Competitors for Brazil’s “Miss Bumbum 2012” contest*
Well, this certainly isn’t a surprise, but then, maybe it is. If you’ve followed any of the posts here at BW of Brazil, you know that the exclusion of Afro-Brazilians is nothing new; in reality, in Brazil, it’s the standard! But this annual contest to find the woman with the best butt in Brazil has to take the cake. It’s one thing that Brazil’s women’s magazines, television programs, beauty contests, modeling runways and even men’s adult magazines are dominated by people who look as if they came straight from Europe, but how is it that a contest that awards the woman with the best “asset”, an “asset” that women of African descent have always been made the subject of disgust, objectification, eroticism and exoticism, excludes any women of visible African ancestry?!?** Not even a light-skinned “mulata“?
Contestants from the states of:
top, L to R: Acre, Alagoas, Amapá, Amazonas, Bahia
bottom, L to R: Ceará, Federal District, Espírito Santo, Goiás, Maranhão
In some ways, one could argue that this is a double-edged sword. I mean, after all, isn’t this just another contest that simply objectifies a woman’s body? In this case, maybe it’s better that Afro-Brazilian women weren’t part of this contest anyway. Well, considering that this is Brazil, which has a worldwide image of beautiful women parading, and shaking what their mamas gave ’em on a national and international stage, this is a contradiction. Brazil’s yearly Carnaval is proof in itself that there are countless Afro-Brazilian women who have no problem with partial or near complete public nudity and self-exhibition. As we have discussed previously here on this blog, the stereotypical roles that Brazilian society has set aside for women of African descent are that of the maid, the cook, the sexual fantasy and the Carnaval dancer. Because of these stereotypes associating black women with gyrating hips and hyperactive sexuality, when black Brazilian women achieve prestigious honors that have nothing to do with their bodies, it is not rare that they are thought to be out of their element.
Contestants from the states of:
Top, L to R: Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Pará, Paraíba
Bottom, L to R: Paraná, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Norte
But back to this question of the appreciation of the ass. One could argue that mainstream American society only recently began to express an admiration for a voluminousness backside since the rise of Puerto Rican bombshell Jennifer Lopez, whose advantageous bubble prominently highlighted her African ancestry. Yes, for those who don’t know, Puerto Rico also received African slaves starting in the 16th century. J-Lo made ass worship more acceptable for white-bred communities that didn’t accept or openly express admiration for derrieres that were a little too big or a little too brown. J-Lo fit into that racialized area where Americans knew she wasn’t white but they imagined her to not be black also.
Contestants from the states of:
Top, L to R: Rio Grande do Sul, Rondônia, Roraima, Santa Catarina, São Paulo
Bottom, L and R: Sergipe, Tocantins
In the land of the infamous “one-drop rule”, the J-Lo exception also proves how ridiculous the concept of race is in itself. If persons living in the United States are defined as black due to the “one-drop” of African blood rule, how is it that persons from Latin America are seen in a different category when a large percentage of them also have African ancestry? The shape and size of J-Lo’s butt was one of the factors that marked her as non-white and thus “other”. As Magdalena Barrera saw it, “Race adds much to the discussion of what buttocks mean, and how they can act as shorthand for ‘non-whiteness.'” (1)
All 27 candidates representing 26 states and 1 Federal District
The worship of “bundas” or “bumbums”, as they are called in Brazil, makes the invisibility of black Brazilian women in such a “bunda” worshipping contest all the more puzzling. Unlike the average white American male, white Brazilian males don’t try to hide their admiration for a shapely “bunda”, regardless of the color or package its wrapped in. In an essay from March of 2000, Brazilian journalist/writer Mário Prata expressed this difference between Americans and Brazilians by comparing the contents of the American and Brazilian editions of Playboy magazine:
|Brazil Playboy, Feb. 2011, American Playboy, Oct. 2006|
Is the main difference between the American Playboy and Brazilian Playboy (magazine) the language? Wrong. It’s ass. In the American (edition), we have breasts, udders and real tits that barely fit in the double pages. In ours (Brazilian edition), we have butts; soft-haired blonde butts, curvaceous brown butts and even pink butts. Americans don’t like ass? I would say that Americans don’t know the ass. In fact, worldwide, there are no butts like ours. The butt is a gross domestic product and typically Brazilian. Sometimes, the American magazine makes special editions about breasts. Here, we do real textbooks about butts. Narcissistically, Brazilians love their own ass.
It would seem that Prata doesn’t know that there is a difference between white America and the black communities within the country where booty worship has always been sort of a black man’s initiation into the world of sexuality. I would also point out that not only are the “curvaceous brown butts” that Prata speaks of absent from the 2012 edition of the “Miss Bumbum” competition, they are nearly invisible on the covers of the very same Brazilian edition of Playboy that Prata critiqued. One could even argue that southern states like Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina, that are 70-90% white, are fairly represented given the racial composition of the states. But how do you explain the invisibility of brown-skinned women from heavily Afro-Brazilian northeastern states such as Bahia, Alagoas and Maranhão which are 78%, 66% and 74% Afro-Brazilian? Bahia, which is considered the African center of the country both culturally and racially, even has a Miss Bumbum representative, Amanda Sampaio, that is not only white, but also a transsexual.
In the land that once proclaimed itself a “racial democracy”, hailed the “mulata” as a national sex symbol and even used the “mulata’s” existence as proof of racial mixture and thus a supposed lack of racism, how do you explain the complete absence of brown-skinned women?
What’s your take? Feel free to leave a comment.
* – There are 27 contestants in the “Miss Bumbum” contest, one for of Brazil’s 26 states and 1 representing the country’s Federal District.
** – Of course, this question of blackness is always up for debate. Of the 27 contestants, one could detect that a few of these women are not really white. And because these women are Brazilian, it is possible that many of them actually have some African ancestry. There are also a few whose slightly brownish skin and facial features hint at the possibility of racial admixture. But as in the Jennifer Lopez example, these women would most likely get a pass as “Latinas” in the US. We know black Brazilians who consider Jennifer Lopez to be black and would surely count a few of these women as black also. But in a country where you have beautiful, brown-skinned women like Cris Vianna, Thalma de Freitas and Aline Barbosa, there’s no excuse to exclude browner women from these competitions.
Source: Miss Bumbum Brasil, Luis Nassif Online, Black Women of Brazil, Barrera, Huffington Post, Magdalena. “Hottentot 2000: Jennifer Lopez and Her Butt” in Sexualities in History: A Reader. Edited by Kim M. Phillips and Barry Reay, Routledge, 2001.