Soccer superstar Ronaldinho Gaúcho
“O homem negro é melhor aceito como par quando tem status superior ao da esposa branca, o que serve para “compensar” a diferença entre os dois.”
“The black man is better accepted as a partner when he has superior status than his white wife, which serves to “compensate” (for) the difference between the two.”
– Thales de Azevedo, Brazilian professor/researcher in
Democracia racial: ideologia e realidade, 1975
Continuing with our theme for the next few days, black men/white women interracial relationships in Brazil, this article is very revealing about how this type of relationship functions in Brazil. Although recent reports show that Afro-Brazilians have been experiencing major ascension into Brazil’s middle class in the past decade, traditionally, soccer and music have been the only ways that black men in Brazil have been able to attain wealth, fame and prestige. For many years, Brazil promoted the idea that skin color didn’t matter, but over the past six decades, various studies, including articles from this blog, prove that skin color has a strong influence on one’s social status and experience in Brazil.
The article below (from 2010) portrays an important dynamic that attracts white female soccer fans to black athletes: money. There are a few issues I have with the researcher’s conclusions about race, money and relationships, but first read the article and come to your own conclusion. At the end of this article, I will offer my own analysis.
In soccer, the racial question doesn’t matter for intimate relationships
Futebol (soccer) is a magic wand. Among the spells it is capable of is diluting and even erasing the issue of racial context when the subject is of an amorous or sexual order.
“Soccer is one of the only places in that the racial question is less important for the amorous mediations,” says researcher Leda Maria da Costa, of the Center for Studies and Research on Sport and Society at Fluminense Federal University in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro.
“It doesn’t matter the color or beauty, what matters to women fascinated with soccer players is the aura and the social status they have.”
The conversation between women is striking, as Folha de S.Paulo found in the aisles and bleachers of the Antarctica Park, on March 22nd (2010), during the match between Palmeiras and Grêmio.
Which player is your object of desire? “Vagner Love,” fires back the lawyer Neide DeLaurentis, 35, without hesitation, hair blow dried and face made-up. You like him for how he looks or because of the bank account? “Ah, the two things.”
Vágner Love, a striker for the Flamengo soccer club in Rio de Janeiro
Would you be with him if he was just a neighbor and not a famous player? “Then, no”, she admits. “Not that I’m being racist, but if a black person approaches me, I will research whether he is a lawyer, soccer player, a working man. If he was a soccer player, which is really related to money,” she adds.
The businesswoman Gilmara dos Reis, 24, also didn’t hide how the world of soccer fame and wealth can shape, or release, her desire.When she goes to the stadiums, she leaves her “branquinho (little white)” boyfriend and doesn’t take her eyes off the muscular legs of the players with black skin. “It’s each big leg”, she says, fanning herself.
But if there is so much fascination with the body of the black man on the field, why not look for them outside the stadium? “Oh, no. If he weren’t a player, I’d stay with my branquinho (little white guy) back home.”
Leda insists: “What mediates the relationship is the status of the player, and not their color or their race. Whatever may be a decisive factor in the amorous choices is no longer important within the world of soccer.”
The researcher studied the figure of the “Maria Chuteiras (groupies or gold diggers of soccer players)” in opposition to the rise of the figure of the female fan. And unravels the moment in which the soccer player emerges as an object of female desire.
It was in the 1920s that the figure of the athletic man replaced the slight figure and unsmiling man of the letters who once provoked girls’ fantasies. This change comes along with the social visibility that players get to have with the popularization of soccer.
“There is an imaginary energy around the soccer player, which not only attracts physically but that is also rich and absolutely immersed in the media.”
More recently, Brazil’s fourth World Cup championship in 1994, breaking a drought of 24 years, promoted the theme of soccer gossip columns and celebrity magazines, revealing millionaire salaries, routine vacations, luxury cars and clothes of the players.
In this context, the beautiful woman becomes just another status symbol, like a car of the year. For Leda, however, the differences weigh in even if covertly. “Any black man who ascends socially and marries a white woman is charged for this. And the case of the soccer player is no exception to the rule. It’s a complex issue.”
So what conclusion did you come to here? My conclusion is as follows. I won’t draw any complete conclusions about researcher Leda Maria da Costa because I have not read her entire thesis on this topic. But based on what I read it seems that the title of the article, “In soccer, the racial question doesn’t matter for intimate relationships”, is misleading at best and a flat out lie at worst. How is it that one can draw the conclusion that the racial question doesn’t matter? One of the women even precluded her statement with the ever popular “Not that I’m being racist” phrase.
Neide said that she would not pursue a black man if he were just her neighbor and not a famous player. She goes on to elaborate on what she would do if “a black person approaches” her. Let’s analyze a few things. Neide is a lawyer (advogada), a prestigious occupation in Brazil and in the world, thus I would assume that she lives in a middle class or above neighborhood. If she has a black neighbor that would signify that this person also has the financial means to live in such a neighborhood. Thus if she would reject him if he were her neighbor and he has a similar socioeconomic profile, this would mean that she is rejecting him simply based on his race. If she were simply interested in someone that had a similar economic profile, race wouldn’t have anything to do with her selection. Her insistence on doing a thorough background check on a black person would seem to signal that she accepts social and racial stereotypes about black people in general.
Gilmara’s statements are similar. She admits she wouldn’t pursue a black man outside of the stadium or who one wasn’t a soccer player. Sure, she may be sexually attracted to him, but it is his status on the field that signals money and privilege. One could argue that her words display social prejudice rather than racial prejudice but she continues that if a black man weren’t a soccer player, she’d stay with the white guy she’s already got. Interpreted another way, one could argue that a black man is being held to a higher standard in this context. It would appear from her statement that if a black man had a similar status to the white guy she had at home, this wouldn’t be good enough. Gilmara is a businesswoman (empresária) and, presumably, as status seems to be important to her, her “little white guy back at home” has a similar socioeconomic profile as she does.Thus, if a black man is a superstar, high profile athlete, this would make him wealthier, more prestigious and socially admired than the white guy she’s got at home and thus, because of this, acceptable or even desirable.
Since the 1940s, there have been countless studies on social ascension (including Thales Azevedo 1957, Donald Pierson 1942) of the black population in Brazil that suggests that since black skin is a social stigma or disadvantage, Afro-Brazilian men that have social mobility will marry white women of a lower socioeconomic bracket as a trade off and acceptance in white society. He has the money but is the “wrong” color. She has the “right” color but is in a lower economic bracket. In this article about Brazil’s so-called “Maria Chuteiras”, or “gold diggers” as Americans would call them, we don’t necessarily see poor white women pursuing rich black men because the women interviewed appear to be successful in their own right (lawyer, businesswoman). But what we DO see is that black Brazilian men are held to a higher standard in the area of relationships than white men which seems to confirm the old saying: “If you’re black, you have to be 10 times better”.
What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment.
Source: Folha de S.Paulo, Black Women of Brazil
Why do black Brazilian men prefer blonds? Part 1
Why do black Brazilian men prefer blonds? Part 2
Black men, white women in Brazil: Although common, still a taboo
The “negão” and the fetishization of interracial sex in Brazil