January 14, 2007

"Men are still resisting and clearly prefer the rounder, fleshier type. But women want to be free and powerful..."

"...and one way to reject submission is to adopt these international standards that have nothing to do with Brazilian society." That's one attempt -- by a historian, Mary del Priore -- to explain the changing standard of beauty in Brazil. It's a strange idea -- isn't it? -- that the natural feminine body is a sort of enslavement and that anorexia is a way to power. It's surely not limited to Brazil, but the Brazilian manifestation of it is so stark:
Experts also agree that Brazilian men, whatever their class or race, have been much slower to accept slenderness as a gauge of feminine beauty. When they are looking for a sexual partner, Brazilian men are consistent and clear in saying that they prefer women who are fleshy in the rear — “popozuda” is the wonderfully euphonious slang term used here — and have pronounced curves.

In the past, that standard was so firmly established that some Brazilian women resorted to breast reduction or buttock augmentation surgery, sometimes even transferring their own tissue from top to bottom.
Sometimes even transferring their own tissue from top to bottom. Now, that is something. That's amazing. And "popozuda" -- what a cool word.

So, anyway, what do you think, are Brazilian women undercutting themselves, missing out on this nicely accommodating old standard of beauty to take on the rigors of the "international" standard of beauty, or is there actually something oppressive about the old standard?

30 comments:

vbspurs said...

Sometimes you read a post, and you know that it was meant for you to comment on because of your closeness to the topic. Brother, this is it!

I'm not Brazilian but I have lived in Brazil when my dad was visiting professor there in the early '90s. I know the topic of Brazilian beauty standards very well, though subjective to my own understanding, of course.

IMO, this sentence is wrong:

Experts also agree that Brazilian men, whatever their class or race, have been much slower to accept slenderness as a gauge of feminine beauty.

There are very few societies that appreciate slenderness MORE than Brazil.

It's just that they are the stark opposite of the Barbie-loving Americans, with their ridiculous leggy proportions, wasp-waists, and ginormous boobs.

Instead, all of that is true, save they love big butts, and often go the route of butt enhancers, the kind you see flogged on Univision and Telemundo sometimes.

I have asked many many Brazilian men about this, and they point that Latin males (French, Italian, etc.) tend to favour the derriere more than the breast area.

I think that's true, actually, and you can plainly see from their porn mags that Nordic or Anglo-Saxon males (including North Americans) love mamiaries more.

I have many explanations myself for this, from the fact that Brazilian males first contact was with their black maids/nannies, and the vaunted generosity of black female backsides.

(Dare I also imagine a repressed homoeroticism in these macho societies? Hmmm)

If you want to see the archtypical Brazilian girl, held up as a physical ideal, click here.

That's Brazilian model Daniela Cicarelli on the beach having rather naughty relations with her Brazilian banker boyfriend.

Slim figure (almost boyish). Decent breasts, but not the watermelon freakshow variety. And nice rounded bottom. It doesn't hurt that she's blonde and blue-eyed.

Perfection, as per o gosto Brasileiro.

P.S.: Superheroes often reveal a lot about a society. Here is the lovely blonde, Paraiba (Northeasterner) Velta, a kind of Brazilian comics superwoman of the 70s.

Notice what they are emphasising in the pose.

Great topic, Ann!

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

So, anyway, what do you think, are Brazilian women undercutting themselves, missing out on this nicely accommodating old standard of beauty to take on the rigors of the "international" standard of beauty, or is there actually something oppressive about the old standard?

I forgot --

Why oppressive though? It's not as if Brazilian or any other standards of beauty are constant.

It's just that fashion has been dictated by the West, which means Europe, which means white, in this case.

And a lot of Brazilian girls want to wear clothes that are in fashion, which at the moment favours reed-thin bods with low-rider jeans, and exposed midriffs.

This looks ATROCIOUS when you have saddlebag hips and butt, thus a natural tendency to overturn the previous look.

Of course, one unmentioned aspect of this anorexia is that a lot of these girls wish to emulate the Gisele Bündchens, the Daniele Cicarellis, the Caroline Trentinis.

That's the newer, blonder standard of Brazilian beauty, and not the bufugly "mulata" -- the word they use, which isn't considered offensive in Brazil -- beauty of Sonia Braga.

