Note from BW of Brazil: This is story simultaneously absurd and also symbolic of Brazilian society’s view of black women. To understand why the details of this story led to such revolt on social networks, you must have an understanding of the traditional “place” associated with and reserved for black women in Brazilian society. As we have pointed out in numerous posts, in the media and the social imagination, the “place” of the black woman is either in the kitchen or in the bedroom. Two other facts that add to the absurdity are 1) black dolls are rare in Brazil (a shame considering the success of the black doll that is outselling Barbie in Nigeria) (1) and 2) the maker of the doll chose to not only use feather duster material in its creation, but also used the cleaning tool in the doll’s name! I would really like to give the maker of this doll the benefit of the doubt, but really…Did she think before she made this? Maybe she did; after all, these stigmas associated with black women are very strong.
Called “Neguinha do Espanador”, doll causes controversy in social networks
Piece is part of an exhibition in a shopping mall in the south zone of São Paulo
By Caroline Apple
Black doll name in shopping exhibition in SP cause revolt in social networks.
An Estrela doll on display at the Market Place mall on the south side of São Paulo, named “Neguinha do Espanador” (meaning “little black girl of the feather duster”) is causing outrage on social networks. Internet users accused of the work of artist Rita Caruzzo of being racist. The “toy” depicts a black woman with carnival features, where the clothes are the feathers of a feather duster.
For Renata Felinto, a doctoral student in Arts from UNESP (São Paulo State University) and a visual artist specializes in the representation of black women, the work is a “disrespect” and how blacks are represented in society are part of a choice.
“Historically the place for the black woman was as an object for sexual and domestic use. More than 70% of domestic employees are black in our country and this condition occurs not by choice, but by the basic need. But today there are many master’s and doctoral students supported by social education programs. This artist is, at the minimum, misinformed when she portrays the black woman in the place of submission, exploitation and humiliation, because that’s the way domestic work is seen in Brazil. This clearly brings out the slave legacy. It’s disrespect to this segment of the population and undermines the fight against racism.
The piece is part of the exhibition Mail Art Cupcake Estrela, created in a partnership between the toy brand and MuBE (Museu Brasileiro de Esculturas or Brazilian Museum of Sculpture) in 2013, when several blank dolls were manufactured and sent to about 80 artists around the world for whom they were customized. According to the museum, the current exhibition is independent, but on the institution’s website there is a picture of the doll shown at the time.
Note from Estrela
“Estrela Toys clarifies that the exhibition ‘Mail Art Cupcake Surpresa’ is part of an action of MuBE (Brazilian Museum of Sculpture) and has as responsible curator the designer Nelson Schiesari. The participation of the manufacturer was to meet the request of the museum and cede 500 equal blank versions of the Cupcake Surpresa doll to be customized by various artists or aspiring (artists) around the world with total creative freedom. Estrelas Brinquedos (Estrela Toys) announced it has no intention of making any of the versions of the show and reaffirms its commitment to respect for cultural, social and ethnic diversity.”
Note from Market Place
“The Market Place Shopping Center reaffirms that it respects all diversity, whether of race, age, religion, sexual orientation, physical condition or any other, and reiterates its commitment to offering society a living space, for better experience of leisure and integration among citizens.”
An online store selling English toys was accused of racism in England after a mother noticed that the white doll was sold for a higher price than the black and Asian ones. The white doll cost about R$140 and those of other ethnicities R$99 (2). The store said it was a mistake in the price and that now all the dolls have the same value.
1. We also saw a special release of the Barbie Baiana doll in 2012, but this doll was unbelievably expensive.
2. We saw a similar controversy happened in Rio de Janeiro back in 2012. See the story here.