To consume or be consumed? Sexist beer advertising in Brazil: Gender and power struggles for fair representation within consumer law




Amoroso Gonsalves, Tamara

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In this dissertation I use a consumer law case related to a sexist advertisement (Skol Summer Muse campaign) to examine the effectiveness of feminist engagement with the Brazilian State and the market. Brazilian consumer law is a hybrid law, where the state oversees private relationships, imposing the observance of public principles on private social actors. It is also hybrid in the sense that it combines civil, criminal, procedure, and administrative legislation in a single code. The Brazilian Consumer Code forbids discriminatory advertising but does not define it. This complex case involved multiple social actors, political and legal processes: the market (represented by the beer company that promoted the advertisement and the market self-regulatory body that monitors advertisement in Brazil); the feminist movement; and the state (represented by state and federal prosecutors, the judiciary, and PROCONS - administrative bodies that enforce consumer law) during a time of significant social change in Brazil. Theoretically grounding my work in feminist political economy analysis and considering contestation about sexist advertising as a relevant focus for political action, I discuss how material social inequalities are produced, reflected, reproduced, and reinforced in two ways: i) visually in advertising, and ii) discursively in the legal documents that comprise the litigation around the Skol Summer Muse Campaign. This work brings into conversation: i) fields of law that are hybrid (neither private or public) namely national and international human rights law that protects women, and consumer law in Brazil; and ii) discussions of material redistribution and visual representation in advertising, and establishes advertising and consumer law as a fruitful field for political action and contestation. I also look at the limits and challenges, as well as the strengths of the feminist movement in Brazil. The dissertation bridges discussions about consumer law and human rights through feminist lenses. It supports debates about sexist advertising and its impacts on women’s lives in other jurisdictions, including Canada. Finally, the dissertation contributes to broadening perceptions of gender, justice, and law. It also proposes tools to advance gender justice through strategic litigation and engagement with consumer law processes. I conclude that the feminist movement in Brazil should engage more actively with consumer law and the regulatory bodies that enforce it. This engagement will both expand their work to enhance women’s equality and support the National Consumer System. Simultaneously, the Brazilian feminist movement, by engaging with international human rights treaties ratified by Brazil, helped to define sexist advertising as a human rights issue, a strategy that can be used by other social movements in Brazil or in other countries that have signed these treaties. Finally, this dissertation involved an extensive and thorough process of translation, and considers the challenges and politics of providing full and multi-layered translations of legal systems, concepts and cultures.



Consumer Law, Human Rights Law, Social Inequalities, Advertising, Regulation, Gender, Feminism in Brazil, Social Activism