SAO PAULO – Some South American fans at the World Cup are receiving strong criticism for sexist behavior and could even face workplace consequences for posting videos in which fans encourage foreign women to say offensive things in languages they don't appear to understand.
In one video, a handful of Brazilian men surround a woman and encourage her to chant with them in Portuguese an offensive word for female anatomy. In another, Colombian fans encourage a woman to repeat offensive phrases in Spanish.
As the videos were shared widely on social media and published by media outlets, some of the Brazilian men were identified, and their employers expressed dismay, promising consequences in some cases.
While sexist behavior was long considered almost inevitable at large sporting events, changing mores and increasing awareness of sexual harassment and assault in the wake of the #metoo movement has reduced tolerance for it. Condemnation came quickly from many quarters, with some lamenting that the videos had been published at all and others noting that the swift reaction showed that at least this sort of behavior is losing ground.
Colombia's Foreign Ministry said on Twitter on Tuesday that such behavior "not only degrades the woman, but insults other cultures, our language and our country." For several hours, the ministry pinned the tweet to the top of its feed so it would be the first one read, a sign it considered the matter important.
Meanwhile, several organizations in Brazil expressed embarrassment that the behavior of some was tarnishing Brazil's image, but also acknowledged that the actions reflect a worrying strain in Brazilian culture.
"The act, a demonstration of disrespect, prejudice, sexism and a lack of civility, is lamentable and is evidence of the reality of physical, verbal, psychological and moral aggression that many women often face in Brazil and in the world," Brazil's National Council of Women's Rights said in a statement Wednesday.
One of the men in a video of Brazilian fans apologized for his actions when contacted by the UOL news agency but said too much was being made of what he said was a joke gone awry amid a party atmosphere and too much alcohol.
"We are fathers, workers and you're ending our lives," the agency quoted Luciano Gil, who said he has a daughter, as saying. "I apologize to women who might have felt offended, but this is becoming a tempest in a teapot."
The Military Police in Santa Catarina confirmed that one of the men in one of the videos was an officer in the southern state and that it would open an administrative disciplinary proceeding to look into his behavior when he returned from Russia. LATAM Airlines Brazil confirmed one of its staff members was also in a video and that it had taken "appropriate measures, in line with its code of ethics and behavior." It would not say what those measures were.
The Bar Association of the state of Pernambuco, meanwhile, said one of the men was a lawyer. It criticized one of the videos and noted that Brazil ranks fifth in the world in violence against women, according to the UN, and that Brazilian women are frequently subjected to physical and verbal harassment and assault.
"The statistics are alarming and lead us to a deep reflection on the need for an urgent change in the macho and patriarchal culture that is still, unfortunately, a part of our society," the association said.
Tiago Fernandes, who took to Twitter to criticize the behavior, said he wasn't surprised when he saw them but that he thought Brazil was beginning to change.
"This kind of behavior always existed but never generated this kind of reaction," said the 38-year-old professor who lives in the northeastern city of Recife.