It's summer below the equator. For Brazilians, that means Carnaval is approaching.
Many people have heard about it, seen pictures or even been to one. Brazil is widely known for it; the colors, the music, the euphoria, the women. Brazil has exported a body standard from it.
It wasn't until the beginning of this year when I heard about this new Brazilian butt-lift, though I guess it had been going on for a while back. I think there's a whole workout program with the same name. The article I read showed a picture of Izabel Goulart, a Brazilian supermodel, in the last Victoria's Secret fashion show. This miraculous surgery could seemingly turn your "derrière" into one that looked like hers. There is one other body intervention I'm aware of carrying the Brazilian name and I guess many women outside of Brazil have also heard of it, which is the Brazilian wax. The Brazilian body has become a brand.
The famous Drum Queens who parade in the avenues during Carnaval festivities have a different body type than supermodels. When this time of the year comes, Brazilian websites become flooded with news about the Drum Queens' preparation, saying how much weight they have loss and how they have intensified their work-out routines. Don't get me wrong, these are beautiful bodies and beautiful women who have worked really hard to look like they do.
But last week I came across an article about a fifteen-year-old girl who had become the youngest Drum Queen to ever parade for a Samba School. I don't always pay much attention to these kinds of news, since most of the Drum Queens are celebrities, such as actresses or socialites, and even though I think that there should be more women with average body types represented in the media, it's a fact that a certain body standard exists and I'd say the majority of women who work with their images are still very concerned about that. I'd even say that for Carnaval Drum Queens, it's comes to me as an obsession.
The teenager mentioned in the article is the daughter of the president of the Samba School she's parading for. She grew up in the Carnaval business, but this is the first time she parades as a Drum Queen. In the article I read, she had given an interview talking about her excitement, boyfriends, her father's jealousy, the costume she'd wear, her inspirations and her training.
Most Drum Queens parade with tiny costumes and some of them parade naked, with their bodies painted. The objectification of Brazilian women due to the overly sexualized way they are perceived during the Carnaval parades has been discussed over and over again. There are several layers to this discussion, such as the Brazilian tradition, what is thought to be the target audience's desire, the international export and the national exposure to the festivities' sexual connotation alongside with many other aspects. Yet what is the impact of having a teenage Drum Queen parading in 2014's Carnaval?
Many Brazilian young girls and young women grow up inspiring themselves in Drum Queens, who already are or instantly become influential public figures. Brazilian women see other curvy women parading and are therefore able to identify themselves. There is obviously the downside of objectification, but on the other hand, more women tend to embrace their curves because they're proud of their bodies, which is a great thing. But then again, it takes many hours working out plus a carefully monitored diet to achieve the Drum Queen body kind perfection. I believe that most women don't have the resources and much time to dedicate to their bodies; hence, to accomplish the body perfection they crave for, it takes shortcuts, which aren't always the healthiest options and which might initiate an obsessive pursuit leading to eating disorders and unnecessary body interventions.
It isn't a good message for girls when a fifteen-year-old is crowned a Drum Queen and publicly speaks of worrying about her weight and how her body will look like when she's parading. For starters, it's too early to expose such a young woman to this highly sexualized position. Somehow it even makes me think that crowning a teenage Drum Queen reinforces that it's okay for foreigns to come from abroad looking for sexual tourism with a minor. Brazil exports a body image, so by exporting the image of a teenager parading as a sex-symbol along with other grown women, it might influence many girls to want the same thing, to worry too much about their figure, to want to be in the same position as she is and to be as desirable as she seems to be. Even if she doesn't look like a teenager and even if she's arguably mature, she's subjected to sexual viewed position, whether she likes it or not. People won't look at her like a teenager; they will look at her like an adult woman.
Girls at that age are starting to figure their sexualities out and they are getting to know themselves. A fifteen-year-old shouldn't be forced into pulling the germinating sexiness out of her, even if she wants it or has it. She shouldn't be put in this position and she also shouldn't have to endure with the body related charging she didn't have before this "job". As teenagers, we all want to grow up very quickly, but part of the ripening process is learning to accept the way we look. Instead of being women obsessed with perfection we should be women obsessed with being comfortable in our own skins. We should take advantage of what we see and what we find beautiful in our own conditions, respecting our body types. We should learn how to be patient and not to follow unachievable trends. We're not bound to look like anything, specially because of society’s requirements, and we surely mustn't submit young girls to feel obliged to look like grown women.
By Janaína Albuquerque