“We are queens, respect us,” says this woman’s sign as part of the campaign #sexoeasnegasnãomerepresenta (screen grab from the video below).

‘Sexo e as Negas’ is a Brazilian retake of the cult show ‘Sex and the City.’ The original show was famous for its depiction of four sexually liberated women. But black women in Brazil say that this Brazilian version of the show, which stars four black actresses, does the opposite: it reduces black women to a sexualized, racialized stereotype that they say does not represent them.

‘Sexo e as Negas’ is broadcast on TV channel Globo, one of Brazil’s biggest networks. The word "nega" is a colloquial term for black women in Brazilian Portuguese, but can also be used derogatorily.

The promo video for the Brazilian TV show ‘Sexo e as Negas’ is much more sexualised than the promo for the original American show. The camera never lingered on the women's bodies, for example, and they did not perform provocative dances.

Afro-Brazilian women across the country are outraged by the stereotypes that they say the show propagates and have organized mass protests calling for its cancellation. They have claimed that the show’s writer, Miguel Fallabella, who is white, is racist.

These women posed as part of the campaign #sexoeasnegasnãomerepresenta (photo from the Facebook page of National Boycott of the programme 'Sexo e as Negas.')

Critics of the series have also taken their campaigns to social media. The women at Blogueiras Negras (or Black Bloggers, a blog written by black women) have launched a campaign under the hashtag #AsNegasReal to show images of real black Brazilian women, free from stereotypes. Another hashtag that is circulating is #sexoeasnegasnaomerepresenta or “Sexo e as Negas doesn’t represent me.”


‘Shut up, Falabella,’ says this sign, advertising a protest march against the show ‘Sexo e as Negas,’ which is written by white actor, writer and producer Miguel Falabella. The hashtag ‘#naosoutuasnegas’ roughly translates as ‘I am not your niggaz,’ playing off a slang Brazilian phrase.Image published on Facebook.

‘”There is a Brazilian expression: ‘White women are to marry, mulatas are for sex and black women are for working’”

Larissa Santiago is a blogger with Blogueiras Negras.

The problem with the name of the TV show is that this expression (nega) is usually used in a racist way and, in the title, it is associated directly with sex. In Brazil, there are two very well-known sayings about black women and sex. One is “white women are to marry, mulatas are for sex and black women are for working.” This racist and chauvinist saying has its origins during the time of slavery and delimits the social role of each woman by the colour of her skin. The other well-known phrase is “não sou tuas nega” [Editor’s note: This phrase, which means “I am not your nega” is comparable to the English phrase, “I am not your b***h.] When people say this, they are relegating black women to the most inferior and subordinate role possible.

Activists march in Bahia (photo from the Facebook page of National Boycott of the programme 'Sexo e as Negas.')

Unlike in ‘Sex and the City’, the four women in the series — friends Zulma, Tilde, Lia, and Soraia — do not narrate their own stories. Instead, they are constantly observed by Jesuína, the white woman who is the main character and narrator of the series. The protagonist is thus several steps removed from what happens to the four black women. Moreover, there is a hierarchy established in the series between romantic love and sex. The former is the objective of the white woman and the latter is the “destiny” of the black women.

Activists hang flyers  in Bahia (photo from the Facebook page of National Boycott of the programme 'Sexo e as Negas.')

Instances of violence and racism against black Brazilian women are common and show why our fight is so important. Recently, Nayara Justino, who was elected as last year’s Globeleza [Editor’s note: Globeleza is an iconic and famous Carnaval role played by a black woman and sponsored by the Globo network; the winner, like the winner of Miss America, becomes a major representative in the country] was again a victim of racism when internet users made horrible comments on her photo from last year’s Carnaval and sent her racist messages on social media. [Editor’s note: Justino’s family told the press she had become severely depressed after these incidents.]

“Black women in Brazilian television only have two roles: they are either domestic workers or Carnaval dancers”

Charo Nunes is also a blogger with Bloguieras Negras.
 
The telenovelas shown on Brazilian TV usually perpetuate the same stereotypes. In these programs, 90% of the characters - or sometimes even more than that - are white.

There are basically two roles for black women in Brazilian television. They are either domestic worker or dancers in the Carnaval. “Sexo e as negas” seems to want to combine these two roles, because the actresses are always in subservient positions professionally in relation to whites and their only pastime is seeking sex.

This woman chose to define herself instead of being defined by stereotypes as part of the campaign #sexoeasnegasnãomerepresenta. Video posted to YouTube by user Em alto e bom tom.
 
“This is a show where violence is considered part of the natural order”

Moreover, when the women in the series find themselves in violent situations, they never react. This, along with other things, demonstrates that this is a show where violence is considered part of the natural order of things, as some people do really believe.

In the last episode, a black woman is harassed by her boss. She is only wearing underpants and a dressing gown while he looks at her lasciviously. She doesn’t say anything. Her only response is to smile shyly. This is an unrealistic portrait and creates an undesirable representation of black women.

Activists marched the streets of Bahia. This sign targets Globo, the network that hosts 'Sexo e as Negas' (photo from the Facebook page of National Boycott of the programme 'Sexo e as Negas.')

Miguel Fallabella, the series producer and writer, has denied that the series is racist and even claimed that the name and idea for the series came from a black female friend. He published a livid response to criticisms on Facebook, which included the phrase “Oh, negas… give me a break.”

This is how blogger Larissa Santiago responded to Fallabella’s statement:

I find his tone terrible – it is both racist and chauvinist. He refers to an entire community of black women who are upset by his series as bush captains [Editor’s note: In his Facebook response, Fallabella alluded to a dark chapter of Brazil’s history: bush captains or “capitães do mato” were Brazilians who hunted missing slaves. Fallabella considers himself the “hunted” and his black female critics the slave catchers.] He also said he considers the cries and passionate responses of black women angered by his production a form of censorship.

Some famous Afro-Brazilian entertainers have come out in support of the show, but the blog Black Women of Brazil pointed out that many of them were associated with the global network.

While Brazil is often held up as a model of diversity, racism remains rampant and society is still divided along colour and class lines. Roughly 51% of Brazilians defined themselves as black or brown in the 2010 census. On average, whites earn more than double the income of black or brown Brazilians, according to IPEA, a government-linked think-tank. Black women earn less than all other groups. They also lose out in other realms. For example, only one black woman has been crowned Miss Brazil in the long history of the pageant.


Photo from Facebook.

Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Brenna Daldorph (@brennad87).