Lawmaker showing deep cleavage stirs controversy in Brazil

A female lawmaker who attended a swearing-in ceremony in a business suit accentuating her breasts is causing a furor in Brazil, a deeply conservative country also known for skimpy swim suits and round-the-clock partying during Carnival.

The controversy began when Ana Paula da Silva, from the southern state of Santa Catarina, showed up to the Feb. 1 ceremony in a tight, two-piece red pantsuit that showed deep cleavage.

“Breasts of discord,” read a sarcastic headline Thursday in a column by Mariliz Pereira Jorge from leading daily Folha de S. Paulo.

Latin America’s largest nation has long struggled with gender-based violence, and men continue to dominate much of the public sphere, including politics.

The lawmaker’s detractors, including many women, took to social media to argue that her choice of clothing was “inappropriate,” ”shocking” and “vulgar.” Others said clothes shouldn’t matter and asked that politicians focus on more pressing issues.

In several posts on Facebook, da Silva defended her wardrobe choice.

“This macho and prejudiced world you live in is not mine,” she wrote in response to a man who asked how her cleavage contributed to democracy. “I’ve seen a lot of men in suits and ties taking money out of the health sector, school meals. That’s unacceptable.”

While some wondered whether the state representative known as Paulina had crossed a line, her backers tried to refocus the debate around her strong electoral results and political action.

Da Silva received the fifth largest number of votes in last year’s state assembly election, and she previously served two terms as local mayor in the city of Bombinhas.

Da Silva, a mother of two, said she will continue to wear what she wants. She also threatened to sue those behind some of the most aggressive messages she has received.

“We have more important questions to discuss in the legislative assembly,” she wrote.

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