time. This is a super woman who can experience her bursts of modernity without ignoring her feminine obligations. This is to be welcomed and earn a discount on purchases of the week to fulfill her duties with such care.

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The black woman that sustains the family with her salary of underemployment, that faces 5 hours on the bus subjected to sexual abuse, that sees her son being killed by police, who dies from complications of unsafe abortions, who is doomed to domestic service since always as if it were inherent to her existence, that endures the sexual advances of the boss and the boss’s son in order not to lose her livelihood, who is the main victim of negligence in public health, leaving her children home alone to take care of the children of the white mistress, who is the majority of sex workers, who doesn’t complete the basic years of education because she needs to work, that has to turn into this at fifteen in order to live and still keep a smile on her face, this does not deserve the honors of that day.

In fact this woman is the servant who should rejoice at having the honor of seeing her black arms appear on television.

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After all, what Riachuelo tells us with this film, and what many others will tell us in this week, is that a black woman is consumer is a paradox, and since she doesn’t exist, why should she be represented in an advertisement? Who says that the black woman has money? Who said the black woman buys anything? Who said that the black woman understands advertising?

Well here we are here, consumers, thinkers, citizens, opinion makers, saying that this commercial does not represent us. Sleep with that noise!

Zaíra Pires
Zaíra Pires

Zaíra Pires is a Writer, proofreader, blogger, social media user and everything else that a journalist can do. She is from the state of Minas Gerais but has a São Paulo heart. Lesbian, feminist and diva! 

Note from BW of Brazil: UPDATE!! Due to outrage and protest about this particular commercial on social networks, Riachuelo decided to remove the ad. This is how Brasil Post broke it down. 

The reaction on the internet in social networks was so negative that Riachuelo removed the video from the You Tube campaign hours after the publication. In posts, consumers inquired why only young, white Western women are honored, while the black woman, that does not appear in the film, only serves.

Note from BW of Brazil: Taken from the Exame.com site here are but a few of the comments. 

Comments about Riachuelo ad
Comments about Riachuelo ad

Translation of comments…

1. The Riachuelo commercial with a black hand serving as a mucama to white models was removed from the air. Say NO to racism.
2. Riachuelo managed to make the most racist commercial that I remember seeing in a long time.

Note: The term mucama refers the slave woman who took care of services of the house, and served the daughter of her owner during Brazil’s 350 years of slavery.

Riachuelo ads for Women’s Day 2014

Riachuelo Spring/Summer 2013/2014 collection ad

Source: Blogueiras Negras, Black Women of Brazil, Brasil Post, Exame

About Marques Travae 2897 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

4 Comments

  1. i feel this black beauty is precious why say that white women are the ultimate beauty when its far from the truth in fact black women stay gorgeous for years great investment as a wife

  2. glorification of white women that gets old really white women arent automatically prettier in fact i prefer black women this discusts me

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