January 16, 2013

Race & Hair in Brazil: "No Cadiveu, Yes Natural"

by Marques Travae of Black Women of Brazil 

Sign: “eu preciso de Cadiveu (I need Cadiveu)”

In several of our blog posts over the past 14 months, we have given consistent examples of how the aesthetic and image of the black woman is overwhelmingly devalued in Brazil. From outrageous song lyrics that denigrate physical attributes of black women, media ads that play on centuries long stereotypical images of black women’s sexuality, to the consistent racial insults such as “macaca (monkey)” and job discrimination, there is simply no way to deny the deep seated racist, sexist tendencies that regularly attempt to denigrate the very existence of black women in Brazilian society. But what’s amazing is that these insults and forms of disrespect don’t cease and always evolve into new methods of updating these attacks. So, in reality, this latest scandal should come as no surprise. But still…

“Eu preciso de Cadiveu (I need Cadiveu)”
Recently, it seems that the Cadiveu Brasil line of hair products saw it fit to use the example of natural, afro textured, curly/kinky hair to promote the necessity of women with this type of hair to use their product. In an ad campaign, various people were photographed using huge afro wigs and holding a sign that says “eu preciso de Cadiveu (I need Cadiveu)” clearly provoking the idea that this type of hair needs to be “treated” or “fixed” with Cadiveu’s products. As we have shown in previous examples, hair texture is a HUGE issue in Brazil for women who don’t possess the type of hair (straight) that fits into Brazil’s very Eurocentric ideal of beauty. Over the years, countless campaigns, seminars, lectures, essays and books have been addressed the self-esteem issues of persons of African descent that don’t have long, flowing hair. And along comes Cadiveu, like other brands before them, demonstrating EXACTLY why these issues exist.

Black Brazilian women were quick and straight to the point in denouncing this latest attack on their image. Below are a piece and an excerpt of a piece by Winnie Bueno and the group Meninas Black Power.  Between Winnie's and Meninas Black Power's pieces, are a few of the photos posted in the “I don’t need Cadiveu” mobilization drive.

No Cadiveu, I don’t need you.
By Winnie Bueno*


Caption: "No Cadiveu, Yes Natural"

"When I was little, quite a little girl, I wore my hair braided. Tied down. I would always panic going to school without my hair being braided, although my mother always worked a lot on the construction of my identity as a black woman, I had a lot of trouble with my cabelo afro (African textured hair). As a teenager I started to wear my hair loose at the cost of a lot of chemicals (sodium hydroxides, guanidine hydrochloride and so on) and I lost a lot of hair, until finally I understood that I could only change my history, that of my cousins ​​and my future daughters when I freed myself, when I was free of the “dictatorship of straight hair.”



Caption: Não precisamos de Cadiveu (We don't need Cadiveu)

Imagine then, my indignation when I come across a photo of a cosmetics company in which a white girl wearing an afro wig and carrying a sign that says: “eu preciso de Cadivéu (I need Cadiveu)”. In (these) times of Facebook, where thousands of young black women are building their identity and with great difficulty coming to understand that they don’t need to straighten their hair, they don’t need name brand straightening irons to feel good about themselves.

Nós não precisamos de Cadiveu (We don't need Cadiveu)

Cadiveu did a disservice to women with this propaganda. Cadiveu showed in a photo how racism has profited at the expense of the self-esteem of black women. It demonstrated how European the standards of beauty are and how it imposes even upon black women who are in the media a Caucasian standard of white features and which is not naturally their own, using our anxieties for profit. It’s not a problem that black girls want to have their straight hair; the problem is when it becomes an imposition. The problem is when the only way to understand is beautiful with her hair stretched (straightened). The problem is when girls panic at (the sight) of their natural hair, the problem is having to escape the rain from fear of revealing the real essence of their hair.

Caption: "I don't need this Cadiveu shit, and neither straightening of any way: I LOVE MY AFRO"

My hair has a history, it carries in its roots the marks of a warrior people, my hair, like me, is free, has attitude and has life. It doesn’t need the marks of the straightening iron like my body doesn’t need the iron marks of slavery. We say no to Cadivéus that insists on imprisoning us. We are cabelo duro (hard/thick/nappy hair), we are crioulas doidas (crazy niggas or black women) we are black power (1)."

Caption: "We don't need Cadiveu!! We are natural beauties...That's just how it is"

Winnie Bueno

*Winnie is a law student of UFPEL (Universidade Federal de Pelotas – Federal University of Pelotas) in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul and activist of Juntos, a national youth movement organization.

And from the Meninas Black Power blog...

I am black, I have coily hair, I'm beautiful and I DON'T NEED CADIVEU!"
"When a brand name and/or company uses a ridiculous image that affects an ethnic group, this same brand name needs to recognize the error. We receive daily photos of children, young people, men and women showing us how important it is to accept kinky/curly hair as a form of personal appreciation. These same people are mobilizing to say: “I don’t need Cadiveu.” 
There are various black hairstyles in the streets that are being ridiculed and the brand name (Cadiveu) seems to support this. It’s clear that the company is suggesting that whoever accepts their natural curls needs to use chemicals that reverts kinks/curls to straight. There is no diversion in the daily suffering of those who accept their roots and receives denominations that the brand seems to consider acceptable, such as: “cabelo duro (hard/kinky hair)”, “palha de aço (steel wool)”, “nêga maluca (crazy, black woman).”
The women went on to request that readers and members send in photos of themselves with their natural hair to which was added the slogan “Eu não preciso/não precisamos de Cadiveu (I don't need/We don't need Cadiveu)”, a direct response to the slogan of the Cadiveu ad. The women went on to flood the Cadiveu Facebook page with countless photos of these proud black women (and men) rockin their natural 'fros. There were also countless comments posted on Cadiveu's Facebook fanpage denouncing the brand for its racist content. Now, to be sure, in the Cadiveu campaign, besides white women, there were also photos of black women wearing obvious afro wigs and also holding "I need Cadiveu" signs. But this isn't the point; there will always be those who unknowingly or knowingly accept a certain standard and it doesn't nullify the intent of the message Cadiveu is attempting to divulge. And besides that, all 13 photos of people holding "I need Cadiveu" signs wore wigs that emulated afros (as in the top two pictures of this post). If the intent was to show that many types of hair "need" this product, they would have also used models wearing wigs of straight, flowing hair, which they did not. Thus, in this writer's opinion, Cadiveu is guilty as charged!"

Special thanks to Winnie Bueno, Meninas Black Power, Jackelyne Michele, Fernanda Rodrigues de Miranda, Preta & Gorda, Jullyet Souza and Mel Adún.

1. In Brazil, the term "Black Power" can mean exactly that but it is a term that is more often applied to the afro hairstyle. In the 1960s and 1970s, many African-Americans involved in the Black Power Movement of the era wore large, round afros, thus the association of Black Power and Afros.

Source: Meninas Black Power, Juntos

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