(I've met her, and Sonia Braga is perhaps not as ugly as Maria Bethânia, the singer-sister of Caetano Veloso. Just)

In other words, perhaps unconsciously, they are rejecting the mixed race of Brazil (70% of Brazilians self-describe as 'white', even though they may not be anywhere near Xuxa-standards), specifically the black side.

And therefore hoping to look more Europeanised...

I don't know if this is true, but Brazilians are very uncomfortable talking of this aspect of their society, since they believe they are a racial paradise, without these hangups.

They're not, and they do have 'em. And how.

Cheers,
Victoria

downtownlad said...

Beauty standards really aren't that different. It's all waist/hip ratio. Whether a woman is thin or fat, she's more likely to be considered attractive if she has a waist/hip ratio of 0.7

And take a look at the average weight of playboy centerfolds compared to say, oh, your average runway model. The centerfolds are much heavier.

Dave said...

Two points in response to Victoria's comments: (1) I agree with her when she says Brazlian men are attracted to thin women more than rotund women. (2) When did French males become "Latin"? They are anything but. A french man in a beret smoking Gitanes sur la rive gauche is about as "Latin" as a Nascar fan with a trucker cap is Latin.

David Boyd said...

I like big butts and I cannot lie.

vbspurs said...

When did French males become "Latin"? They are anything but. A french man in a beret smoking Gitanes sur la rive gauche is about as "Latin" as a Nascar fan with a trucker cap is Latin.

Unfortunately, in the US, "Latin" has morphed into "vaguely indigenous-or-black mixed person who speaks Spanish" and their respective cultures. *

(Sometimes, when people are being kind they include Brazilians into the "Latin" sphere, though as an also-ran to the general Hispanic idea. This ticks off Brazilians, who hold themselves a little aloof from that world)

But Latin has ALWAYS meant, and will continue to mean, people who come from Romance-tongued countries -- notably Italians, French, Spaniards, Portuguese, Romanians, and certain others.

*I have always wondered how a Peruvian Yugoslavian, a British Chilean, or an Italian Uruguayan feel about being perceived as such.

Americans have the "Mexican" or "Puerto Rican" matrix on the brain. Tant pis...

Cheers,
Victoria

Tim said...

Downtown Lad is right, (notwithstanding his dubious ability to judge the sexual attractiveness of females) slim or not, proportion matters above all.

AJ Lynch said...

Ann, I think Victoria just rebutted the NYT and got to the bottom of this story.

vbspurs said...

Ann, I think Victoria just rebutted the NYT and got to the bottom of this story.

*DOUBLE GROAN*

Cheers,
Victoria <-- bigger boobs, okay bum

vnjagvet said...

No ifs, ands or butts, AJ.

Dave said...

"But Latin has ALWAYS meant, and will continue to mean, people who come from Romance-tongued countries -- notably Italians, French, Spaniards, Portuguese, Romanians, and certain others."

Sorry but this is a bizarre conception of "Latin": what do you do about German-speaking Swiss and Italians? They come from romance language countries but their language is not Latin in origin. What do you do about German-speaking Argentinians?

Referring to a group of people as "Latin" because the language Latin is their shared linguistic heritage is as odd as referring to me as "English" because such is my language.

Anonymous said...

is there actually something oppressive about the old standard?

Is there any standard of beauty which isn't oppressive?

(Dare I also imagine a repressed homoeroticism in these macho societies? Hmmm)

You might not want to try to take that one too far. A heterosexual male's interest in women's backsides has a lot more to do with primal biology/reproduction than with any super-secret subconscious homosexual desire. (Note the importance of backside visual cues of sexuality in just about every mammal on the planet.)

That being said, breast cleavage, visually, is a close analogue to butt cleavage. Women in the north can't very well go around showing off their backsides so the emphasis moves up, explaining northern men's tendency to show more interest in breasts. Currently. the north is more prosperous so it makes sense that more clothing-optional southern cultures, as they try to move up the global prosperity ladder, would tend to try to emulate the north.

Downtown Lad is right...slim or not, proportion matters above all.

I think you'll find that this is a common opinion among men--at least outside of the context of commercially-generated fantasy.

