Women’s Bodies in Brazil & Italy

 (“You too can be objectified! Call now!”)

I’ve been looking at how women are negatively portrayed in foreign media and almost immediately two countries come to mind as the most guilty parties, Italy and Brazil. Women in these countries are mere sexual objects and good only for decorating TV sets, well, that is the picture one would take away from spending time in either country and avidly watching their television shows. My ‘favorite’ example is that of the dancing girl which in Italy is called a velina, or ’tissue paper’ in Italian which recalls an object that one uses once to discard something unwanted, before that object turns into a piece of rubbish (I wonder what Freud might say have to say about this?). While the dictionaries I looked at have said definition, an Italian told me the term velina is a journalistic term referring to the paper the news is printed on.

According to the New York Times*, “Last November, Time reported that a poll of girls in Milan said that being a velina was their top choice of profession.” Is this not extremely sad? I don’t doubt that such findings would be very similar among young Brazilian women who dream of being a dancarina on any one of many variety shows that are so popular in Brazil (and in Italy, too, for that matter). For those who know something about the study of the psychology of women, you know that women are taught to follow certain mandates in modern societies, such as the mother mandate or the career mandate but I suggest a ‘new’ one, the beauty mandate. I touched upon this subject in my recent post called Models for Success*, but I fear the topic needs way more attention than it currently receives. Then I ask myself, how can the same media that requires the beauty mandate, be the critic of it? After all, it’s the very media that tells women that being powerful as a woman means wearing ‘sexy’ clothes and being able to sleep with however many men they please.

Now I wish I had some Brazilian documentaries to show but I really only have two from Italy* and one from the US* on the subject of how women are portrayed in the media. What I thought of immediately, however, was the lack of differences between what I saw being shown on Italian TV and what is shown on Brazilian TV, even down to the stacchetto, or 30-second dance done by the dancing girls to keep the audience interested. These women being televised aren’t the only issue here because the men, and women alike, who are being downloaded with certain ideas about how to be are also part of the problem because they tune in. On top of that, you have ‘reality’ TV which says everyone can get something for nothing (as long as they look a certain way) and everyone should be judged on their appearance and ability to win a controlled game. Forget working hard for something, that’s so passé, or did you not get the note?

More Info

Women’s Bodies – Short Documentary (com legendas)
Killing Us Softly 3 – Short Documentary
Videocracy – IMDB

NYT on Videocracy – Movie Review
Models for Success – EOB

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7 thoughts on “Women’s Bodies in Brazil & Italy

  1. Now let me give you my take as a Brazilian. Yes, Brazilian women are still treated as objects, but today women are more critical about that. I’ve never heard of any women dreaming of being a dancer in one of these shows. They are not role models for Brazilian girls. I guess that’s the difference between Brazil and Italy.

  2. Thanks, Fábio. Well, if one were to watch Brazilian TV, it could be assumed that Brazilian women are just decoration but as far as real women in Brazil, while concerned with their looks (which is not specific to Brazil only), you are right that they all don’t dream of being in the next BBB or on Faustão. The problem is the example has been set for them to follow and it’s possible they are taking away the lesson that beauty is very important while not necessarily wanting to be on a TV show.

  3. Yeah, that’s true. Being the next BBB is more appealing nowadays. What caught my attention was that being a dancer on a tv show is top choice in Italy and your comparison with Brazil. Aside women, in Brazil men are also concerned about their looks. They go to the gym and want to get bigger and stronger. A few years back two teenagers died because they used some kind of steroids for horses.

  4. Agreed that all straight men like beautiful women but I’ll stand by my view that the media in Brazil and Italy (I’m sure other countries fall into the equation) have a certain adoration for showing women who do nothing more than be eye-candy. That being said, I didn’t deny in my post that the US media also objectifies women and cheerleaders are a good example.

  5. Pingback: O Corpo das Mulheres | Eyes On Brazil

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