|Giovana Silva or “Mara”|
You just can’t make this stuff up! Our goal here at BW of Brazil has always been to highlight the position of black women in Brazil society; the good, bad and the ugly. We discuss the historic challenge of being a black woman in Brazil, the achievements, the beauty, the exploitation, the invisibility, the image and the overall experience. Our goal is not to speak for black Brazilian women, but simply to divulge the existence of these women considering how the Brazilian and global media ignores them in lieu of presenting Brazil as a country that doesn’t have racial divisions. So let’s discuss this latest piece of “news”.
As we have repeatedly demonstrated on this blog, black women in Brazil, those who are of visible African ancestry are often completely ignored or extremely underrepresented in many areas of Brazilian society. Here it is we’re already past the first decade of the 21st century and we must still speak of the first black Brazilian female judge, the first black Brazilian woman to star on a prime time soap opera, the first and only black woman to be named Miss Brasil, the first anthology of black Brazilian female writers and many other firsts. This is because historically in Brazil, the black woman has always been considered last on the totem pole. The stereotypical image of black (inclusive of “mulata”) women in the Brazilian imagination is that of the maid, the cook, the babysitter or the Carnaval dancer.
The Brazilian woman of visible African descent, although at times recognized as sexy, voluptuous and beautiful, is usually invisible where representation could positively change the image in the popular imagination such as women’s magazines, fashion runways and TV. Believe it or not, although Afro-Brazilian women have been touted worldwide for their erotic appeal, we posted a story yesterday about the exclusion of a clearly black woman in the “Miss Bumbum 2012”* contest which chooses the Brazilian woman with the nicest ass from the 26 states and federal district. So, someone had the idea of creating a “Miss Prostitute” competition of sex workers in the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s third largest city and fifth largest economy. Can you guess the race of the woman that won this contest?
Did you say black?
|Giovana Silva named the winner of the contest|
One could look at this contest as just another meaningless contest in a world that already has contests for nearly everything already. But it’s the meaning of the contest that deserves a second look. No one is criticizing the fact that these women work as prostitutes in the “world’s oldest profession.” Sometimes this is a choice, sometimes it is the only profession some women feel is available to them in a sexist society, sometimes it’s the only profession that allows a woman to feed her children. No, this isn’t the issue here. The issue is once again the fact that black Brazilian women can be negatively stereotyped, ignored and made invisible in areas where women earn some sense of respectability and distinction. But in a contest that honors women who work in a profession that is devalued, criticized, dehumanized and associated with depravity and hyper-sexuality, a black woman is awarded. It seems we haven’t made any advancement since the days of the Venus Hottentot.
|Two contestants walk the runway|
Here are the details on the contest…
Contest elects “Miss Prostitute” in Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais)About a thousand people attended, on Saturday (Sept. 29) night, in a popular shopping center in Belo Horizonte, the “Miss Prostitute Contest”. Twelve professional sex workers paraded on a walkway with the intent to protest against prejudice and violence in the profession.
|Contestants of the Miss Prostitute contest|
The winner, chosen by a jury consisting of representatives from civil society, was Giovana Silva, who uses the name Mara in her day to day activities. A 25 year old said she arrived from Vitória, Espírito Santo six months ago and works in a brothel on Guaicurus Street where there is a traditional concentration of brothels in downtown Belo Horizonte.
|Cida Vieira, president of Assoc. of Prostitutes of Minas|
The organization reported that all women participated voluntarily, but at the end of the event one of the presenters announced that Mara would receive R$3000 (US$1,500) for the title of “Miss Prostitute” and an advertising contract valid until the end of the year with the popular shopping mall. Mara said that she charges R$10 per “programa (trick)”, thanking the contest makers saying she was “happy and that participating in the contest is a way to draw attention to their situation, trying to make it so that the bias decreases,” she said.
The president of the Association of Prostitutes of Minas Gerais, Cida Vieira, chose the women who paraded in the runway. Cida is one of the creators of the event and said she hoped, with the idea to raise the discussion on regulation “in fact” of the profession: “Minas Gerais has 80 thousand prostitutes and we want legalization for entitlement to the right, in other words, access to what other professions have. We have in the Ministry of Labor the record of the occupation, but that’s it,” she said.
“We want to complain, with this show, everything that a prostitute goes through in everyday life: psychological torture, violence. Want to tread the catwalk as if we were treading on prejudice. We don’t want to be invisible anymore”, she concluded.
* – Some of the women of the “Miss Bumbum 2012” competition are not clearly white as one can detect slightly brown skin and facial features of a few of the contestants that denote that they are not completely white. As we wrote yesterday, these women would fit into the “Latina”/Jennifer Lopez category in the US. But it speaks volumes when the judges of the “Miss Prostitute” contest chose an indisputably black woman as winner of this competition.