Are we ever going to drop this fiction that there's some sort of direct correlation between (straight) men's opinions and what's considered a "standard of beauty" or fashionable? It seems to me that the pressure to conform to some sort of standard comes more from other women, fashion designers, and the needs of commerce than what any average straight man has to say about it. Just watch any man standing forlornly, like some sort of pack mule, in any women's clothing department who doesn't give the correct answer when asked for his opinion about an article of clothing.

So maybe Brazilian men, like Sir Mixalot, prefer more junk in the trunk, but their opinions don't stand a chance against the New York fashion industry marketing juggernaut.

Referring to a group of people as "Latin" because the language Latin is their shared linguistic heritage is as odd as referring to me as "English" because such is my language.

Maybe so, but the French are generally considered "Latin". It may be arbitrary and capricious, but then most labels are.

vbspurs said...

Sorry but this is a bizarre conception of "Latin":

Yes, it is. But it's always been the case.

what do you do about German-speaking Swiss and Italians? They come from romance language countries but their language is not Latin in origin.

Sure, but it is understood that the whole culture in general has to be Latin, for their people to be referred to as such.

The Romansch-speaking Swiss are Latins, but they are rarely referred to as such, either.

That is not the case with the Maltese, who nevertheless are a hodge-podge of bloodlines thrown together.

What do you do about German-speaking Argentinians?

Precisely my point.

They are called "Hispanic" or "Latin" when they shouldn't be.

Why do North Americans do this? I include Canadians in this practise.

I know it's 'easier', but still.

Referring to a group of people as "Latin" because the language Latin is their shared linguistic heritage is as odd as referring to me as "English" because such is my language.

Not sure if this you've heard of this phenomenon towards Americans, but you are referred to by all cultures as 'anglosajonicos' (say, in this case, in the Spanish tongue).

That is regardless of whether your own name is Minelli, Johanssen, Grabowski or Althouse.

It's as wrong, as "Hispanic" or "Latin" for a German-speaking Argentinian.

The difference, of course, is that the Americas are a stew of cultures mixed together, and 'Latin' reduces the need to be seen as foreign, since they want to be amalgamated into the mainstream.

And until recently, European Latin countries were not multi-cultural (certainly not to the same extent) and thus referring to say, a Frenchman as Latin, was not an insult. It was correct.

Cheers,
Victoria

Anonymous said...

Victoria, maybe Dave would be happier if you said "Indo-European". Ah, but then what do you do about Spanish-speaking Mayans? ;)

vbspurs said...

Victoria, maybe Dave would be happier if you said "Indo-European". Ah, but then what do you do about Spanish-speaking Mayans? ;)

Heh, yes. :)

I personally find these labels (which are increasingly common in Britain, only we put the British first, as in "British Italian" director, Anthony Minghella) dopey.

When I read of David Duke's ridiculous "European American", I knew I wasn't far wrong.

I'm guessing people are watching the NFL playoffs, because Althouse has slogged thru' today. Trust me to get a cold, and want to stay home posting, on the one day people get a life. :)

Cheers,
Victoria

Anonymous said...

Shockingly, what you said about "the natural feminine body is a sort of enslavement and that anorexia is a way to power" does not exist in clothes-less, non-sexual social environments.

Think about European beaches, for example. Many are topless,…some are clothing-optional. The beaches are filled with people of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Nobody judges. That is the social law.

I had learned about naturism online and went on to try it years ago. I created a blog about nudist travel in an attempt to create awareness about the truly positive, wholesome experience it can be in the right environment.

Without clothes, people are more real and not hidden by class. There's an incredible "I am who I am" feeling when clothes and eroticism are out of the equation. Organizations like the Naturist Action Committee and the American Association for Nude Recreation are trying to preserve this right legally.

the pooka said...

Hm. I dunno.

If Euro-whites prefer flatter backsides, how do you explain this?

Anonymous said...

The singer Maria Bethania is beautiful. How strange to see her gratuitously insulted here.

Michael Farris said...

Ignacio, I totally agree with you about Maria Bethania.

I find Bethania and Braga in their prime both to be strikingly beautiful. And beyond questions of physical appearance, their talent makes them far more beautiful than any number of vacuous young women whose only talent is deprivation and whose souls are as parched and brittle as their bodies.

All in all, standards of beauty in developing countries all over the world are seriously stupid. They almost all depend on rejecting natural local beauty in favor of adopted and mostly unachievable foreign standards.

In Brazil, this will mean rejecting black and brown skin (the great majority of the population) in favor of northern pallor.

