'Black Woman With the Hard Hair'






Within a week of each other, two songs and artists that have were denounced many years ago by members of Brazil’s black and feminist movements were served legal losses. On December 24th, the performance royalty of the Bahian* singer Luiz Caldas was cut because of his live performance of one of his most popular songs.

So why were these decisions handed down?
In order to understand the controversial histories of these songs, we must first go back to their releases in the 1980s, in the case of the Caldas song and the 1990s in the case of the other tune. Both songs were highly successful, both spoke of black women’s hair in derogatory manners and both were also deemed highly offensive to black women by various black and feminists organizations.

So what were so controversial about these songs that led these judgments? To get to the root of the issue, we must analyze the lyrics of each of the songs. First, here are the lyrics of the Caldas song, “Fricote”, first in Portuguese and then translated into English.

Nêga do cabelo duro, que não gosta de pentear

(Black woman with the hard hair that she doesn’t like to comb)

Quando passa na praça do tubo, O negão começa a gritar

(When she passes by the Tubo Plaza, the black man starts to holler)

Olha a nêga do cabelo duro, Que não gosta de pentear

(Look at the black woman with the hard hair, that she doesn’t like to comb)

Quando passa na praça do tubo, O negão começa a gritar

(When she passes by the Tubo Plaza, the black man starts to holler)

Pega ela aí pega ela aí, Pra quê?

(Catch her there, catch her there, for what?)

Pra passar batom, De que cor?

(To put on the lipstick, of what color?)

De violeta, Na boca e na bochecha

(Violet, in the mouth and the cheeks)

Pega ela aí pega ela aí, Pra que?

(Catch her there, catch her there, for what?)

Pra passar batom, De que cor?

(To put on the lipstick, of what color?)

De cor azul, Na boca e na porta do céu

(Of the color blue, in the mouth and in the door of heaven)

In the details of the song, the singer speaks of a black woman that has “hard hair”. The term “nêga do cabelo duro” is well-known in Brazilian historic and cultural discourse and its popular usage in everyday life plays a prominent role in the rejection by many black women of their natural hair texture. Every day, thousands, if not millions of Afro-Brazilian women spend up to half or more or a significant proportion of their monthly salaries to straighten their hair or wear some sort of weave (the so-called “megahair”), or braids so that they can attain a more “presentable” look. The lyrics of this song and others like it make a mockery of black women and are a constant source of low self-esteem.
The rest of the song’s lyrics are just as bad, if not worse. The lyrics go on to encourage the listener to grab the black woman in the song and put lipstick on her. One of the lines says to put the lipstick on the mouth and the cheeks (Na boca e na bochecha), but by the end of the song, the listener or the man spoken to in the song, presumably the black man (O negão), is told to put the lipstick on the mouth and heaven’s door (Na boca e na porta do céu). This line is a double entendre. “Heaven’s door” refers to a woman’s vagina and in concert, Caldas was known to substitute the word “bochecha”, meaning cheek, with the rhyming term “buceta”, which is a vulgar term in Brazilian Portuguese also meaning vagina. Considering that a tube of lipstick could also be recognized as a phallic symbol, the song could also be interpreted as an encouragement of rape.


Luiza Maia and Luiz Caldas

This song debuted in 1985 and went on to become one of Caldas’ biggest hits despite the outrage it caused in many black and feminists circles. The song bothered Luiza Maia, who is a state representative from Bahia, the same northeastern state from which Caldas is from. Maia considered the song to be “racist** and demeaning” and having a detrimental effect on the self-esteem of black women. For her, the song was also “symbolic violence.” Maia is also sponsoring a bill that would prohibit artists from singing songs that promote the humiliation of women. When Caldas performed the song at the Festival de Blues and Jazz of Arembepe, in the city of Camaçari, Bahia, his performance fee was cut by 30%.
In part two of this report, I analyzed a recent decision levied at another popular song that was deemed insulting to black women.
* - Refers to a man from the northeastern state of Bahia
** - It should be noted that Luiz Caldas is generally considered to be black or Afro-Brazilian

16 Weigh in!:
ggrox said...

Wow. It saddens me to see the similarities in how black women are views. Why are we constantly treated this way? Why do we allow it? I...I can't even come up with a thoughtful response..just too emotional

Jo Somebody said...

What in the world???? I can't even begin to imagine how it would have felt as a Black woman in Brazil to hear these songs on the radio and/or to see the success of the 'artists'. I'm actually confused as to how this was allowed to happen.

The fine won't dent Sony's pocket much.

I don't know what else to say. :-(

Pecancurls said...

Wow. SMDH. While it saddens me, it does not surprise me at all. In the states we also have our share of rappers who use lyrics that are derogatory about women (and yes, some even suggesting violence) --- . Sadly, there is an audience for this type of -ish. I guess on the upside is that over the years those in opposition of such lyrics have been making their voices heard more and more over the years.

Anonymous said...

those people down there have some serious issues.... smh.

Anonymous said...

Lord thank you, thank you, thank you! I was so happy to read this article!

The only reason racist & misogynistic sentiment keeps rearing it's ugly head is that we don't hit them where it hurts! For the younger ones, it's the seat of their pants. For the older ones, it's their pockets!

