G-string Barbie

In an important week for women, newspapers commit a sexist blunder

Monday (24) began with celebration and consternation. Ary Borges had just scored a hat-trick as Brazil defeated Panama in their Women's World Cup opener in Adelaide. At almost the same time, in Brasilia, Flávio Dino announced the plea bargain of the ex-Military police officer who drove the killer of Marielle Franco and Anderson Gomes, confessed his participation in the crime, and threw light over the devastating episode with new details.

Folha's most widely read news that morning, however, was far from the fierce women's football or the political femicide that haunts certain corners of the Republic. Amidst the flood of titles about the Barbie movie, one statement insidiously imposed itself at the top of the list of articles with the highest audience: "Brazilian G-string becomes a trend in the US after being adopted by Hollywood stars".

The article is a copy, as they say in the editorial jargon, a piece originally produced and published by The New York Times. It is a lifestyle issue, which discusses how Brazilian-inspired swimwear helps to break down cultural barriers and even part of the prohibitions on American beaches.

Translations in general require adaptations. A well-done edit analyzes the need to add context or explain expressions, for example. Folha thought it best to boost the content of the translated article with a statement that made references to Brazil, a reasonable attitude, but also to famous women, who are not mentioned in the original title ("Who Gets to Wear G-String Now?"). And here is where the problems begin.

The tropicalized version also featured photos of celebrities, such as Kendall Jenner and Sofia Vergara, wearing thongs and the like. A gallery of 19 images, which contrasts a lot with the three photos in the American article, of unknown women and poses that are not exactly sensual.

The newspapers O Globo and O Estado de S.Paulo, also entitled to publish the content, didn't do much differently, including the stars in the titles and images of Kim Kardashian in their editions. The Rio newspaper was explicit in the statement, which ends with ": see photos".

Moralism aside, it is remarkable that the country's three largest newspapers so easily succumb to the appeal of female bodies. It wasn't a slip-up, of course, the nature of the Times article was changed. Celebrities are a paragraph of the article, not its core, as the Brazilian versions available suggest. They were elevated to the titles, it seems obvious, to justify the image galleries and leverage clicks.

Even more incredible is that this all happens in times of widespread discussion of sexism, of the study in pink of dolls and feminism promoted by the Barbie film, of the embarrassing contrast in the press's treatment of the men's and women's World Cups. None of the major newspapers are present in Australia or New Zealand, the distant home of the competition. Journalism is expensive and gender equality only lasts until the check lands on the table.


Folha finally reported on the discomfort of government wings with the omnipresence of Rosângela da Silva around Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. And with a curious headline: "Janja acts as Lula's 'algorithm', she expedites without an official posting, and causes discomfort in allies". As she wrote to Piauí shortly after the election last year, Janja is fluent in social media and her husband doesn't even use WhatsApp.

The tone of the article is much less aggressive than that of the piece published in June by the newspaper Estadão, which gave the first lady "veto power in the government" already in the title. At the time, several ministers came to Janja's defense on social media. This time, Gleisi Hoffmann responded indirectly to Folha, recalling the conservative reaction to the Barbie movie, which "shows how the fight for women's protagonism and the occupation of spaces of power is still a long way to go". Janja and her resignification of the First Lady's role, continues the Workers' Party (PT) president, contributes to fighting "sexist in the media" and "is very uncomfortable for some people".

Gleisi forgets to comment on the sexism of the party itself and the government, which bargain with the pork barrel faction in Congress mainly for positions occupied by women, not to mention the prospect of a decline in female representation in the STF (Federal Supreme Court).

Still, she has a point when she mentions the nuisance Janja causes in sections of the press. As if her public figure is disconnected from the fact that she is married to the president; or that he, two decades older than she, suddenly ceased to be the political fox previously alert even to the walls.

Janja bothers people with her intrusion just as Michelle Bolsonaro irritated by being submissive and, later, an electoral asset. In this land of macho men, vulgar and violent, perhaps what actually bothers them is their simply being women.

Translated by Cassy Dias