Describing the Brasileira

There’s a phrase in Brazilian Portuguese that a man might say about a woman with a nice Brazilian body and that’s “que saúde!” (literally, ‘what health!’). I’ve always found it interesting how a Brazilian woman describes herself physically and how health plays a role in that description.

While beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or beer holder, as the joke goes), the Brazilian concept for what is beautiful is quite different than our own here in the US. For instance, a Brazilian woman isn’t considered healthy if she isn’t forte (strong) and conversely, a normally thin woman (I’m not talking about model thin) is considered unhealthy, weak or possibly even sick. A thin woman, or one who has lost some weight, will receive comments from other women in her life about how she looked better when she was ‘strong’ and they’ll probably ask if she’s been feeling alright lately.

When Brazilian women speak of being forte, they aren’t speaking of raw strength as we would initially think when thinking of the word ‘strong’ in English. To Brazilians, the kind of strong they are talking about would be bordering what we might call ‘thick’ (grosso, in Portuguese) in the US, except that the Brazilian woman who is forte is supposed to be forte in all the right places, so to speak. So forte is a more general term for a woman who is healthy (or ‘with some meat on the bones’ as we also say) while grosso is more used for speaking about one’s thighs (coxas, in Portuguese) or perhaps lips.

If we were to look for a Portuguese term that was similar to ‘hour-glass figure’, the best bet would be corpo violão (or ‘guitar body’ when directly translated) which emulates the shape of the base of a guitar and in real terms correlates with the ‘perfect’ shape of a 0.7 hip/waist ratio. In Brazil, the typically thought of female body (corpo padrão) is a small ‘upper body’ with a large ‘lower body’ while most American men consider a woman with a large upper body to be ideal (or perhaps it’s just the media putting thoughts in their heads). Hip-hop culture, for one, suggests that a beautiful woman is a combination of both the American and Brazilian concepts.

As far as hair (cabelo) goes, it can get complicated so I’ll try to stick with some basic terms. In Brazil, it seems that most women who don’t naturally have straight hair seek out ways they can straighten it, which probably has to do with how beauty is portrayed in the Brazilian media. In terms of the different types, there’s liso (straight), cacheado (wavy/curly) and crespo (frizzy/really curly). Tell me if I’m wrong, but an afro hairstyle (afro/’black power’ in ‘Portuguese’) is basically the same as crespo. Lastly, highlights are luzes.

If there’s anything I missed in terms of differences in our concepts of beauty, let me know. My main point was the whole forte thing and how being healthy is seen differently, nonetheless it’s important to remember that research says that only 4% of real women have a body that reflects the idealized bodies in the media.

Rio for Partiers, Women for…sex?

The clip below deals with the image of the Brazilian woman and in this case, the carioca and how that image is presented in a sexual manner to foreigners. It reached the point where postcards and other images which were of a sexual nature were prohibited from being sold in Rio. I remember being in Rio and watching a debate on the matter on a news show and while I’m supportive of the right to express yourself how you want, there are limits, of course. To promote the women in Rio as sex fiends or anything of the sort is not right. I personally know many Brazilian women and none of them are hypersexual in the way they are portrayed to the rest of the world.

As for the tourist book they refer to in the news piece, I’ve seen it and took a look through it. There were corrections I would have made to the content and I do remember taking note of the page on Brazilian women. Secondly, I wouldn’t write a short colorful book explaining Brazilian culture to a foreigner as it is a complex subject to being with. When writing about where to go or what to do, that’s fine…as long as you aren’t saying “the women in this club are easier” (well, I suppose if you are talking about Help Discoteca, then it would be factual).

To sum it up, I think if you fall for some surface article or book that says certain women are easier than others, you are probably lacking more than a few brain cells. And if you are going to say “but look at what they wear (on the beach, on the street, etc)”, I will tell you that Brazil is a hot and humid country and if you lived in Alaska, I’m sure you’d do the opposite and wear sweaters and jackets.

That being said, I absolutely love the Brazilian woman, only my love is a reflection of the culture they grow up within, and not some false notion that I pulled out of thin air.