Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Nation of Sluts? Brazil Goes Globo

Girls learn to be women -- and women learn to be sluts -- from the media. Romance novels, films, and especially soap operas and "soap Oprahs". Brazil's population of women is being taken over by the popular soap "Globo."
How much impact do the soaps have on real life? As recounted in papers from the Inter-American Development Bank, researchers tracked Globo’s expansion across the country and compared this to data on fertility and divorce.*

The results are most striking for the total fertility rate, which dropped from 6.3 children per woman in 1960 to 2.3 in 2000, despite contraception being officially discouraged for some of that time. This was because women moved to cities and opted to have fewer babies. The papers argue that the small, happy families portrayed on television contributed to this trend. Controlling for other factors, the arrival of Globo was associated with a decline of 0.6 percentage points in the probability of a woman giving birth in a given year. That is equivalent to the drop in the birth rate associated with a woman having two extra years of schooling

The effect on divorce was smaller, but noticeable. The researchers found that between 1975, when divorce was first mooted, and 1984 about one in five of the main characters in Globo soaps were divorced or separated, a higher percentage than in the real Brazil. These break-ups were not just a result of machismo: from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s about 30% of female lead characters in novelas were unfaithful to their partners. The researchers find that the arrival of Globo in an area was associated with a rise of 0.1-0.2 percentage points in the share of women aged 15-49 who were divorced or separated. The authors reckon that watching “empowered” women having fun in Rio made other women (a few of them anyway) more independent. _ImpactLab
One person's "empowered woman" may be another person's slut -- it depends upon a person's perspective.

I wonder if ancient Rome had soap operas, right up until the end? Would you like to know, "who were Rome's soap Oprahs?" Women take their cues from the herd, as they interpret it. The soap Oprahs of the world exert a huge impact on female behaviour, and on society at large. You may be a slave to a loosely knit web of puppet masters and puppet mistresses, pulling the strings on female behaviour everywhere except perhaps within the Muslim world. And how much longer can that bastion of male dominance hold out?

Cross-posted at Al Fin, You Sexy Thing!



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