Note from BW of Brazil: Really? Already? I guess I’m not the only one who was caught by surprise by the new, annual Globeleza TV commercial that’s been on the airwaves for several days now. First, because, as usual, it signals that yet another year has passed and second because we’re just now getting over the passing of 2016 and it’s already that time of year: Carnaval! But this latest installment of Globo TV’s Globeleza vignette caught viewers by surprise for another reason as well: the Globeleza girl has clothes on! Stop the press! Anyone who is familiar with the commercial knows that the arrival of Carnaval isn’t officially upon us until the Globeleza brings the season in shimmying and sambando nude save for some body paint and glitter sprinkled across her body.
The commercial is the talk of the internet as it represents a drastic change in Globo’s normal imagery for Carnaval. Usually, the Globeleza girl alone is featured in the commercial and she brings an image that very much representative of the Rio de Janeiro style of Carnaval. No one who has experienced Carnaval in northeastern cities such as Recife or Salvador would make the mistake of associating the image of Globeleza with typical images from their region of the country as they are completely different. And as the Globeleza girl herself mentioned, this year’s commercial gives a nod to several images, costumes and dances associated with other parts of the country.
So what made Globo TV change its tune? In my view I think it’s kind of obvious, that is if you’ve been paying any attention to the social/racial climate in recent years. The days when displays of racism and racially-motivated stereotypes that simply passed through without so much as a complaint or protest are gone. Today, with the rise of Afro-Brazilians in university classrooms, the increase of racial consciousness and activism, as well as internet platforms such as blogs and YouTube channels, more people have the vehicle to be able to express their opinions on such topics and have their words resonate with people who share similar opinions.
Years ago I pointed out how the usage of rosto pintado de preto, or blackface, was basically accepted as a joke of ‘good humor’ with no serious repercussions. By 2016, activism had led to a major debate on the topic at an important cultural center in São Paulo. Racist comments, displays and ‘jokes’ that played off of the Brazilian discourse that afro textured hair was ‘cabelo ruim’ (bad hair) are not taken lightly anymore as black women have taken to the streets in marches of pride in cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) and internet protests that have brought down campaigns that they deemed racist. And stereotypical ideas about the sexuality of black women as displayed in advertisements and television programs have been fought with lawsuits and thought-provoking essays that say that Afro-Brazilian women will no longer passively accept this depiction of themselves in the mass media. Perhaps one of the strongest statements on this challenging of degrading images was the internet protests that no doubt played a leading role in Globo TV deciding not to produce another season of the highly criticized TV series Sexo e as Negas. Such activism on the part of black women reached a monumental moment in 2015 with the first ever March of Black Women in the nation’s capital!
Now this is not to say that such activism is the last word on what happens in the media, politics or anything else. After all, even with the clear repudiation of performances in blackface in today’s times, Globo TV still recently featured a guest on one its TV programs dressed in horrific blackface/nega maluca makeup/costume. But I do see that powerful entities DO pay attention to what viewers and critics say and think. If such activism should lead to huge organizing efforts and demonstrations, eventually it could lead to an effect on support of whatever entity is in question. And let’s not consider this as any sort of all out victory for Afro-Brazilian women. In a recent Veja magazine blog article about the new commercial, the Globeleza (Erika Moura) herself declared that it doesn’t make any difference to her whether she’s naked or dressed. As such, don’t be surprised if she’s back in her birthday suit next year!
Why the ‘new Globeleza’ commercial is an advance for the representation of black women in Brazil
Naked, sambando (dancing samba) and with her body painted in vignettes of the Globo TV network. This was how Globeleza was known from 1991 until last year.
In the vignette shown by the station on Sunday (January 8th), the one that was baptized “Carnival muse of Brazil” something different appears: sambando (dancing samba), but dressed in clothing typical of frevo and maracatu styles, as well as a banner of samba school accompanied by a mestre-sala (Master of the Room or Ceremonies)
Watch the video…
Sunday evening news journal Fantástico showed the vignette firsthand last Sunday. “This year the innovation was to bring Carnival of each region, the culture of each place. The idea of this clip was to gather all the ideas of Carnival in 37 seconds,” said Flávio Mac, Globo art director in an interview with in the journal.
“There are lots of new things. Diversity will now appear even more, many costumes and a lot more of our folklore of our Carnival itself,” added Erika Moura, the current Globeleza in the same interview.
The repercussion of the video on social networks was heated. On one side some celebrating, on the other, some criticizing:
Lukas Mateus @ 4b69c0a51ca24b1: Until the end they made the Globeleza commercial showing the culture of Brazil and not exposing the Brazilian woman.
Cleytu ✔ @cleytu: 2017 has barely started and Globo is already sambando
Heroinan @ quaseheroinan: I barely know 2017, but I already consider it a lot. The best Globeleza vignette up to today!
The focus, then, seems to be not only on a single woman, but on the various representations that Brazilian Carnival has.
Globe ✔ @RedeGlobo: The definitions of on lock have been updated! #Globeleza
Rosane Borges, a post-doctoral student in Communication Sciences at ECA-USP and professor at the Center for Latin American Studies on Culture and Communication at USP, believes that the new representation of the “Globeleza” character is positive and goes to the point of appreciating elements of national culture.
“Globeleza is not the portrait of the mulher negra (black woman), she is the representation of the mulata, who comes from the slave-like imaginary and the idea that ‘branca é pra casar, a mulata para fornicar e a preta para trepar’ (white for marriage, mulata to fornicate and preta – black woman – to screw). In the black woman as a symbol of the Carnival that ‘everything can’ is this colonized imaginary that she is reinforcing,” she told Brasil Post.
