The identity of the modern Brazilian woman is ever changing. This complex story of female empowerment is a transnational one, but one that is especially visible in Brazil and Latin America.
Take for example, Brazil only recently elected their first female president, Dilma Rousseff. When elected in 2010, she proclaimed to the world: “I hope the fathers and mothers of little girls will look at them and say, yes women can.” That said, Dilma is undergoing impeachment hearings and has experienced a number of critiques because of her gender. Overall, the identity of the modern Brazilian woman is very complex. It’s complicated further because of the intersectionality of gender with race, class and sexuality. To get a more in-depth understanding of these issues, the Utah State University crew met with local novelist and artist, Maria Prado, to talk about her experience as an openly gay and female public figure.
“My concerns with gender issues are absolute. First I am a woman, married to a woman. This issue makes it seem like we have had several advances in the Brazilian legal system. We can now formalize civil marriages because of laws. My marriage was formalized because of it, and other people are doing it as well. Despite these advances, being a woman married to a woman is still very difficult in Brazil.”
Prado spoke more about those women who she thinks have perhaps have the toughest time in modern Brazilian society.
“Poor, black, lesbian women are absolutely overwhelmed with total discrimination. I can’t think of a single black woman that is lesbian and famous. But a pop star singer in North America can be lesbian and very famous. And she will not suffer the same discrimination that a poor, black woman living in the poor Harlem or ghetto faces. I think it is humiliating for humanity that we are still discussing this. But unfortunately, we have to discuss it.”
Because Brazil is the country with the largest black population outside all of Africa, gender and race are inexorably connected. We met with Manoele, who works in the tourist industry, dressed as an icon for Afro-Brazilian women called Bahiana. Manoele gave us her take on some of the difficulties faced by Afro-Brazilian women.
“Black people do not want to marry people of their same color? Men want white women, but I know that love has no boundaries. I can fall in love with a white man, why not? But today, all of the black men of the world want white women. It seems that they do not value their own race. This is bad. Being black is beautiful.”
While these issues are deeply seated in Brazilian culture, and are sometimes slow to change, there are people and organizations who work everyday to provide education and opportunities to improve the lives of women, in Salvador, and throughout Brazil. We spoke with Luciana, a former street kid turned social worker for Projeto Axe, an organization featured in another episode of “Roots of Brazil”, to get her take on how to empower girls and women in Salvador.
“What I always tell my girls is this: you do not need a man for you to have your story. You will have to go through trials with the man that you choose. You will find out which man has the ability to deal with trials, and which man is qualified to be at your side. That’s what’s important. I try to teach my girls, whether they are children, teenagers, or adults, is that they need to improve themselves throughout life, so that they are empowered. From that empowerment, they are able to find the life they want and for them to choose what they want for their lives.”
Reporting done by USU Professor of Global Communication, Jason Gilmore, from the Department of Languages, Philosophy and Communication Studies with help from students Brieann Charlesworth, Mckayle Law and Elizabeth Thomas.
Support for "Roots of Brazil" on Utah Public Radio is made possible by the USU Office of Global Engagement.