Conversation About Brazil on the Cruciality of Feminism

Pamela Machado is a contributor to Conatus News, and a journalist based in London, UK. She took some time to sit down and talk feminism and Brazil. Here is her thoughts, the second session of them. Session 1 can be found here.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Also, there’s the impact of the stereotyping, as a defense mechanism against feminism, where we need to clarify terms before a discussion can be had with an opposing viewpoint. Again, as you know as well, it is more or less conscious and done to impart the image of a cranky woman feminist and an obsequious male feminist. I heard one stereotype from a Canadian academic of the “sneaky male feminist.” The landscape of stereotyping is diversifying, but the purpose is consistent.

Pamela Machado: The woman feminist stereotype is a big problem in Brazil – they are popularly called ‘’feminazis’, and I see it as a perfect example of how careful we need to be when we attempt to teach ideologies to others. It seems a simple concept for us, educated and non-religious people, but the reality for the majority of people in developing economies is pretty different. Once again, I think we need empathy and understanding the story of communities.

Jacobsen: Let’s simply clarify here, what does feminism mean here to you? Outside of the generic definition of social and legal equality of the sexes, something seen in John Stuart Mill with Classical Liberalism.

Machado: It is in essence social and legal equality of the sexes, but we need to understand that men and women do not function the same way. There are biological, neurological differences between them – just to name a few, which must not be ignored. Feminism is ultimately about freedom. Women deserve to be free to live their lives as they please – whether as a single professional, a housewife, married with no kids, and so on… A woman’s life concerns no one but herself.

Jacobsen: Once in awhile, and sometimes often, the landscape of the experience of an activist becomes rather unpleasant and even possibly unbearable with the continual barbs at work, with colleagues, even outright in the public sphere, which can make adherence to the unpopular ideological stance for change to a more secular future in line with human and women’s rights more likely to feel something that that activist wants to give up. It’s tough, especially with most of the world adhering to the magical-mystical ideologies where women are not equal to men – and feminists are seen as threat number one. How do you push through these tough times, as a minority view and so as a minority activist?

Machado: That’s an answer I don’t think I have. We brace ourselves, right? If we look back in History, we see swings to the left, to the right, populism, fascism… So far, no ideology stays in power forever. I would say that keep strong on your principles and hold on to the ones who share your values.

Jacobsen: Catholicism, as you described earlier in some detail, has cultural hegemony over Brazil, and so over the people of the country – even the irreligious conceptualizations that may not even have to be verbalized; things that are taken as first-person truths, but are not anything akin to that, where the truths about the ‘world’ are not in any way related to the real world, the natural world.

Christianity and Islam hold cultural hegemony over half of the world’s population, which is a staggering statistic and truth. That leaves me stunned in reflection on it, but it is true, well-documented, and important to know when considering the future of feminism in the international scene.

So going from the particular to the general here, from London and Brazil and Canada to the globe, the state for women in the developed world, which tends to be an admixture of Christian and secular, and the undeveloped or developing world, which tends to be an admixture of dictatorships and Islamically-run countries. These faith-based initiatives, as the Bush Jr. administration would call them, seem almost as if implacable barriers to the implementation of the secular ethic, international human and women’s rights.

Machado: I am not an academic or expert in the subject at all, but it seems to me that fighting for feminism goes beyond religion and secularism. There are plenty of awesome feminist Muslim women – and not only women, as well as there are Christian ones. The fight for gender equality should not impose that one gives up their faith – even if a more literal interpretation of their doctrine could imply that women and men do not enjoy the same privileges as individuals.

Jacobsen: What might the next wave of feminism or women’s rights campaigning and activism look like in the future?

Machado: One particular feminist issue in Brazil is the fight against the ‘culture of rape’ we live in. Almost every woman in the country knows has been through some kind of verbal sexual harassment. Men justify saying they intended to compliment when it truly is intimidating and grotesque. It almost became one of the slogans of a feminist campaign the statistic that there a one rape case in Brazil every eleven minutes, 47,000 cases in one year.

Therefore, I see the fight for women’s right closely tied in with cases of sexual violence and repression to media and public services that are not punishing aggressors.

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