The real beauty myth in Brazil

I’ve just been listening to an interview on the BBC with an academic from Amsterdam who has completed an interesting academic study which has just been released as a book – an ethnography of beauty and cosmetic surgery: Pretty Modern: Beauty, Sex, and Plastic Surgery in Brazil. The author posits plastic surgery as part of a new modern experience of beauty outisde of previous studies which dealt with the subject which reflected broader social phenomenon such as class and race. On a personal level its quite obvious that the Brasilian culture values and promotes an importance of beauty – at times not separable from bigger health based issues. I remember being surprised by the number of consumer magazines reflecting the market for aesthetic surgery

As the book highlights, plastic surgery touches on all levels of brazilian society. The research associates plastic surgery with issues of female empowerment / social mobility / improve marriage hopes / social capital but also a means of potenntialy disrupting existing social hierachies. One of the key features of the discourse of beauty is its significance as a defining feature of the cultural mixing in Brasil. Two of the trends identified in the book have strong links to racial identity - skin lightening and body sculpting are both sought to replicate supposed (european) and (african) elements of beauty. The findings of the ethnography argue that Brazilians don’t want to totally remove their african traits- unlike in other south american cultures which seek to distance themselves from more indigenous body traits. Im not sure if the book deals with male plastic surgery here in Brasil…could be an interesting follow up subject?

Sao Paulo - A Clean City is a Civilized City?

110220101594There is some fascinating literature about Dirt as a metaphor for Social Distancing - Susan Sontag's work specifically. I spotted this at a bus stop today and was wondering if this is part of the Cidade Limpa / Clean City campaign and more importantly ... whether anyone actually believes that a clean city is a civilised city???

Class War, Noise and Carnival in Sao Paulo

carnival-graveyard-05 This weekend i was fascinated to read reports in the Folha about an apparent manifestation of class war in Sao Paulo. The site for this contest is the noise made by samba schools. Carlos Costa, one of the original founders of a centrally located school argued that "these people from higher social classes don't like noise". In some parts of the city there are reports that neighborhood groups have complained about noise amongst other factors (trash and drunkenness) and have tried to get the carnaval practice sessions banned. To a certain extent there seems to be something of a classic moral panic going on with the references to noise and dirt and a middle class up in arms about the behaviour of their lower class neighbours. However, being that i am rather obsessed with LISTENING at the moment it kind of made me wonder whether there have been any studies made about NOISE and different attitudes to noise? - kind of noise / volume / who is making the noise etc amongst different social groups - whether that be based on social class, gender, location, culture etc. Either in Brasil or other countries - Ill have a look around - but if you find anything please let me know!

Mobile Phones - targetting the periferia

an interesting story taken directly from ther Guardian newspaper last week about how mobile companies are targetting residents of the periferia in Rio "When Alan Roberto Lima was growing up in Vila Aliança, a notoriously violent favela on the western outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, only the community's elite could afford mobile phones.

"The bandits and the big businessmen," said Lima, 33, whose family has lived in the community since 1962, when the government evicted thousands of slum dwellers, including his mother, from the city centre and packed them off to housing estates such as Vila Aliança. Today things have changed. Just as the heavily armed drug traffickers have seized control of the slums since the 1980s, so too have mobiles.

"Cell phones are just like cellulite - any old bum has it," said Lima, who pays R$140 (£40) a month for his Nextel radio phone with 400 free minutes and which helps him run his beachwear business, which produces over 1,000 pairs of Bermuda shorts each month for the chic boutiques of Ipanema and Copacabana.

Brazil is at the forefront of the mobile phone revolution. According to figures released last month by Brazil's telecommunications regulator, Anatel, 1.3 million new mobile phone users were registered in January 2009 alone, taking the total number of users in Brazil to 151.9 million out of a total population of 190 million. On the frontline of the mobile phone's charge in South America are the red brick shanty towns of cities such as Rio and São Paulo. Mobile phone companies are increasingly targeting the slums in search of new customers.

"Without my mobile, my business would become unviable," said Lima, whose family business helps dress Rio's fashionable beachgoers."

Class C and the Credit Crunch Crisis in Brazil

As noted frequently on this blog, recent years have seen the expansion of the middle class (Classe C) in Brazil. At the end of 2008, this "slice" has already totaled 53.8% of the population, according to research from the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV), which, with a greater purchasing power, began to consume more and helped the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Brazil to record a 3% growth over the past four years. But this Sunday (15), which saw the celebration of World Consumer Day, with credit tighter and unemployment on the rise, evidence seems to point to the fact the Brazilian is "tightening their belt." And it is exactly this new C class being forced to make more adjustments in their spending. The consumption of durable goods within this class are seemingly increasingly competing with the basic household budget. In February, according to the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV), the consumer confidence reached its lowest level since the survey began in 2005. "Lack of trust has influenced the pattern of consumption or habit that is Brazilian," says Professor Mark Luppi, Retail Management Program (Sample), the Fundação Instituto de Administração (FIA). According to experts, the time to put the foot on the brake "on spending, the first things to cut within the budget are of greater value, where the purchase is greater dependence on financing", especially where payment is in installments. Changes are likely to be reflected not only in the quantity but also relations to specific brands purchased - especially in non-durable goods. Some have argued that for the new class C that change does not come easily, arguing that as they created new habits, incorporating consumption, it is more difficult to abandon. If before they consume a premium brand, will look similar brands at cheaper prices. Other product areas likely to be hit may be where products are considered unnecessary: such as meals outside the home and leisure but also in areas such as telephony.

