"On October 22nd Geyse Arruda was escorted from the campus of Bandeirante University, a private college in a São Paulo suburb, her thighs shrouded by a lab coat, watched by several hundred jeering fellow students. Her offence? Wearing a dress so short as to constitute 'a flagrant lack of respect for ethical principles, academic dignity and morality'. How could this happen in the land of topless carnival dancers and buttocks swaying on the beach?" asked The Economist on 12 November 2009 and explained: "Tolerance coexists uneasily with prudishness. Brazilians are a religious people. Many of the churches frown on carnival as a time of loose behaviour and marriage-breaking, a fight that the Catholic church has waged for centuries."
Are Brazilians really a religious people? Well, how would one measure that? And, what about the claim that tolerance coexists uneasily with prudishness? That actually sounds more like The Economist were describing the people of its homebase, the English ...
The problem with this article however is another one. The reporter, like most reporters, has very probably not been present when the incident he or she wrote about occurred. In other words, what we got to read about this case was based on hearsay and what we got to see was based on video-images - and these are often even less reliable than hearsay for pictures, contrary to popular belief, do not provide evidence.
But hey, were there really several hundred fellow students jeering? And if so, why? And how come that a camera recorded it? Could this have been an orchestrated event by, for example, a small group of conservative zealots to get media attention?
It is simply absurd to use this totally insignificant incidence - everybody who has ever set foot on Brazilian soil knows that this is totally atypical for this country - as a pretext for arguing that in Brazil "tolerance exists uneasily with prudishness". There is zero basis for such a claim. And this means that one really shouldn't read The Economist when trying to understand Brazil.