Adidas: Brazil is More Than Soccer Balls and Butts
In the past few days Adidas has taken a lot of heat for producing (and promptly pulling) t-shirts using stereotypes of sexy Brazilians to promote the World Cup. On the first t-shirt, a woman in a bikini stands next to the words “Looking to score.” ‘Cause you know, sex with a Brazilian babe is like scoring a goal in soccer. The second shirt seems innocent enough until you look closer at the heart and realize that it’s just an ass in a thong.
The objectification and hypersexualization of Brazilian women is nothing new The most famous Brazilians in the U.S. are all models, and if you Google “Brazilian Women” well, suffice it to say that it’s not safe for work. The first time I Googled my name and the word “Brazilian,” I found porn.
This trend is not confined to Brazilian women: Latinas in general face stereotypes about being hypersexual. These stereotypes tell us that our most valuable asset is our body, not our brain, or our accomplishments. TV shows like Modern Family make millions of dollars off of the “sexy Latina” trope every year, and many Latinas have to deal with this stereotype in their daily lives When advertisers objectify women’s sexuality, it’s not just insulting. Normalizing Latinas as objects makes it difficult for us to be taken seriously, but it’s also dangerous. Why? Because reducing people to a piece of ass or a piece of paper their genitals means they aren’t human, or worthy of human rights and human dignity.
The stereotype that Brazilians are hypersexual is based in some truth: Brazilians can be very sensual. No, we don’t come that way naturally, but culturally, sensuality is normalized in ways that it’s not in the U.S. I remember learning the lyrics to the Girl from Ipanema, her “sweet hips swaying like the sea” and hoping to be like her someday. I have fond memories of the day my mom stopped me walking on the beach and said, “No, you need to move your hips from side to side, not front to back.” We practiced together on the flat sand, swaying for no one but ourselves. At that age, it didn’t even occur to me to sway my hips for men to watch.
I want people to know my beautiful country for more than soccer and hot women. I want a t-shirt that advertises the incredible cultural diversity one can find across this huge country, from Afro-Brazilian candomblé ceremonies, to eating Japanese street food, to trying to understand Portuguese that seems it was never translated out of Italian. I want Brazil to be advertised as a musical mecca—because catching a roda de samba at your local bar is priceless. Drinking that first suco de maracujá off the plain is pure divinity and trying to translate our best idiomatic phrases into English is the best kind of brain exercise. Brazil is the reason that saudade—a word meaning nostalgia, or “to miss something”—exists in no other language than Portuguese. Because you’ll never miss a place the way you’ll miss Brazil.
When tourists come to Brazil they should know that this incredible place is run on the backs of women who care, create, and work for their country. For too long, Brazil has been best known for butts and soccer balls. The World Cup is an opportunity for us to show the world that yes, we are damn good at soccer, but we are more than the sum of the commercials you see.