“We, black women are invisible to the media”, says women’s rights institute vice executive director



Note from BW of Brazil: The interview below continues along the lines of much of the analysis found daily on this blog. Please see the previous articles associated with the research discussed in the interview in order to get a background on the discussion. But in reality, even without reading those articles, the points made in the interview present more than enough background on the topic.

The black woman is invisible in advertising says vice executive director of the Patrícia Galvão Institute

by Luciana Araújo

For 65% the standard of beauty in advertising is far from the reality of Brazilians and 60% believe that women get frustrated when they don’t see themselves in this pattern. In the perception of society, women in advertisements are mainly young, white, thin and blond, have straight hair and are from the upper class.

Instituto Patrícia Galvão

According to the research study, “Representações das mulheres nas propagandas na TV” (Representations of women in advertisements on TV), conducted by Data Popular and the Patrícia Galvão Institute, the majority of respondents want the diversity of Brazilian women to be more represented: 51% would like to see more black women and 64% would like to see working class women in advertisements. The research conducted interviews with 1,501 men and women over 18 years of age in 100 cities from all regions of the country, between the 10th and 18th of May of this year.

For the vice executive director of the Patrícia Galvão Institute, Mara Vidal, the advertising market still doesn’t portray black women. “We, black women are invisible to the media, that doesn’t see that we take baths, use shampoo, eat margarine, do housework and in particular, we are people with purchasing power,” she explains. Check out the full interview:

Mara Vidal
Mara Vidal

The survey showed that the majority of respondents, men and women, want to see more black women in advertisements on TV and that 80% perceive that more white women are shown. How do you evaluate this data and in your evaluation, what repercussions does it has on the population?

In the first place, it is important to say that people want to see themselves and the black population doesn’t see itself in the media, or when you see it it’s in situations that portray them as people with no power. An example of this are the advertisements of Caixa Econômica (1), that in the imagination of the population, are closely linked to poverty, to the payment of assistance benefits. Or when Milton Gonçalves appears as the elderly black gentleman who looks for medicines in a popular drugstore or take the flu vaccine offered by SUS (Sistema Único de Saúde) (2). These representations do not qualify us nor empower us, because these spaces are judged in the imagination as the place of the disempowered, lacking acquisitively, one hardly thinks that this is the place in which everyone should have access to and that there is a service of quality. When the space, the place is automatically disqualified it gives the same denotation person to the person/character that occupies that particular place.

Still from "Xô, neura" commercial for Veja cleaning product
Still from “Xô, neura” commercial for Veja cleaning product

And at the time when it shows a happy family, the family of margarine commercial, or even when it will shows the successful woman that does “xô neura” sending the neurosis of cleaning chores away and remaining on the couch with free time, the black woman doesn’t as someone who possibly lives and does this. And even though these advertisements are also questionable for putting us as women as those responsible for household tasks, neither in this way does a black man or black woman appear in a foreground condition. How often has a black woman looked “good”, on the couch, sending away pesky chores? None.

TRESemmé hair spray commercial

The black family – and there are many studies about this – is rarely presented as the “happy” family. Even in advertisements for shampoos for curly hair, cabelo crespo (curly/kinky hair) does not appear. At the most there’s hair with a curling iron. There is no shampoo for our nappy hair. The advertisements for creams for our skin, which is a mixture of oily with dry, a company of toiletries and beauty presented some interesting things made ​​some time ago, but the current ad shows two white women and a black woman with curly hair.

These examples show how invisible we are to the media, who can’t see that we bathe, use shampoo, eat margarine, do housework, and, in particular, are people with purchasing power. Even when the maid goes to the supermarket she is using her purchasing power. It is no wonder that people say: ‘Look, I’m not there.’ And if it’s true that it cannot stop buying because it needs to live, there is a dissatisfaction because we see racism manifest with respect to our capacity, our qualities and our purchasing power.

And that ignores the fact that there are more black men and women with higher purchasing power and also more aware of their black condition. Yes, and that is what has led to actions to boycott certain brands and products.

