Note from BW of Brazil: Here at BW of Brazil we consistently demonstrate the obsession with whiteness in Brazil’s media. But sometimes one has to step back and literally observe just how white that media really is! Sure, Brazil and Brazilians like to present itself/themselves as one, big, happy mixed-race family, but beneath all of the “we are all equal” rhetoric, the reality is that everyone knows which race is favored in ideological terms. Whiteness is so encompassing in the media that most people rarely even notice it. It’s just how it is and when one points this out, another person will be quick to define this attitude as “reverse racism”. After all, what about the white people? For many years, even black Brazilians didn’t really notice it. They were taught that if they’re lucky, they can involve themselves with a white person and perhaps produce a beautiful white-skinned child with blond hair and blue eyes. And if they didn’t quite manage this, well, maybe their child can aspire for the same thing! But nowadays, many Afro-Brazilians are opening their eyes, recognizing how this ideology has affected them psychologically and are speaking out. As in the post below…
For visible princesses
by Élida Aquino
A little song cradled the rainy Sunday afternoon slumber. I opened my eyes from the nap to face what had awaken me as girl years ago and scenes that may not go away with the most skillful fairy dust of all the tales. I watched carefully the commercial for Gotas de Brilho, a Johnson’s product, with a recently launched campaign and a slogan that says “sua princesa com cabelos de princesa” (your princess with princess hair) for interested moms. “Big” Élida felt a grasp equal to the old days. I thought, in that split second, that advertising still doesn’t understand me as a princess also, doesn’t see girls who are like me and still subtly tells us that our hair cannot join in the fun. The commercial ended, I put my hand in my hair that was messed up due to holiday laziness with some distress. I realized: everything’s alright with me, there is no defect here, I am a crowned queen. I got up with the rush of someone needs to wake up others that insist on imitating Branca de Neve (Snow White) and pretend to be dead in front of reality.
Let me start with a story. You’ve already heard others like this, but it’s worth repeating. There once was a girl from the 6th grade. She was one of those that gets ahead; taller than average with hair fuller than that of everyone else. Attending the class that day as a tightrope walker and asked from the bottom of her heart that the hairstyle that her mother had done, tied with an accessory too fragile form the big hair that was there, wouldn’t loosen in any way. The prayers were not answered and without when she didn’t expect it…boom! There was no longer a hairstyle and there wasn’t anyone who wasn’t laughing. She found a way to hold it down securely, but couldn’t escape the observers who wanted to “help with the problem.” – Your hair is so full! I think you should put a little cream in it. Put more cream in it! – one of them said. – Tomorrow I’ll put a lot of cream in it and it won’t be full. You’ll see! – she guaranteed. And so it was. A lot of cream and a reinforced pompom in a day, relaxers that burned her head times later. She still remembers the feeling of the first escova (Brazilian Keratin Treatment). Hair as long and straight as Rapunzel.
All happy to see that the girls of the class found her beautiful and wanted run their fingers through her hair, not to mention the cutest guy in the class that, finally, in that that straight and glorious day, smiled at her. All of this dictated the future that lasted years. Among relaxing kits, afternoons of escovas, hours under the prancha (flattening iron). Reforming, deforming, burning, breaking. Until it no longer remained what it was and she had to rediscover herself, understand that it was not normal to want to be someone else, that she needed to go back before moving to the other level of the game. She was me.
I don’t want girls and boys of today to go through the same thing and I wonder how far will the insanity of Brazilian advertising go. How long, even knowing that beauty is diverse and that all beauty must be seen on the shelves when one resolves to consume, will they strive to keep us out, making us invisible? My heart hoped to see children like my nieces or nephews (who consume brand products), my neighbor, my future daughters or sons, but it hasn’t come. Can’t they be princesses or princes? Yet?! Whose playful universe that are exalting? What they offered me was a little club of lisinhas (straight-haired) branquinhas (white) children, with light-colored eyes, playing on the playground accompanied by their mommies (also branquinhas, lisinhas with that known guy, by the way).
The same mold of the princesa and the príncipe encantado (Princess and Prince Charming) that have always posed as an example of perfection. Where are my friends who are mothers? Where are the children I hug, kiss and play with?
They use shampoos, cologne, love to play around in the tub, a new hairstyle, colorful clothes and are cute too. They are out there and need to be in the small screen of Brazil that is not uniform, which has the largest black population outside of Africa and is home to people with so many other non-white features. Where babies are born in all the little ways you can imagine. We don’t need and don’t want to tolerate the stereotype already sold anymore.
Go to the brand page to see the proportion of diversity that is there
I am thankful for having initiatives such as Happy Hair Girls, Era uma Vez o Mundo (Once Upon a Time), Lulu e Lili Acessórios, books like O cabelo de Cora (Cora’s hair), Os mil cabelos de Ritinha (The thousand hairs of Rita), etc., only that these initiatives don’t override the right to normativity. I want to see these beautiful children around me there in the Johnson’s campaign, with products tailored for who they are. Don’t come telling me I’m too complaining too much because they rarely publish a representative picture on the page. I want everything, everywhere, for the simple fact of having the right and wanting to ensure it for whoever is like me and so many others that are not like the standard.
That you don’t make more girls and boys want to be the little girls playing in the tub and not coming home wondering what’s wrong with being how they are. I would certainly have loved to have references as a child or teenager. This would have made a difference in the time that I began to think that my hair was a problem. Do the right thing! Even offer works that smash your racism. Representativeness matters and I don’t intend, along with a bunch of people, to pretend it’s a fairy tale and it’s not happening. For more campaigns like this:
I dedicate this to the princesses and princes who are still not seeing themselves, hoping that they see themselves here, that they see themselves in me. With love.
Note from BW of Brazil: Just for clarity, I’m sure some readers will go through this post and see equal presentations of the Johnson’s ‘Gotas de Brilho’ commercial and the Happy Hair Girls promo and come to the conclusion that everything is equal. But the fact is that the Johnson’s commercial is presented by a long-time multi-billion dollar company on the media’s most powerful tool, television, while the ‘Happy’ commercial (according to info from You Tube) is in support of a book and Indiegogo crowdfunding project. In other words, the difference is about the same as a comparison between the Rolling Stones and an unknown basement Rock band recently signed to a small independent record label. See the two commercials below.
Source: Meninas Black Power
It’s not so much that one commercial show a little white girl, but that ALL do…. the only way to remedy this would be by law, but how you make such a law? One could say that 50% of the people in these commercials should be black, but would it be in a year, in the same commercial? It’s different with magazines that have 12 per year. There you could definitely try to pass a law that at least 4-5 of them should show black or brown people.
typo: *that one commercial shows*
I just discovered this blog and its pretty cool.
Here in the US, 90% of the “Black” girls in the commercials are biracial. As im reading your blog, im learning that the Black women in Brazil are just trying to get equal representation and a positive one at that where as here in the US, dark skin Black women are trying to get the same thing. Interesting dynamics going on.