Women are the highest earners in 30% of Brazilian homes

International Women’s Day yesterday saw the annual collection of articles across the Americas about the role of women in society. In Brazil, Folha de Sao Paulo reported the findings of a number of different studies which emphasise the implications  the changing position of women in society, the workplace and within families and the household.  Increasingly women are becoming the dominant breadwinner within homes. Cases where the income of women exceeds that of men in the home are still in the minority, but in the last 25 years, they more than doubled, as shown by figures released by IPEA (Institute of Applied Economic Research)

From 1982 to 2007, the proportion of households where the income of women exceeded that of their partner grew from 3% to 11%. When one adds to this homes where the woman lives without a spouse, the percentage of houses where they were the main or only providers more than doubled, going from 13% to 30% in the last 25 years.

Another fact that demonstrates the advances made by women is the finding that women's contribution to the total income of households in Brazil has already reached 40%. In 1982, this proportion was 23%. The changes have been explained mainly because of improved female education and the reduction in fertility rates. Today, the IBGE has shown that education of women between 20 and 59 years exceeds that of men. In 1982, the situation was the reverse.

If women's participation in the labor market has changed considerably in recent years, the same can not be said of the division of household chores. Even in households where both work, most of the responsibilities in the home are still left to women. In 2007, 90% of women were busy taking care of household chores. Among men, the percentage was only 50%. They also spent on average more than twice the number of weekly hours to these activities than their partners: 22.2 hours, compared with 9.6 for men. The unequal division of domestic tasks is really common even in cases where women have higher income than the man.

Meanwhile in Lima, the headlines in El Comercio related to a survey conducted in Peru found that 78% of women believe that they have the same opportunities as men. The report from the International Labor Organization (ILO), states that women show almost the same level of labor force participation as men (except in construction, transportation, manufacturing and domestic service) and almost the same unemployment rates. In terms of payment, 53% of women answered that there is no wage gap between women and men. However, this is more a wish than a reality, as according to surveys, the gap between the incomes of men and women for the execution of the same work stands at 30 %. At another level, an overwhelming 97% of Peruvian women stated a desire to work. Of this, half prefer to work part time (predominant sector being married women in social class E), while 49% want to work like men (single women predominantly in the classes A and B). Furthermore, 91% believed that women should be independent entrepreneurs.

New Consumers

Publisher 'Editora Abril' has announced the second major study on consumer habits of Brazilians between the ages of 13 and 24 years: "New Consumers - The Young and Publicity." An interesting note from the findings, are the affection and importance of strong links with the family for those born between the years 1980 and 1990. In this sense this generation places a strong importance on the mother in their lives, which is natural considering that 20 million women are now heads of their households. The study identified an index of how young people perceive the advertising formats they encounter: degree of acceptance, spontaneous presence and intensity of the immediate reaction. The index identified: - The most negative response comes from the infomercial, floating ads, street banners, flyers and pop ups;

- The most positive include: events, commercial, 30 'TV, customized advergames, double-page magazine spreads, animated vignettes on TV, sponsored links, sampling in magazine, advertising in games a site related to the study should be up and running soon at

Changing Consumer Tastes

We've posted here at blogamericas a number of times about the rise in coverage of the new Brazilian consumer. We found a nice TV report (in Portugues) about some of the current trends that are resulting from a more affluent society. The report argues that the one time 'ice cream cone' consumers (those who went to the mall for an ice cream and some window shopping) are increasingly now active consumers. Whilst some have argues that there is an emerging middle class. the statistics contained in the article also indicate an increasing gap between the haves and have nots. The number of families with more than 4 times the average income has now reached nearly 50% and consumers are expected to spend this year alone R$450 Billion (280 Billion US$). A greater level of sophistication is clearly evident in the number of more specialist boutique stores. The report discusses the number of chocolate stores that are now replacing supermarkets as the primary purchase location.  As a result of this heightened sense of discrimination by consumers, stores are having to become more consumer focused.