For Rosane, a discussion like this brings up a complex question that concerns what is expected of various groups and what their social functions are:
“A different image of the [dominant] hegemonic delivers other possibilities of representation for this woman, and even at the time of representing herself, and other sets of women that exist in society and also the culture in which she lives. I think that the principle, this change is positive, yes.”
“When you insist on an objectified image, there is no diversity in it. Why put only a black woman sambando?” We have a huge diversity of women who are prominent in Carnival and samba. There is no change in real politics if there is no change in the mechanisms of images that reinforce this.”
The expert further explains that it’s not because there is a small advance in this representation that it is necessary to discuss less the image of the black woman and the symbols that are created by means of communications.
“We must not ignore that racism is still an extreme and negative axis for society. We have to take away this issue as something simplified and put it as a structure: Racism and sexism are structural issues that need to be combatted.”
And communication in itself plays an important role in building and amplifying existing but hidden narratives:
“We have a change in the model of communication that is very substantive. Social networks have taken away that dominant pattern of information distribution. Today there is a way for more people to hear voices other than hegemonic ones. That narrative that prioritizes a single side of the story is not real.”
For the president of the União de Negros pela Igualdade (Unity of Blacks for Equality or Unegro), Angela Guimarães, a new context is being imposed on society, the result of a long struggle waged by social movements and not a change of mentality of the broadcaster. “The modification reflects the pressure of the organizations of feminists and blacks, who intensified their criticisms of the insistent stigmatization and hyper-sexualization of black women, reduced only to naked bodies that invaded Brazilian homes at any time of day and night,” she explains.
Angela reiterates that the pattern of hyper-sexualization of black women stimulated by Globo, in all Carnivals, opens precedents for abuse and underestimation. “This recidivism in the form of representing us ended up authorizing the systematic exploitation of our bodies, reducing us as black women solely and exclusively to the sexual dimension. Thus, it ignores our intellectual, economic, social and cultural contributions,” she concludes.
With or without Globeleza, black women continue to lead indices of violence and sexual exploitation, as well as resisting the patriarchal culture that survives through the centuries. Congratulations not to Rede Globo, but to all who fight against the objectification of women.
Machismo, racism and violence against black women
In 2014, 4,832 homicides of women were registered in the country, according to the most recent data from the Sistema de Informações de Mortalidade (SIM or Mortality Information System) of the Ministry of Health. Since 2006, the first year of the Maria da Penha Law, the number of victims fell among white women fell 2.1 % and increased by 35% among black women. A Unicef study called Violência Sexual (Sexual Violence) shows that black women are the most victimized by type of aggression.
“In analysis about the factors behind commercial sexual exploitation, it is important to consider that the structural inequality of Brazilian society is constituted not only by the domination of classes, gender and race (…) In this way, the child and the adolescent have not been considered subjects, but rather object of the domination of the adults, as much as through the exploitation of their body in the work as their sex and of their submission. The dominant relations of gender and race are evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of victims are pretas (black) and pardas (brown) women,” the study says.
Owner of a Master’s in Political Philosophy from Unifesp, Djamila Ribeiro, highlights how the exploration of the image of the “Brazilian mulata” in Globeleza refers to episodes of sexual violence of women enslaved by plantation owners.
“Luiza Bairros has a very interesting phrase that explains very well the place that society gives the black woman: “we carry the mark”. No matter where we are, the mark is the exotization of our bodies and subalternity. Since the colonial period, black women have been stereotyped as being “quentes” (hot), naturally sexy, seducers of men. These classifications, viewed from the gaze of the colonizer, romanticizes the fact that these women were in the condition of slaves and therefore were raped and violated, that is, their will didn’t exist before their ‘senhores’ (masters),” she wrote in an article for the blog Agora é que São Elas, of the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper. Stephanie Ribeiro is co-author of the text.
For Lorena Monique, activist and responsible for the YouTube channel Neggata (1), a nude, smiling black woman is very close to the oppressive idea of colonization that we have in our minds:
“Magra, alta, esguia, peitos grandes, bunda grande, cabelo encaracolado e com algumas mechas loiras e, principalmente, negra com a pele clara (Thin, tall, slender, big breasts, big butt, curly hair and with a few blond streaks and, mainly, black with light skin). This is the accepted black woman’s standard (as a sexual object, but accepted). The problem is that the vast majority of black women don’t fit this standard. Black women with pele retinta (dark skin), fat, with thicker lips, stronger features and who don’t not know how to samba or who don’t wish to be seen only as sexual objects. These do not have their turn […]. What is Globeleza if not a naked black woman, dancing sensuously, with no speech, no connection to the viewer, beyond her image? It is impossible to watch one of her vignettes and not perceive that one doesn’t deal with the woman Valéria Valenssa, but only her body, her sensuality and her sexual force. Globeleza is just a body that sambas, has sex and nothing else. Ah, of course, it’s also a very clear message about the role of the black woman in Brazilian society,” she wrote in a text to Brasil Post.
The history of Globeleza
Today represented by Erika Moura, who assumed the character in 2015, Globeleza consecrated the career of dancer Valéria Valenssa, who held the post from 1991 to 2004. There were 14 years sambando stamped with vignettes made by her husband, the art director Hans Donner. The position was also held by Giane Carvalho (2005), Aline Prado (2006-2013 ) And Nayara Justino (2014). (See more on Globeleza representatives here)
- Monique also came to national attention after creating a photo campaign called “Ah, branco, dá um tempo” (Oh, white people, give me a break) at the University of Brasília which featured black students holding signs with some of the racist comments they had heard from white people over the years written on them.