Note from BW of Brazil: I really do have to believe that people responsible for such things DO in fact know that the things they say and do will provoke controversy and/or be seen as racist and do such things precisely to attract a response. When I see such things often times I would prefer to ignore them or at least not waste time with a response, but one of the objectives of this blog is to report the news coming out of Brazil from a racial perspective. The reality show BBB 16, featured in the piece below is not a program that this writer watches, but it has been occasionally featured on this blog when specifically racial/racist situations arise or it features a black participant. So here we go with another absurdity. Why is it absurd? I will chime in on that after the article, but for now, here we go again.
BBB 16 reproduces a stereotype considered racist with ‘doll sponge’ of afro hair in the program’s kitchen
By Amauri Terto with information from Redação iBahia
BBB 16 (Big Brother Brasil) debuted this week on Rede Globo (TV) reinforcing in its scenography stereotypes considered racist.
On the morning of Wednesday (19), hosts André Marques and Cissa Guimarães presented on the (Globo TV) program Mais Você details of the kitchen of the attraction, which this year features a mix “of the rustic with the modern.”
One detail of the decoration was noticed by viewers and has been discussed on social networks. It is a “doll-sponge” with cabelo black power (an afro) shown in the sink.
“It’s easy right. Complicated is seeing and coexisting with these violent symbols being reinforced by Brazilian TV. Difficult, you know? Complicated. Cabelo de#bombril tá bom pra vc? (scouring pad hair is good for you?),” wrote the Bahian student Midiã Santana to share on Facebook images of the cleaning utensil – available on the GShow site.
One of the few black participants on the long-running reality show is Ronan who asked the question, “Why does it have to be black? This here won’t be used to wash nothing.”
The tool has been controversial since its release in 2012. Created by the British company Paladone, the ‘doll-sponge’ is available on the market in two versions: one representing ‘Diva’ and another a disco dancer of the 1970s (this version was in the kitchen of BBB).
As soon as they began to be marketed, the dolls raised a debate in the UK about racism and derogatory treatment given to cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) historically.
At the time, the activist of the black cause Weyman Bennett of the entity Unite Against Fascism, made the following statement: “What will be next? Brushes to clean toilets? It is not appropriate in the XXI century that we have images like this. This reinforces negative stereotypes.”
The company defended itself stating that it also released doll sponges of a punk and a woman from the 1960s.
It seems that Globo didn’t keep up with thus or didn’t give any attention to this discussion before decorating the most spied on house of Brazil.
Globo sent a note of clarification to Brasil Post:
“The sponge cited, representing a dancer disco of the 1970s, is part of a collection that depicts icons of different generations and cultures, such as a funky girl of the 1960s, a soldier of the English guard and even the Queen Elizabeth herself. The other models will be placed in the house gradually over the season of the program.”
Note from BW of Brazil: OK, so let’s play the devil’s advocate and ask, “what’s the problem with this?” After all, Globo TV justified the usage of the utensil explaining that there are other iconic images that will used in future shows, right? The problem with this specific utensil is that afro-textured hair has always been a topic of ridicule, jokes and humiliating comments. Historically, Brazilian culture has long associated natural cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) with Bombril, the steel wire scouring pad used to clean dishes. And this sponge with an afro makes a direct connection cleaning dishes and as such it contributes to this long time imagery of afro textured hair. We’ve made reference to Bombril in numerous posts and many writers have shared their experiences with having their hair compared to this product (1). As such, the issue here is that the utensil cannot be separated from the historical context of how natural black hair is seen in Brazil and Globo TV should and I believe DOES in fact know this. Once again, as written in previous posts, Globo TV can never be taken serious as being racially neutral or anti-racist when it is one of the principal vehicles for the dissemination of racist images. That is all.
- Which is one of the principal reasons we feel it necessary to feature so many articles about the rise of Afro-Brazilians sharing their journeys into the acceptance of their natural hair textures.