Brazilians happier in church than at the match or in bed

The popular image of Brazil as a nation obsessed by football and sex are potentially challenged by the findings of a recent study by a social research institute based in the country. Whilst the media have focused on the low ranking of sex and football perhaps more interesting is the fact that the most popular responses to what brings Brazilians happiness. The fact that the church and travel score so highly are indicative of both broader established cultural trends and more recent shifts in the economic and cultural perspective. Religion continues to play an important role in the life of Brazilian society and thus its importance at 51% should not be surprising, reflecting its role as a social and community center. The fact that travel ranked as the second most popular response at 38% is perhaps more indicative of the increasing wealth and broadening horizons of an emerging Brazilian middle class.  This might also explain the fact that Concerts (27%) and Restaurants (25%) came in at 3rd and 4th with sex in 5th followed by TV viewing and participating in sport. Attending a football match was left lagging behind at just 10%.

taken from

The Cultural Life of Brazilians

A recent study has shed some light on the cultural life of Brazilians. According to the key findings, during the year 2007, there would appear to be a small group of consumers who are undertaking a number of cultural activities, whilst the vast majority of Brazilians appear to be excluded or self excluding. Unfortuantely the results do not indicate where and whether individuals are indeed taking part in a number of activities as opposed to just one of those listed below. Here are the headline findings. - 55% of Brazilians did not participate in any of the following activities: reading a book, visiting the theatre or an art exhibition, going to the cinema or to a live music or dance event - of the 45% who did - 31% read on average 5 books - 6%viewed on average 3 plays - 8% went on average to 2 art exhibitions - 17% went to the cinema on average 5 times - 20% went to see an average of 4 music shows - 7% to see an average of 32 live dance shows

Of those who were not reading books amongst social classes A and B, 59% reported that it was the lack of habit and 19% that they do not like to read or prefer other activities (13%). Results almost identical to classes D and E (58%, 27% and 8%). The high costs of tickets and books were an additional reason for exclusion cited by lower socio economic classes. Having previously posted here about the cost of books and access to literature in Brazil it was interesting to note that Brazilians believe that a fair price for cultural products should be as follows: Book – $19 Reals Cinema ticket - $8 Reals Music event - $15 Reals Theater ticket - $14 Reals Art Exhibition - $11 Reals

The research was undertaken by Ipsos (on behalf of Fecomércio-RJ) in more than 70 locations across Brazil. More details on the research can be found at

Changing Tastes in Brazil?

A quick follow up to a recent post. We noted that in a global study of habits and behaviour amongst consumers across the globe on behalf of the National Geographic Society, Brazilians come out far ahead of any other nation in terms of annual beef consumption. This may be changing however. One small indicator is the recent announcement of McDonalds Brazil that they would be launching more chicken products to meet increasing demand for chicken across the country. Learning that chicken consumption was increasing 2.3% annually the chain decided to launch 3 new chicken products in early 2008. The story comes from

The Luxury Market in Brazil

Recent research has shown that the luxury market in Brazil grew 17% in 2007 to a value of US$5 Billion, a figure representing 1% of the global total potentially growing to 2% in 2008. The research undertaken both with brand owners and consumers indicated that the selected leading and most desirable brands amongst the rich were jewellers H.Stern and luxury store Daslu. Amongst the leading international brands were Louis Vuitton, Armani, Chanel and Gucci. The market especially in Rio and Brasilia are expected to be the major growth poles in 2008 with a potential increase of between 20 and 35%.

The research was undertaken by MCF Consultoria & Conhecimento and GfK Indicator

The New Brazilian C Class


Its been difficult in the past fortnight to avoid stories of the continued indicators of Brazil’s continued economic development.

Veja Magazine dedicated its front page and a significant proportion of its inside content to the fact that Brazils Social Class C is now the dominant force in the country.  In the space of just two years, 20 million Brazilians have risen from poverty into the C Class. This is marked by rising consumption and the growing power of a new middle class in Brazil giving the country a leap into the developed world.

The phenomeneon is supported by data from elsewhere too. As Brazzil magazine reports, per capita income has grown 3.05%, exports rose around 22%, inflation has remained under control, 3.9% last year, the benchmark interest rate has fallen from 16.5% to 11.25%. Importantly, these figures have reached the foreign market, bringing further investment and a better image for Brazil among rating agencies. Supermarkets sales up 8% year on year in February. A 66% rise in the spending by Brazilians of overseas travel in the first 3 months of the year. The appearance of Brazil/s first Apple store…well no not quite... see here.

Lots more data from Veja to come in the near future on the site here. As we have reported on here before much of the growth is credit driven, which does get discussed, however little, in fact nowhere does the article discuss the limitations of the official socio-economic classification system here in Brazil. For more on this subject look here!     

Brazilians and the Green Economy 2

The video clip above is the second of 3 peices of research conducted by TWRAmericas at the popular weekend Ecofeira market in Lagoa de Conceicao, Florianopolis. On the ongoing debate about green consumerism, thanks to the digital magazine Envolverde for the followingIDEC (the Brazilian Institute for the Defense of the Consumer) and Vitae Civilis (an NGO) have launched a new campaign, named "Mude o consumo para não mudar o clima" or "Change the consumer to not change the climate". The objective of the campaign being to raise the consciousness of consumers in relation to the impact of thier consumption behaviour and offer alternatives with ecologically less damaging consequences.