Michael Farris said...

Oh, and while I'm here ...

Asian standards of facial beauty tend to differ widely from NAmerican/European standards.

I once saw a kung fu movie about two sister kung fu fighters. The plot depended on the idea that one was beautiful and one was homely.
However, I couldn't understand what was going on until I realized that the sister I thought was beautiful was supposed to be the homely one and the other (round-faced with chipmunk cheeks and small puckered bee sting mouth was supposed to be the beautiful one).

Whenever I mention this to Chinese people, half way through they start laughing because they know what's coming.

vbspurs said...

The singer Maria Bethania is beautiful. How strange to see her gratuitously insulted here.

Her soul may be beautiful, Ignacio, but by any standard of beauty, this is not a pretty face.

You don't have to be Catherine Deneuve to be beautiful.

But also, you can't be a scarecrow.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

In Brazil, this will mean rejecting black and brown skin (the great majority of the population) in favor of northern pallor.

Uh, no.

The majority of Brazilians are a mix, leaning to what I as a British person, would say is white.

The last Brazilian census, which carries over 150 racial designations, from "cafuso" to "mulato branco", to "branco Nordico" listed about 69% of Brazilians as white, so to them, the leap in visual, isn't such a chasm.*

Of course, the middle-class is almost wholy white. When my dad was an University professor at UFRJ, you NEVER saw a black student on campus. And the only black people living in condos in the Zona Sul (the famed Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon neighbourhoods especially), were maids and chauffeurs.

*

Roberto Carlos the singer is white.

Roberto Carlos the footballer, isn't.

Yet, they both refer to themselves, and are referred to by other Brazilians, as white.

It's this idea, that allows an ease in viewing themselves as a Gisele Bündchen type, even though they may not be like her at all (easing the emulation of the so-called Barbie Phenomenon, which e.g., doesn't affect black American women).

Cheers,
Victoria

Sissy Willis said...

As the duck said to the chicken re the cow in a years-ago New Yorker cartoon, women are so stupid.

Michael Farris said...

"The majority of Brazilians are a mix, leaning to what I as a British person, would say is white.
The last Brazilian census ... listed about 69% of Brazilians as white, so to them, the leap in visual, isn't such a chasm."

Interesting article by a professional African American woman visiting Brazil.

http://www.seeingblack.com/2004/x011604/brazil_diary.shtml

selected quotes:

"Since I have been here, I have not seen one Black woman on a billboard. The promotional videos shown on the plane were filled with so many blonde, blue-eyed people, you would have thought that we were headed to the Netherlands."

"yet here in Brazil, where half the population of 155 million is Black by our standards, there is a level of overt racial repression that we consider existing only in our past"

"One of our new tour guides, a chocolate-colored woman with a bad hair weave, tells our group that she categorizes herself as Portuguese or White, adding that the lighter-skinned people traveling with us would definitely be considered White as well."

In Spanish speaking Latin America racial self-designation is largely a function of cultural identification and/or wishful thinking. I suspect that the same is true of Brasil.

Anonymous said...

John Henry wrote: "Think about European beaches, for example. Many are topless,…some are clothing-optional. The beaches are filled with people of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Nobody judges. That is the social law."

And they do not have to clean the beaches because at night the happiness fairy comes and takes all the bad dirty stuff away! Finally we have found Utopia, we just have to disrobe to enter?????

Judging others is a human past time. Denying that makes you look intellectually suspect.

Trey

vbspurs said...

Michael Farris wrote:

In Spanish speaking Latin America racial self-designation is largely a function of cultural identification and/or wishful thinking. I suspect that the same is true of Brasil.

For sure, that is true.

But let me say one thing. As much as I think this South American topic is tortured, I also think it's refreshing.

Why should I, and millions of people like me, be the ones who define who is white, or not?

Black Americans accepted wholesale the criteria of what makes them black -- given to them by white people!

Amazing really.

Here in this country, you can be a true 'mulato' like Halle Berry, and self-identify as fully black.

As Berry's mum told her when a child, if you're half-black, Americans consider you black, so you might as well see yourself as that.

Using this white-conceived criteria, there is no differentiation between her, and say, her ex-boyfriend, Wesley Snipes. How narrow and stupid is that?