Do you assess that there is even a stance of the black consumer of rejecting brands and products of which they don’t identify with?

It exists and it works. It can’t work on a large scale, but fortunately today the internet and social networks allow us to have this critical dialogue. For example, the last advertisement for a brand of cosmetics and perfumery, which had no black woman and showed a profile of the Americanized consumer brand, was taken off of television after a barrage of criticism on social networks and a web campaign to boycott the brand.

And of course it also has the solidarity of non-black people in relation to the attitude of these brands and the result of word of mouth, which leads to an increase in the weight of boycott campaigns. Because blacks make criticism or word of mouth on the train, on the bus and in the neighborhood, especially the woman, who has a higher power of incidence and, in the black population, a higher consumption power.

Is it possible to say that it is no longer so easy to push an advertiser profile supporting the idea that society will accept whatever is made in this representation?

Yes, the removal of a makeup line commercial from the air of the aforementioned company is an example. That shows that the maintenance of this mentality generates reactions especially because the black population is beginning to develop an alternative market. A Sebrae study that shows that in ten years the number of black entrepreneurs in the country grew from 43% to 49% was recently released. Although these alternatives today do not compete in the market on an equal footing with large companies, it is a market that is growing.

For example, there is now Feira Preta, with various products. The Expo Mulher Negra e Cia (Black Women & Company Expo), for example, occurred only on the internet and now happens as a physical event in São Paulo. Many beauty products for the skin of the black population are new, are coming and  means people will stop using product X and go to Y. It will not be overnight, but the action of the black population to be entrepreneurs and to have products that communicate more closely with the identity of being black is happening.

Last year, an entire line of bikinis featuring the symbolism of orixás (African deities), which is the African religion, was presented at São Paulo Fashion Week. It’s not a product only for blacks, even according to the price, but it dialogues with the icons/symbolic references of black culture.

And how is this discussion about representation and the policy of quotas?

Advertising does not have to respond to the quota policy, it has to understand that 51% of our population is black. So, our advertisers have to understand that it’s no use just give the agency the name África if it does not understand that half of the population consumes, produces and leads the development of the country, either in place of domestic service or in a high command post.

I’m sure that I’m active in this society and contribute effectively to the development of it. And this society owes me answers. So quotas are important, but having them as the horizon is too small. If my family is successful, if I am part of mother heads of families, it is important that this diversity is shown and shows that we are also agents of consumption, production and development.

Unfortunately we were hostages of the quota policy because in Brazil there is no affirmative policy to place blacks as the historic subject. In this sense, the quota policy is important but it puts us in a borderline situation because in the country people comply with laws, but do not see the reality that there are blacks and non-blacks from classes A to E (rich to extreme poverty). We cannot continue only in the novela of the time, as the maid or as the representation that has a “lighter” skin tone, as if this account represents the whole of the shades of blackness.

And does this representation have repercussions in real life?

I am a practical person, I know other concrete women and men who earn good money, consume, live, experience happy and sad moments, like everyone else. But we are not portrayed and we have no identification with what the advertisements on TV shows present as black people. I want to see a black woman with strong pigmentation in advertisements, selling everything from soap to notebooks and purses, being a family of Doriana margarine. Because we like and also buy quality products.

Doriana margarine commercial

And it also helps to break the barrier of prejudice when we go to the store, because when an advertisement appears and I go to buy that product, often when I arrive at the store the vendor doesn’t want to meet me. And this reflects in the fact that there is no consumer like me in advertisements. It’s no wonder that people responded how they responded in that survey. It’s an indicator that reality needs to change. And this goes beyond consumption. Especially because every message that appears on television is beyond consumption, it constructs ideas and ideologies, it’s a message for social relations, political participation and for social criticism. And current ideologies and representations in advertisements do not generate equality.

