Girls as young as 6 or 7

It turns out the US isn’t even the worst places for young girls aspiring to be models in worryingly large numbers. In Brazil it’s not 30% of girls, it’s all girls, at least according to Lourdes Garcia-Navarro at NPR.

I recently spent some time at a leading international modeling agency in Sao Paulo. During the afternoon, waif-thin models came in with their amateur portfolios and big dreams. The girls were all in their early to mid-teens.

The main headhunter told me confidently that all young boys in Brazil wanted to be soccer stars, and all young women aspired to be models.

You can go to schools here and quickly learn that little girls are not encouraged to become the next Ronaldo. While Brazil is a global force in men’s soccer, women’s soccer in Brazil is almost nonexistent. But girls as young as 6 or 7 know which models are on the cover of magazines.

Well the headhunter probably didn’t have an accurate count, and probably did have a distorted sense of the proportions, but anyway – it’s not just the US.


  1. says

    You think that’s bad? Child porn is legal to possess in Japan. And girls barely out of diapers model for “gravure” and “U-15” magazines in very tight clothes over there.

  2. Nastasie says

    We do have a very serious sexism problem in Brazil – the statistics and the general culture are appalling. No argument there. The article you linked to is rubbish, though. First of all, sexism isn’t a monolith – it comes in many different forms and with many different roots. Obviously what happens in the Middle East is a very different phenomenon from Latin machismo (which is not exclusive to Latin America, btw, it’s also very present in European Latin cultures, in various flavours). The author even touches on one of the factors that inform sexism in Brazil, but doesn’t see that it makes her comparison pointless. Also, Latin America is not a monolith either, but if you must lump it all into one amorphous blob, then Brazil is the least representative culture you can pick – it has a vast territory, a huge economy and is the only country that was colonized by the Portuguese. And the author *only* mentions Brazil in an article that is supposedly about Latin America…
    So, to get to the point of your post, we very likely have a ‘modeling problem’ here, I really don’t know what the numbers are, but if you’re looking for examples of this problem in Latin America, or in places other than the US, then two countries with an infamous history in this regard are Colombia ( and Venezuela (

    One last thing: I know you questioned the headhunter’s take on the numbers, but it’s worse than that. While it is true that women’s football is not nearly as big as men’s here, it is definitely not ‘nonexistent’, and in volleyball – the 2nd most popular sport in the country – the national women’s team won the last two Olympic golds, and representation in various sports has been steadily increasing. So while we may have a problem with young girls wanting to be models, it’s not at the expense of sport. (I’m sorry, I know this is not exactly relevant to your point, and I don’t mean to derail, but it just goes to show that that article is full of misinformation.)

  3. Katherine Woo says

    “women’s soccer in Brazil is almost nonexistent”

    This is an absurd lie and typical of the that article’s agenda. Brazil was runner-up in the Women’s World Cup in 2007. So much for “almost non-existent”.

    To even seriously compare Brazil and the situation of women in the Middle East is something only paternalistic leftists can do with a straight face.

  4. Katherine Woo says

    Actually I had left a comment there:

    This article is predicated on an absurd false equivalency. The comparison between Brazil and most of the Muslim world, is one of sexist attitudes versus systemic, often legally codified, misogyny. It is like the difference between a racist sentiment and Jim Crow laws. It takes a profound lack of moral courage to call out one as worse than the other.

    No one gets acid thrown on them or gang-raped for not wearing a bikini to the beach. The same cannot be said for Muslim women and the head coverings required of them from Paris to Karachi to Aceh.

    And as for crime statistics? Brazil is an open society, whatever its very real problems with crime, with some sincere desire to actually record crime. I trust the crime statistics of Saudi Arabia or Jordan or Egypt about as much as I do a claim made by Glenn Beck. The argument presented here is identical to one rightwingers use to bash Sweden and claim it is some cesspool of sexual assault, when in reality they simply aggressively record reported incidents.

  5. karmacat says

    Just because a country is “not as bad” as other countries, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t criticize certain problems in a country. Sexism and misogyny can come from the same place in terms of treating women like visual objects and judging them based on what they look like, what they are wearing. From what I have read,
    Brazil and Argentina have serious problems with eating disorders. Eating disorders are not just based on culture of course (boys and men do get Anorexia) and are multi-factorial, but culture can influence how certain internal problems and conflicts are expressed.
    In any case, comparing which country has it worse, just minimizes what women have to deal with in different countries. Do Brazilian women have to wait until all the problems for Muslim are solved before they can get attention for their problems?

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