Is Samba Seductive When a Child is Dancing? Julia Lira and the 7 yr old Samba Scandal.

Everyone is abuzz about the 7-year-old Brazilian Carnaval queen. Hypocrites!

There is undeniably a world-wide problem with the sexualization of adolescent and pre-adolescent girls. This is not to say that jumping from the bridge should be accepted because all our friends are doing it, but this buzz should make you wonder. Why Brazil? Why now?

It enrages me that Americans dare point a finger across the ocean at Brazil. And, in a country (Brazil) with some of the highest prevalence of child sexual abuse and exploitation and fewest laws attempting to correct or at least restrain such exploitation (undoubtedly in part thanks to it’s super-Catholocism), one must ask why suddenly Brazil is so concerned with a 7-year-old Samba dancer. Brazil’s history of racism and slavery (one of the last countries to abolish slavery), and their often obvious disdain for the indigenous should raise questions about this controversy. She isn’t pole dancing. She isn’t simply doing a pouty-lipped sultry “bend your knees and touch your toes with a finger in the mouth” sexualized dance – the girl is doing the SAMBA!

The Samba, for those of you who still think it’s some sexy-ass dance girls learn to do to shake-they-ass for boys – is an African based cultural dance that has been performed ritually for over 100 years. Embedded in the rhythms and movements are cultural traditions and cues, stories and histories, it’s not about “come-hither,” but about a rich cultural history that speaks indigenous stories of love of family and earth and land and heritage. The sexualization of this dance does not come from the dance or the music itself, but the ways in which OUR eyes sexualize it in our viewing of it. Foreign (read exotic/brown) bodies have been sexualized and read as overly libidinous, and our cultural practices are read in context as sexual and libidinous. So, of course, the first thing we see when little Julia Lira dances the samba is the contrast between the way we like to envision girls (as pure and virginal) and the way we see dark-skinned foreign women (as sexually insatiable). Yet, oddly (or not so oddly) we fail to see the sexualization of the “hot Brazilian” as problematic. Go figure!

Everyone blaming the Brazilians for sexualizing Julia Lira needs to stop for a second and ask who is really doing the sexualizing?

The girl is wearing traditional outfits, which seems to be an issue for a number of reporters documenting this case, but (1.) those costumes are traditional, (2.) the costumes are designed to work in tandem with the bodies movements during the ritualized dances and (3.) it’s HOT AS HELL in Brazil! Damn! So, she should wear jeans so others won’t want to impregnate her? And, really, there are porn videos involving men disrobing women in burkahs. So, does it really matter?

What kills me is that all of this media attention has brought this issue to the family courts in Brazil and the courts (wait for this one, this is really good) are suddenly saying, and I quote, “this may send the wrong message” about child exploitation. REALLY?!?! And, what message does the government wish to send in their lack of response and attention to child rape? Need I remind you of the nine-year-old girl who was excommunicated from the Catholic church and given no legal recourse when she aborted a child her own father impregnated her with – the father protected in both the law and church, of course!

Oh, wait, I’m not done with us Americans yet. Two Words: Toddlers & Tiaras. Still mad about Julia Lira dancing at Carnaval? Check out these photos, which aren’t about ONE girl, but about an entire sect of American women who have aged out of the beauty circuit and wish to live their twisted desires of winning crown onto their children whose first set of teeth have yet to fall. Now THIS is unnecessary sexualization and child exploitation, but which never gets called into question – but does get romanticized on national television.

All I’m saying is this (1.) before we start jumping in boats to chastise those abroad, let’s look at what’s going on on our own dry land and (2.) Julia Lira is undoubtedly being sexualized, but ask yourselves honestly WHO is doing the sexualizing and (3.) what makes something sexual? Should we ban open toe shoes because toes give too many men hard-ons? Just think, that’s all!


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