Later, of course, this self-identification became a point of pride, and is a very difficult topic to talk about today without hems and haws from all parties (vide Tiger Woods' "Cablinasian" or just "Asian" self-view -- he's laughed out the park by most Americans, despite it being 100% true).

My point, of course, is that the Portuguese (and the Spaniards) were not so strict, and allowed greater leeway of self-classification.

It seems to me that our way is completely bogus and arrogant, and whilst their racial categorisation is bogus too, at least it's not imposed on them.

For the record, in Brazil, if you have straight hair, you're white.

If you have white inside you, but "Negroid" features, well, you may not be white, but you're never fully black again either.

Cheers,
Victoria

Michael Farris said...

Just two points, the smaller one first:

"For the record, in Brazil, if you have straight hair, you're white."

Yeah, hair is a very big deal in Spanish speaking Latin America too (often outstripping everything else) though there are two bugaboos there, neither kinky hair or straight stiff black hair (Indian hair) are desired and certain hairstyles are also avoided by those who aspire to Europeanness (Indians braid, ladies perm!)

"My point, of course, is that the Portuguese (and the Spaniards) were not so strict, and allowed greater leeway of self-classification."

I agree that in some ways this is refreshing, but unfortunately it sits right on top of a long history of repression.
As irrational as the 'one drop' rule was (which was extremely) it ultimtely meant that cooptation into the repressive white power structure was closed for many who might wish to and who could 'pass' as white. In other words, ambitious mulattos (sensu largo) _had_ to throw in with blacks so that those who looked like Halle Berry had to improve the position of those who looked like Wesley Snipes to get ahead themselves.

In Latin America (again, sensu largo) those with some white ancestory and caucasian features could declare themselves white and join the oppressors (not necessarily what they wanted to do, but the practical effect nevertheless).
This has meant there's no solidarity at the bottom of the socio-racial heap and that incredibly nasty and racist structures end up being far harder to address or improve. The illusion of Brasilian racial democracy is a kind of false consciousness (sorry, I couldn't resist) that means that by and large those who believe it end up aiding and abetting discrimination and oppression.

Anonymous said...

Sex researchers thought they understood atractiveness. "Buy a Playboy, there you will find what men find attractive" was the line. Other people used math and geometry to show how the golden ratio, when applied to important distances like eyes to mouth, or eye to eye, or waist to breast size, explained it all.

Then came the internet. Now people are making stupid money showing nekkid pictures of every body type imaginable. Skinny, fat, transgendered, dark, light, and I suppose spotted. Not at all what the conventional wisdom would have predicted, which would have been 1000 Playboy clones.

Darn those inconvienent facts, they screw the most interesting theories.

Trey

vbspurs said...

This has meant there's no solidarity at the bottom of the socio-racial heap and that incredibly nasty and racist structures end up being far harder to address or improve. The illusion of Brasilian racial democracy is a kind of false consciousness (sorry, I couldn't resist) that means that by and large those who believe it end up aiding and abetting discrimination and oppression.

You said it right, Michael, but there is a sticky wicket in our arguments about this topic.

In Brazil, this easing-into-the-white-sphere has created a world were WHITE people are at pains to show that they are not black.

(Getting a deep DEEP brown tan, but making sure they leave tan lines from bikinis and "sungas" -- speedos -- showing a bit of their original colour, to make sure that others see, "yes, I am dark, but look, I am really bone white underneath!". Something pointed out to me, somewhat bitterly, by more than one black Brazilian)

In America, black people have buzzwords and "tests" about how light they are.

(The ruler test, the paper bag test, don't trust anyone darker than you, etc.)

If light-skinned black Americans were not sucked into the white mainstream because of their lightness, and because of the one-drop thingie, that hardly means that they are not still very race-conscious themselves.

In fact, black Americans are the most race-conscious people I have ever met in my life.

Black Brazilians...the least.

There's a lesson in there somewhere, Michael. Or at least, a comment.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

Not at all what the conventional wisdom would have predicted, which would have been 1000 Playboy clones.

Trey, good point about the diversity of taste with the rise of online pr0n.

But note that Playboy was mainstream, and there no amount of porn shops which catered to fetishes (Fatties, etc.) since photography was invented!

(Hey, did anyone watch The Notorious Bettie Page? I haven't yet, though I have it on DVD)

Cheers,
Victoria