One of the more refreshing elements of living outside of Brazil is avoiding much of the crushing sexism that pervades public and private discourse. The Olympic examples of sexism (classism and racism) are too numerous to count, but it should come as no surprise to anyone that the president of FIVB, the International Volleyball Federation, is a Brazilian. FIVB sets the dress code for beach volleyball players: men in shorts and shirts, women in bikinis. True to the tastes and practices of a Brazilian sports honcho, lingering corruption charges against Ary (des) Graça won’t surprise either.
Sadly, in their attempt to convince Brazilians to think of female athletes as something other than eye-candy in HD, Rio 2016 marketers have reinforced all of the stereotypes that they probably tried to overcome but were hamstrung by their lack of exposure to non-sexist paradigms.
The campaign, called #maisquemusas shows Brazilian female athletes in non-sexualized poses in the midst of competition. The text explains the athletic accomplishments of the women, presenting some of them to the Brazilian public for the first time. However, the problem lies in the hashtag.
#maisquemusas means “more than a beauty” or “more than some hot woman that inspires you”, musa being the Brazilian term for muse. This hashtag does not pretend to eliminate or reduce the sexualization of Brazil’s female athletes, but suggests that they are “musas” but also world-class athletes. The reality of this particularly limited and entrenched vision is that women in the public sphere are not just people, sports women, Brazilians, or citizens – they also stimulate male desire by being musas. This term musa is applied in quite sickening ways in Brazil’s hyper-machista football culture and I doubt there is a campaign waiting that will label Giselle Bundchen as #somusa.