Many people who don’t have cable TV receive a barrage of propaganda. And children are those who are most assimilated to these ideologies. The other day the my friend’s daughter told her mother she wanted to eat chocolate, but that she would have to get straight hair to be able to eat chocolate. So what went through the head of that child? That there was a straight hair code to allow access to something she wanted.

Often when one is oriented in this question of social repercussions there is a tendency to point out a “militant” posture. But the survey also showed that a percentage well above the 51% blacks of the population see that the advertisements on TV do not show the real woman and especially doesn’t show the black woman.

Because people are conversing about it. When a black man or black woman goes to the university, where we are still a minority, they begin to engage with non-blacks and expose these issues. Our militant reaction also generates perception. Moreover, we live in the real world. How many blond friends with light-colored eyes does each person have? How many do we see on the train or subway every day? On TV this representation is an absolute majority. And people are realizing that there is a distance between this stereotype and the real world.

Sometimes the anger appears in the manner that it appeared in the survey, that many more people than blacks are uncomfortable with the current standard of representation of women, especially black women. And agencies need to understand that in order for black women and black people to consume with greater peace of mind it’s necessary to leave this stereotype and realize that black women and men don’t only buy in popular stores.

Note from BW of Brazil: Coincidentally, in the same week in which the research discussed in this article was conducted (May 10th to May 18), one blogger posted an article expressing the exact opinion that would later be released in the report. The article below presents  Wilian César’s analysis of a Mother’s Day commercial by a popular Brazilian appliance store chain. 

Advertising exclusion: where are black mothers?

by Wilian César

In honor of Mother’s Day 2013, Casas Bahia (largest advertiser in the country) (3) made ​​a pretty clever commercial to celebrate the date. To the sound of the song “Fico assim sem você (I’m like this without you)” performed by children, a video goes on presenting several moments when mothers are present in the lives of children, always with great affection and (dedication). In reference to the traditional slogan “Dedicação total a você (Total Dedication to you).”

Dia das Mães 2013 (Mother’s Day 2013) – Casas Bahia commercial

From the standpoint of emotion and creativity, we can say that this commercial is a perfect work. However, watching with a more critical eye, it is impossible not to pay attention to an old problem of Brazilian advertising: resistance to putting black characters in leading roles in advertising campaigns.

If it’s to honor the “dedication of all mothers”, as stated by a female voice at the end of the message, why are there are no black mothers and children in this Casas Bahia commercial then? What is interesting is that the Casas Bahia itself has a significant number of black customers.

The impression is that black mothers do not have a relationship of affection and “dedication” with their children, or that they even exist in Brazil. It’s an exclusion similar to what happens in television programs (particularly novelas).

No one here is asking for a quota for blacks in advertising campaigns and not even accusing the store of racism, but it’s important to remember that we, afrodescendentes (African descents), also consume goods and services.

I don’t know if it’s the fault of Casas Bahia itself, or the advertising agency responsible for its campaigns, Young & Rubicam, of Roberto Justus. Anyway, it’s a critique.

Source: Agência Patrícia GalvãoSociedade em Foco


1. Caixa Econômica Federal (or Federal Savings Bank), also referred to as Caixa or CEF, is a Brazilian bank. It is the second largest government-owned financial institution in Latin America, after Banco do Brasil. It is the fourth largest bank in Brazil by assets and one of the largest in Latin America. Source

2. The Sistema Único de Saúde (or the Unified Health System), better known by the acronym SUS, is Brazil’s publicly funded health care system. SUS was created after the Brazilian Constitution of 1988, which assured that health care is a “right of all and an obligation of the State”. Source. A number of articles on this blog discuss SUS, see here.

3. Casas Bahia (Bahia Houses) is a Brazilian retail chain which specializes in furniture and home appliances. It was founded in 1952 in São Caetano do Sul, São Paulo, by Polish immigrant Samuel Klein, who began his career as a peddler selling products to immigrants from the Brazilian Northeast. The chain is currently owned by Grupo Pão de Açúcar, which has purchased it in December 2009. Source

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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