Hyper sexual Carnival atmosphere has a dark side for Rio's women

This notorious festival  encourages the objectification of women

Share
Related Topics

The beat of the drums resonates down the streets of Rio every year for three weeks. The city is alive with music – it’s time for Carnival. Known as one of the greatest parties on the planet, millions of people dance and celebrate to Brazilian music.

By definition, it is a carnal holiday with a lack of real authority. Thieves are so common in the crowds that people have taken to buying cheap phones to take out to the street parties in case they get robbed. There is no shame or punishment for peeing in the streets – for men or women. Flowerbeds and plants that are nurtured all year long are stepped on and destroyed. Historical monuments have to be protected by fences.

For many revellers, this is an opportunity for freedom. A few days off, drinking, partying, forgetting about bills and responsibilities.

And the environment is also an exaggeratedly sexual one. Parading down the Marquês de Sapucaí naked or very nearly so is common practice, and it has always been this way. The ‘sexier’ you look the better; a big butt, generous breasts and flat stomach are practically mandatory - especially for the drum queens who dance in front of the samba bands, keeping them motivated with their dancing and yes, their bodies.

Let’s  shoot straight: this is objectification of women in its truest form. Using a woman as a figurehead to keep up the spirits of male troops following behind is simply using her. Complete nudity is acceptable, sometimes desirable. But even the least revealing outfits for this position are as small as thong bikinis.

No doubt dancing and walking with a smile on your face for an hour and a half is hard work, a way to celebrate culture and Carnival, and even perhaps a way of feeling empowered, but all that time the woman is dancing she is seen as an object. Her measurements have to be right, perfect, sometimes even “fixed” and inflated by surgeries. She must be an incarnation of the ideal.

Every year the main broadcasting network in Brazil hosts a popular election to choose the Globeleza - a combination of the word ‘Globo’ (the name of the channel) and ‘beauty’ (beleza). The chosen woman is shown dancing naked during advert breaks until the end of Carnival. This is a long-time tradition, and the fact that it’s endorsed by the most watched channel in the country is worrying.

From early childhood, girls watch this nudity on TV as if it’s the norm, as if it’s the highest form of success.

And as for little Brazilian boys the dream is to become a footballer, the dream for little girls is to become a drum queen or a Globeleza.

This idea that women are objects combined with the free-for-all environment of Carnival can have ugly results. During the weeks of the party there is an increase in sexual violence and hate crimes, according to the Observatory of Racial Discrimination, Violence Against Women and LGBT 2012.

There were 429 reported cases of racism, sexism and homophobia in the 2012 Carnival in Salvador, Bahia - an increase from 2011 when 350 cases were recorded. 153 of 2012’s incidents were violence and abuse towards women, bringing out the thinly veiled misogyny that is deeply entrenched in the Brazilian society.

When men approach women on a normal night out in Brazil, it is typically in a belligerent and sometimes invasive fashion; in Carnival it can be even worse. Men often feel up women as if it’s nothing and kiss them against their will, because they feel they have the right to. Perhaps they consider it a joke, or an expression of their “freedom” but this behaviour can escalate to something far more serious. In 2012, the number of rapes in the state of Rio de Janeiro grew by 24 per cent in comparison to the previous year. From January to November 5,542 rapes were reported, in comparison to 4,467 in 2011.

Though this increase might be explained by more women reporting sexual crimes than before, the figure is nevertheless scary. And if this high number only counts the reported rape, who knows how high the real figure is?

Carnival is meant to be a party for all, but it is also, unfortunately, an opportunity for abuse. There is little education or government action to counter it, and women are treated like objects left and right. Sexual violence is an ugly angle from which to consider the biggest party in the world, but it is also true and should be pointed out every year so that maybe one day the party will be safe for every gender, race and sexual orientation.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Robert Fisk
 

Next they'll say an independent Scotland can't use British clouds...

Mark Steel
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape