Little Girls in Tiaras

I came across this story on CNN, about a 7 year-old whose making headlines in Brazil because of the implications that have arisen with her title of being a samba dancer. While I think it’s safe to assume that she enjoys dancing and it’s not her intention (is it any child’s?) to portray herself as a sensual object, many people in Brazil are saying that allowing her to perform during carnaval in Rio will send out the wrong message. Rafael Romo reports that the judge in the city’s family court is asking questions about the girl’s role in the parade, the costume she’ll be wearing and how late into the night she’ll be expected to perform. (CNN had to wait until 3AM to interview her)…It’s also interesting to note that her mom is a police officer (I’ll reserve comment there, but the Rio police…, well…).

As a mother, I found it odd that per dad seemed to be more protective about the little girl’s image than her mom. It also reminded me of a time I went to Salvador da Bahia with my then-4-year-old daughter. It was a beautiful night and we decided to go walking with a friend through the cobblestone streets of Pelourinho. A white American or European approached us and put his hand on my daughter’s head, shooting me a suggestive look that basically said, “How much?” I went ballistic and don’t know how I didn’t break something over his head. But when I started shouting that we were American, he turned around and ran as fast as his short and portly self would take him. The streets were crowded that evening (I think Olodum was either getting ready to play or just wrapped up a performance), but he disappeared like an apparition. Unfortunately, I’m sure this animal of a human being eventually got his way with another poor young girl. It happens more often than we can grasp. (And it happens here, too!)

My daughter and I, for better and worse, blend in with the communities we visit. It affords us a rich experience when traveling, but also sometimes attracts the gross circumstances that come with negotiating life in poor communities. For some reason, this story took me back to that summer of 2001.

By the way, we here in the States aren’t innocent. We also actively propagate the sexual exploitation of children by pimping our own babes in tiaras.

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