As the world changes, so does the politically correct. As we (hopefully) evolve as human beings, we come to realize that what was once considered to be ok, might nowadays actually be racist, homophobic, sexist, or just purely offensive. We at Innate Motion think of the politically correct as being empathy fit: the ability to understand, see the consequences of and act upon our changing environment.
Empathy fitness is a skill that needs to be trained and put into practice and it will be increasingly required in our personal and business reality. To give more clarity on what we mean, we have gathered a series of examples from around the world where big entities and society found themselves unfit for modern times.
CARNIVAL TODAY NEEDS EMPATHY FITNESS
“But carnaval has always been like that!”
“Everyone makes such a big fuss about women now!”
I grew up with Globeleza. A character created by Globo, Brazil’s biggest television network, and elected yearly by the spectators. Her job is to dance on TV during carnival, practically naked, covered only by body paint and glitter. Sounds like carnival right? Maybe so, but having existed for over 20 years, Globeleza over the last decade has been a motive for discomfort for many women.
It wasn’t until 2017 that Globo did something about it, not spontaneously, but rather as a reaction to the chaos that was generated at the 2016 voting sessions. Then it became clear that women would no longer tolerate the objectification of the female body – in particular, the body of women of African descent.
To give context to the 2016 debates we need to look back at the history of Brazil. Globeleza is always, as referred to by Globo, a “mulata.” This is still a common word used daily to talk about a mixed race woman, but this word was introduced to the Brazilian vocabulary during the slavery period. Lasting for over 350 years, Brazil was the country to most receive enslaved people, with a count of over 50 thousand Africans. Seen as bodies purely used for commercial purposes, the women that sparked any attention from the “big houses” were raped and a large number got pregnant. The baby would then be considered as a mulato or mulata. Descended from a white father and a black mother, the child was referred to as being half human and half mule – the mule itself being an animal that results from a breeding between a horse and a donkey.
Although the name gives a pejorative connotation, “mulatas” became a symbol of desire because of their mixed features and historical context of domination. In 2016, a woman was rejected from winning the Globeleza competition because she was seen as being “too black”, so she did not fit that image of white desire.
This was it for a lot of women, who had for over a decade accepted Globeleza because it was part of a carnival tradition. The black feminist movements, in particular, started to make a lot of noise and to demand respect. They demanded for their bodies not to be treated as a product, and to put an end to this rooted colonialist and oppressive views still so present in society.
Finally, in 2017, women saw a small victory, as Brazilian homes watched the newly elected Erika Moura, who appeared clothed and accompanied by other dancers. She was portrayed as a beautiful woman and a professional dancer, performing traditional Brazilian dances in traditional clothes.
I remember this being huge! People of all ages, were revolted with this “nonsense” because in their view Globeleza was just a character. And I wondered why they could not see that this was a necessary change. Could they not empathize with women? Could they not see that the world had moved on?
Times change, points of view change, societies change. Globo, as the main broadcaster in Brazil, should and could have shown empathy for women in general and women of mixed race specifically at least 15 years earlier. But Globo lacked what we call empathy fitness: the ability to feel the direction the winds of change will take, the capability to uncover the yet unseen forces behind this change and the understanding of why these forces have a justified point of view by going against the path the majority in society still follows.
Of course Globo should have shown respect far earlier for more than half of its audience, and she could have taken an active role in making change happen, leading by example, inspiring others to do what is right and gaining credibility as a societal leader. Instead, Globo behaved as a laggard, merely correcting what was wrong in the first place. Interested? Give us a call!
By: Marcella Nigro