Note from BW of Brazil: Well actually, we’ve known this for quite some time. I mean, if you haven’t figured out that Brazil doesn’t accept blackness as a representation of Brazilian beauty (in reality, the country doesn’t see blackness as good for representing anything else) then you simply haven’t been following this blog long enough. I mean, how much more evidence do you really need? Check out some of the pieces here on white supremacy, the European standard of beauty, cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) or race and place before you read the article below and you’ll get a pretty good idea of how people see race beyond all of the “we are all equal” rhetoric. I touched a little upon the meaning of Monalysa Alcântara’s crowning as the 2017 Miss Brasil just last month, and as I said, even not being a dark-skinned black woman, she’s still too dark with hair way too curly for Brazilian standards.
Miss Brasil 2017 and the Brazilian’s difficulty in accepting the beauty that represents it
The ‘diverse beauty’ works only up to page two.
For the second consecutive year, Miss Brasil is a black woman. It seems absurd to think that someone like Monalysa Alcântara, the winner of the contest in 2017, is a rarity in a country that claims to live a racial democracy. The beauty event that bears the name of the country doesn’t represent Brazil, but an external and totally imposed standard and the victory of Miss Piauí divided the public and caused controversy in social networks.
In over 60 years of competition, Monalysa is the third negra to win. The first was Deise Nunes in 1986, and by 2016 there was a 30-year period when these women did not take the crown – which makes this victory even more significant:
“To win Miss Brasil, to be able to represent women, especially the black and northeastern women in Brazil and now in the world, is an honor, an immeasurable pride. I feel responsible for representing not only my race and my people but also our whole historical burden,” explained Miss Piauí.
The reason for this lack of acceptance is structural, according to activist and YouTuber Xan Ravelli of the Soul Vaidosa channel: “There is no other answer to this question than racism: racism in the world, and Brazil in a very peculiar way, keeps black women and black men out of the spaces – and the standards, which have always constructed and sedimented the concepts of what is beautiful or not. “
History is even important when speaking of beleza miscigenada (mixed-race beauty)
The first point that needs to be made clear when discussing miscegenation here is that the word is more beautiful than the reality it encompasses. Since colonization, women have been victims of a culture of rape that begins to take root in history when the Portuguese landed on the beaches. They raped the índias (Indian women) repeatedly during the process of colonization of Brazilian lands, and this standard of behavior continued with the arrival of negras escravas (black female slaves) from Africa. Those who were considered to be different from the settlers had to obey the wills of the ‘stronger’, since they were also seen as ‘inferior’.
That is to say: from the beginning, the homem branco (white man) established himself as the current standard and determined the order of importance of the other genders and races in relation to his own. “Our references of what is the ideal, of power and wealth are associated with pele branca (white skin) and the fact that beleza negra (black beauty) has never been in vogue, or high on the list of discussions as it is now. We are seeing this flowering,” explains the researcher and fashion and beauty historian Andréia Míròn.
Miscegenation exists, of course, but without the romantic bias in which many people believe. The History of Brazil is based on the attempted embranquecimento da população (whitening of the population), always keeping the white man at the top of this social pyramid.
Taking into account that the white man dictated the trends, commanded the markets and determined what was and what was not allowed in Brazil, the padrão de beleza (standard of beauty) defended by this same man became effective. That is, the mulher branca (white woman) with light eyes and cabelos lisos (straight hair) was seen as the most beautiful, and the rejection of what did not fit this vision was immediate.
“Beauty standards, as well as many other standards, are defined from the white perspective. Socially, we have not learned to identify beauty outside of pele branca (white skin), outside of straight hair, thin nose, thin body. So, it’s as if we didn’t learn that other images, shapes and textures outside this padrão branco eurocêntrico (white Eurocentric standard) are also beautiful,” says Xan.
In observing this context, it is possible to understand why racism is something structural in Brazil. And miscegenation turns out to be an excuse to say there is no racism around here. The word has received romantic airs and is seen as a positive attribute while retaining a history of oppression between the lines.
Looking for another strand, Míròn explains that when a new idea arises, it causes a social impact, and the first reaction is rejection: “We have never been so connected as in this millennium, when people became Pantones, we put people in classifications this has created a discomfort, because from the moment you build bases that you believe are solid and the other shows a different view, the first impact is to retreat, is not to accept. Only later will this idea be diluted.”
Acceptance: the next step
Rejection of what escapes from the white standard of beauty is a fact – Afro hair is still considered by many to be ‘sujo’ (dirty) – and the moment is a heavy labor toward acceptance, not just of the individuality of each, but of that the Brazilian, by him/herself, does not have a single referential of what is beautiful, as it happened in Ancient Greece.
“I think this is due to the fact that, unfortunately, we live in a culture in which we learn to hate all the representations of black people: the skin, the hair, the mouth, the nose. I believe we have advanced in a way to break some stigmas in relation to this, but we must continue so that we can advance more and more,” completes Miss Brasil 2017.
Míròn goes further, explaining that it is not only the woman who needs to do this deconstruction, but the Brazilian people as a whole – especially since, living in the síndrome do vira-lata (eternal mutt syndrome), he always believes that he is at a disadvantage compared to other peoples. “The Brazilian has this crisis of self-esteem, a lack of identification because of this social syncretism.” We still don’t see what the face of the Brazilian looks like, and now we see that this is the Brazilian, it’s all of this. The fact that we are all this and people don’t accept being all this … I want to be unique, my skin wants to be unique, my hair wants to be unique … This issue of exclusivity of being Brazilian does not exist. No manual has been passed on to us of what it is to be Brazilian.”
Therefore, the historian says that it is ideal for society to reach a point where there are no more standards of reference of what is beautiful, because everyone respects one another’s beauty, and classifications and judgments are discarded. “I’m going to have to create within my own person a referential of my own.”
This scenario seems utopian if Míròn’s discourse is not put into practice. It is here where the importance of the culture of self-love and acceptance of self before the neighbor comes in – the beauty of all can only be recognized as equal from the moment that we ourselves feel equal to others. This means that we also need recognition that the system in which we live is flawed and that it needs to change to encourage that same acceptance.
“The process of deconstruction and reconstruction is daily since racism has many ways of saying how the mulher negra e crespa (a black woman with kinky/curly hair) is inadequate. Knowing the history of heróis negros e heroínas negras (black male and female heroes) from childhood was very important for the formation of my self-esteem, as well as a black, strong, beautiful mother figure who has always made a point of reinforcing how much being black makes me wonder,” adds the YouTuber.
Moreover, we can always follow the (beautiful) words of Monalysa Alcântara herself, who also believes in this path as the outlet for all intolerance that is reported there: “we could encourage the acceptance of beauty by always showing our real essence, without getting attached to a standard or to a single style.”
Source: Huff Post Brasil
The two consecutive Miss Brazil are a start but I’m still waiting for the day a woman with Lupita Nyong’o’s or Viola Davis’ complexion and features win Miss Brazil!