Note from BW of Brazil: Time after time, study after study, the numbers simply prove what our own eyes tell us: black women are invisible in Brazil! Of course we’re not saying that if one were to walk the streets of countless cities in Brazil that said person wouldn’t see many women that would be defined as black or, if you prefer, women of mixed race African ancestry. There are literally millions! More than 50 million if you consider that they make up about 25% of the country’s 205 million or so citizens. No, we’re speaking of areas of influence, power and/or representation. Positions in which they would be considered role models for the nation’s feminine population. Remember when we showed that black women make up slightly more than 4% of lead roles in Brazilian cinema? We also showed how they make up less than 3% of characters in Brazilian literature and when they did appear, they were portrayed as maids and sex workers. The same way they are generally presented on television and in film. Add to this a near invisibility in magazines on magazine covers, as television program hosts and in politics and you get a clear idea of the type of women that Brazil appreciates and those that it sets aside. With all of this in mind, today’s findings should come as no surprise. Especially as we’ve discussed this previously (here and here).
Why do black women account for only 1% of the protagonists in TV commercials?
It’s what the second edition of the survey conducted by Heads Propaganda revealed. Between 25 to 31 January, it monitored for 24 hours a day two of the main channels – of Brazilian television – free and paid – Globo and Megapix
Written By Débora Stevaux
Summer comes, summer goes and we continue to be the gostosonas (hot women) of beer brands, the ones responsible for changing diapers for children, those who alone keep the house smelling good and shining – and we feel very happy about this, crazy about beauty, who “mimimi” (whine) when they have cramps, who are buying a washing machine on March 8th in a “don’t miss promotion.” But are we really like? No. It’s because of this that you don’t identify with – not even from a distance – with these gender stereotypes and, besides this, with the lack of racial representation.
It’s what is revealed in the second edition of the study conducted by Heads Propaganda that, between 25 to 31 January, monitored 24 hours a day two of the main channels – of Brazilian TV – free and paid – Globo and Megapix. The analysis examined movies to advertising pieces up to half a minute: there were more than 71,000 seconds of ads, 198 programs and 202 brands.
In addition to the characters, if the way that they were portrayed contributed to gender equity was evaluated. Unlike the first study, conducted in July 2015, the new version took into account points such as seasonality and the possible influence of celebrations such as Carnival. “We already had the hypothesis that the idealization of the standard of beauty and hyper-sexualization of the female figure were stereotypes practically ’embedded’ at this time of year, which ended up confirming itself,” added Carla Alzamora, a spokesperson for the head of the project and director of planning of Heads Propaganda.
If last year, 45% of complaints were uncooperative for gender equality, in the first month of 2016, this number reached an alarming 58%. In the second edition of the analysis, 28% presented an undefined character, compared to 36% in the first half of 2015. And only 14% were, in fact, against the cause; last year this number was 5% higher; ie, it represented 19%.
It is not surprising that alcohol companies are those that most stereotype us. Maybe they should be because following to the letter what many say around here, of “beer not being a woman’s thing.” In January this year, the category accounted for 97% of machismo aired on Brazilian TV screens, when last year was 60%.
For the activist of black feminism, Camila Araújo, 23, the advertising that most bothered her was that of Aline Riscado, who plays “Verão”, of Itaipava (beer) ads: “It is the perfect example of how we are not agents in advertisements, and rather passive (women) of a comical behavior, made to entertain men.” After all the bad repercussion generated by one of the key pieces of advertising of the Paulistano (São Paulo) Carnival, the company released another. In this, the character goes from supporting cast to protagonist. Although she speaks, her speech is trampled in the different “brands of verão”, ie feminine aesthetic stereotypes.
Skol (beer) changed the tone after several women were incensed on social networks by advertising that encouraged abusive behavior by men during São Paulo Carnival this year.
The segment of beauty and personal care products – typical of the female sphere of consumption – portrayed in 91% values pegged to the same commonplace category of beverages; when in 2015, only 39% made sure to reinforce these values. 94% – if not almost all – of campaigns were equipped with the hyper-sexualization our bodies to produce these stereotypes. 77% of the beer brands put us on the wall for displaying us according to a single standard of beauty – many of which likely don’t not represent us; the beauty products sector also puts us at a specific weight, height, hair type, skin color and eyes in the televised mirror, using this same device in 95% of its ads.