I wish there was a way to sue these "idiots" for the lyrics they write, but there isn't.

To the poster at 09:40am, we have some serious issues up here too, but "those people down there" can censure what those fools can sing about. That can be a good and a bad thing.

Our U.S. Constitution's First Amendment protects the rights of individuals to speak and listen to what they want; it's sad that so many of them waste this blessed right to rap about cash money, big booties and shooting n*ggas.

A DJ commented that these young pants-hanging-low thugs should be locked in a room for a day with a dozen Grandmothers (Abuelas, Avós) swinging extension cords and switches! While that sounds extreme, it's intended as a commentary that their parents have failed miserably in discipline; guiding their children on the path of integrity and honor and teaching them "to do the right thing".

Fines and censures are not unlike corporal punishment, but it's actually closing the gate after the horses have gotten out.

But, hello! Nowadays that's better than nothing!

doll-babyqt said...

The lyrics to the song are stupid. I could only imagine that the music that went along with it must have been pretty infectious, similar to a lot of rap music that is out there today.

Anonymous said...

Yes it does.

I YouTubed a video and posted the URL into Yahoo's Babelfish translator.

Some of the YouTube comments (translated) were sympathetic to him because he was a national idol, and insinuated that the government was wrong for making a big deal over the lyrics.

SMDH -______-

Anonymous said...

I went to Brazil. It is beautiful, sad and tragic all at once. Oh and very very racist...I went to a store and was followed and stared at by a white sales woman. Not in a more a less subtle way they do it sometimes in North America, but in a very 'in your face, you don't belong here, get out kind a way'. Very disturbing.

P.J.-homeschooler said...

Ingnorance for some peolpe is bliss and we can not take some people's self-hatred personally. It has been known that for some mix-race people they can suffer from a list of clinical issues and symptoms (some mental, some social)relating to being of mix heritage (good/bad mixture). I understand that this is an issue that has long plagued South America and other places, my son and I are currently studying South America's history, I understand that for some peolpe this brings about stirring emotions, try to look at this from different angles (historical, psychological) "self-hatred in one form or another is something that we all have to go to war against, the struugle ragges on" its sad and unfortunate even in 2012.

Anonymous said...

How is this any different than the promotion of rap songs referring to black women as b*tches and hoes??? How is the image any different then the images held by black americans towards a vast majority of black women? The first thing black american women (and men) attack when having a disagreement with another BAW is their hair. How many times have we heard: "You need a perm!" "Do something with your hair!" "You nappy headed!" in derisive tones? This story sounds like it could have happend right here in the good ol' USA, except no one is fining rap and hip hop "artists" for their profanity on stage directed at black women.

Anonymous said...

Most definitely these lyrics are offensive, ignorant, and adds more negative vies to Black woman around the world. Yet, as someone else has posted, we have a right to say what we feel, believe, etc. no matter how replusive it is to a group or individual. I know things are different in other countries, but I would hate to see things like this happen in the US. If some feel good about the censor & fining of such music, be careful what you wish for. The same type of punishment could be applied to you for negative views you might express whether it's against a musician or politician. We should never celebrate such chilling effects. Only chastise persons who engage in blatant racism by exposing them & boycotting what they do.

Anonymous said...

YOU KNOW I CANT HELP BUT THINK BLACK MEN ARE TALKING ABOUT THEMSELVES.THEY ARE PROJECTING THEIR SELF HATRED UNTO BLACK WOMEN AND ALL BLACK WOMEN CAN DO IS ASK Y THEY HATE BLACK WOMEN.THEY HATE YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE BLACK-SKIN COLOR,NAPPY,CURLY HAIR,ETC.SO WHAT? BLACK WOMEN ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS WALK-NO RUN AWAY FROM BLACK MEN!BUT NO.YOU ALL TOO SCARED AND SO MORE GENERATIONS OF BLACK GIRLS HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THESE SO CALLED BROTHERS.

Anonymous said...

I'm reverting back to childhood with 2 words...Yo mama!

Anonymous said...

That punk looks like a poor version of Howard Stern, humph!

Anonymous said...

@p.j.-homeschooler, I would like to tell you that you are right. Self-hatred is something that effects South America and the carribean a lot. I know from experience because I am Dominican and Puertorican. Both the D.R and P.R are places where you will see a division between lighter skinned and darker skinned people. Personally I am happy I was born in the U.S because in a way I feel that I grew up with a healthy dose of diversity which made me see the world in a different way then my family. I am happy to be natural and my cousins are almost all natural too. It takes time to heal the ignorant but in time women like the one in this article and other black or mixed girls will be the ones to set the stage for a change in cultural perspectives of women. To all of you, keep doing what your doing and continue loving yourself and slowly but surely we will all make an impact. Power to our Curls, Kinks, and Napps!!!!

Anonymous said...

When will I ever be accepted for me and me alone? I am a spirit and a child of the Goddess first and foremost; everything else (like my skin color, my gender, the texture of my hair, my body shape, etc) is so very secondary. When are we ever gonna learn that what is within a heart is what matters most, not the form that heart is in?

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