Adidas scores freak own goal

Last week Adidas committed an epic fail when it launched two highly suggestive t-shirts supposedly commemorating the World Cup. One featured a bikini-clad woman with exaggerated physical assets and the words “lookin’ to score”, while the other said “I ♥ Brazil”, the heart being the upside-down buttocks of a woman wearing a thong.

The ‘celebratory’ intent soon backfired, as Brazilians took offence en masse for the gross stereotyping.

Even Embratur, the Brazilian Tourism Board, stepped in to criticise the initiative. “The Brazilian Government strongly repudiates the sale of products that link Brazil’s image to sexual appeal”, they claimed.

Can you imagine if the heart-shaped buttocks caught on and became representative of Brazil, in the same way that Mickey Mouse’s ears symbolise Disney? I’d rather not!

The hypersexualisation of Brazilians (of both women and men) is so commonplace that it hardly shocks me. Yet I find it repulsive. The theme goes round and round and resurfaces every now and then, showing its ugly face. I have often written about it, such as in the 2012 piece entitled The Wild and Rapturous Sex Life of Brazilians.

And yet again I experience this in my own life. Just yesterday my new flatmate told me that his friends were very keen to meet me and spend the evening in my bedroom ­ – upon finding out that I am Brazilian. They had not further information about me, and they had never even seen my picture. They must have thought: “he is Brazilian, so he is hot and easily available”.

I explained to him that the comment was anything but complimentary, that it said more about his friends’ ignorance than about the sexuality of Brazilians. I said that his friends should take off their colonial lenses. The majority of Brazilians is neither sexually available nor liberated. In reality, Brazilians are far more prudish than Brits and Europeans in general.

There is nothing wrong about sex and being sexy, and I am delighted to be deemed attractive. The problem is that Brazilians are often objectified and diminished to an alleged extravagant sexuality and promiscuity. In short, I don’t want to be anyone’s sex trophy or taxidermy.

The Adidas raunchy t-shirts are extremely distasteful but not surprising. They are just an attempt to capitalise on the twisted views that most foreigners have of Brazilians. As twisted as the lines on the body of the woman “lookin’ to score” emblazoned on the t-shirts.

The attempt to build an image of Brazil as a libidinous paradise is just as toxic and misguided as the sexism that reduces women to housewives or the racism that diminishes blacks to servants. It’s prejudice disguised as celebration.

I am glad that Adidas stopped selling these ridiculous shirts. Otherwise, what would come next? Hasbro selling Pelé golliwogs?


  1. V Manoel

    Dear Heike,

    I think you have mixed up sensuality with sexuality. Brazilians are indeed very sensual, but that doesn’t mean that they are sexually available.

    Your rationale is the same used by people who argue that women who dress suggestively are to blame for being raped.



  2. Heike

    Sure, these shirts are tasteless and ridiculous. But nobody can deny that they are echoing a stereotype which is being maintained and cultivated by lots of Brazilians – otherwise I couldn’t explain the existence of creations such as Globeleza or other more than half naked “Queens of Carnival”.
    It is known that Brazilian culture and mentality is contradictory to a sometimes schizophrenic level. This might explain why Brazilians appear to be so ravishingly sensual and erotic on the one hand, while they are surprisingly conservative on the other. I have observed that the way Brazilians (especially women) behave, move, dance or whatever is often interpreted as more “open”, “inviting” or even “vulgar” by Europeans on their first visit to Brazil – and still, as something admirable too. And I won’t deny that I have never felt myself so reduced to some “georgeous piece of flesh” as I have throughout the almost four years I have been living in this country – as I have never seen women shaking their buttocks with so much self esteem.
    So who is to blame? Europeans that mistake Brazilians or Brazilians who are still not sure about how they want to be seen, and, consequently, which image they want to transmit?

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