CONAR (National Council for Advertising Self-Regulation) is a civil organization founded more than 50 years ago to prevent the placement of advertisements considered unfair or of deceptive content. Importantly, the entity analyzes the likely abuses according to the complaint of consumers, but does not have the power to fine or return the money to consumers who felt “aggrieved”. But because of being a criticism that is not taken so seriously by the advertising area, Carla believes it doesn’t guide the decisions of professionals in this area: “Even if popular pressure from social networks is the fuel of the changes, greater consciousness-raising on the part of clients and agencies is necessary, and also understanding why these people don’t identify with the brand and point the finger to where the problem is in order to then solve it.”
The last census conducted by the IBGE reported that we are the majority among the inhabitants of the country, representing 51% of the national population. But the posture of the companies responsible for the bad example still seems to underestimate the power of female public consumption: “Around 80% of buying decisions are in the hands of women – brands have lost the opportunity to dialogue with them – to connect, create new references and make more profit,” concludes Carla.
Blaming of the victim in the announcement of the Ministry of Justice to combat the consumption of alcohol by children and adolescents.
The beauty sold in advertisements is not for black women
“I can count on my fingers the shampoo commercials that show our hair and alternatives to treat it.” This is the hard-hitting comment of Larissa Santiago, 28, advertiser and member of the Blogueiras Negras (black women bloggers) collective. She does not understand why the beauty and personal care industry ignore 53% of the population that declares itself afrodescendente (African-descendant) or parda (brown/mixed), according to the latest Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios (PNAD or National Study by Sample of Households), conducted in 2014 by the IBGE. “The black woman does not make up the ideal of beauty in Brazil and this is not mere coincidence or a question of taste, but a historical construction inherited from the colonial period,” explains Mariana Ramos, 21, advertiser and feminist activist for the rights of the afrodescendente population.
The invisibility of blacks on the small screen is striking: of the 25% of white men protagonists of the analyzed advertisements, 93% are white. Of the 20% of women, 80% are white. But compared to the survey conducted in the first half of 2015, the ethnic diversity showed a tiny increase, but this number is concentrated in situations in which several people appear, such as couples, parents and children or when it portrays a circle of friends, for example.
Perhaps one of the most controversial cases that surfaced in recent years was that of a tropical drink advertisement by Devassa beer. The piece divulged between the years 2010 and 2011, used the phrase “É pelo corpo que se reconhece a verdadeira negra. Devassa negra. Encorpada, estilo dark ale de alta fermentação. Cremosa com aroma de malte torrado (It’s by the body that one recognizes the true negra. Black Devassa. Bodied, dark style ale of high fermentation. Creamy with a toasted malt aroma) and brought the image of a black woman with cabaret clothing sitting in a sensual way with an expressive look. The brand was sued by the Ministry of Justice after Procon of (the state of) Espírito Santo reported it to the Department of Consumer Protection and Defense. At the time, several sites reported that the fine could be up to 6 million for its abusive character by equating it to a consumer object. No wonder Larissa always chooses not to consume the brand when going to a bar with friends.
This case is an almost palpable proof of the hyper-sexualization of black women in the ads, who in the rare moments in which they are represented, allude to the secular figure of the mulata; commonly linked to “disposable sex.” “We are always the lovers, waitresses and sexy cleaning women – a remnant of our times from Casa Grande e Senzala (Masters and the Slaves), when we were enslaved and considered objects for the satisfaction of the master,” added Camilla.
How many margarine advertisements portray a black family? It’s hard for Mariana point to a specific commercial, but the reproduction of a standard family structure composed of a heterosexual couple and their children, all white with straight hair is something that bothers her: “Is this the average Brazilian family? The numbers prove not, even being what one most sees around here. A society that denies the existence of blacks, even though this being the majority in the country, cannot be anything but racist.”
To Larissa, erasing the black figure in the commercials may be a consequence of the lack of female representatives in high positions within agencies: “It’s not enough being in the creation room, working with the most qualified art director and giving our best. At the time of approval, the creative director will most likely boycott the piece, supported by the argument that ‘you let ideology undermine your work.’ Yes, that has happened to me!”
Therefore, the propensity to hyper-sexualization, objectification and machismo increased considerably, the study concludes. For effective transformations to happen in the advertising sphere, the first step is to change the angle of the gaze of the companies in relation to the female audience. Belittling our demands – that for centuries transcended the single role of mothers and housewives – is to underestimate not only our power of consumption, but our representation as women: “The big question that sustains machismo and gender stereotyping is refusal of the female figure as a thinking individual, with her own desires and decisions. It’s this key that brands need to start hitting,” concluded Mariana.
Watch two Itaipava advertisements cited in the article