Note from BW of Brazil: Today, November 25th, is the International Day for the End of Violence Against Women and this post delves into the racial and color aspects of how this social ill affects women. Studies of unequal health care and salary inequality have been regularly featured on this blog and today’s information also brings into focus two other areas of inequality regarding black women: murder and relationships. Although studies consistently show that Afro-Brazilian women (negra/black and mulata/brown), or pretas and pardas, are usually in the same socio-economic situation and at a disadvantage vis-a-vis brancas (white women), experiences of personal relationships with men is one clear area where women who look less phenotypically African have an edge over their darker/more African sisters. Although all of this data is alarming (as are the numbers regarding black youth) and should be openly discussed, the racial/color aspect should not be surprising considering Brazilian society’s general preference for whiteness or closer proximity to whiteness.
Black women are victims of more than 60% of the murders of women in the country
by Gorette Brandão e Marilia Coêlho
Over 60% of women murdered in Brazil between 2001 and 2011 were black women. The data from the Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada (Ipea or Institute of Applied Economic Research), was quoted by Senator Maria do Carmo Alves (DEM-SE) last Thursday (21) opening the debate on violence against black women.
Throughout the discussion, experts on the issue highlighted the fact that black women, in addition to having to cope with everyday situations of oppression, occupy the worst places in the social and economic structure of the country. The event was sponsored by the Procuradoria Especial da Mulher do Senado and by the Secretaria da Mulher da Câmara dos Deputados (Special Prosecutor of Woman of the Senate and the Department of Women of the House of Representatives, respectively) as part of the Quintas Femininas program.
Monica Oliveira Gomes, who represented the Secretaria de Políticas de Promoção da Igualdade Racial (Seppir or Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality), highlighted the obstacles in access to professional jobs and equal income in the job market. She also mentioned situations of discrimination even when using public services, in her view a problem that reveals the existence of institutional racism in the country, and not only the recognized interpersonal racism.
“The institution also has responsibility for the damage that that employee or that employee goes on to be the cause of whoever was discriminated against,” she defended.
The speaker cited a recent study by IPEA whereby blacks earn 36% less than whites, even having the same qualification. Looking only at the income of black women, the difference with the earnings of whites rises to 40%.
According to Monica, black women remain at the “base of the pyramid”, even having more years of education and higher qualifications. In her view, gender discrimination adds to racism in a “perverse” conjunction, especially given the general idea that education is the path to growth and empowerment of people.
“However, the more a woman becomes qualified, the harder it is to find a position that matches the investment that she have made over her lifetime,” she lamented.
Monica noted that the feminist movement initially refused to discuss the issue of race as a specific within the general issue of women, considering that it would cause divisions in the struggle. However, notwithstanding the alliance between feminists, she pointed out that now it is recognized that oppression affects black women differently.
“It is impossible to achieve happiness living with discrimination and sexism in our lives,” she said.
In the opinion of the Seppir representative, the term “symbolic violence” is insufficient to translate situations experienced by black women that lead to illness, when it is not the case of death. She also stressed what she called “triple discrimination” when dealing with black and also poor women.
As an example, she highlighted the worse access to public health services, which would explain the higher mortality rate among black women, especially maternal mortality. According to her, pregnant black women have less essential prenatal tests to prevent common causes of death, such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
Even consultations would be made shorter, partly because doctors “prefer not to touch the body” of black women or carrying out procedures in an improperly way, still according to Monica.
She explained, however, that institutional racism occurs both within public arena as in private institutions. She said that discrimination is characterized by the provision of unequal service and by a discriminatory attitude of the members of the institution.
A researcher at the Núcleo de Estudos e Pesquisas sobre a Mulher (Nepem or the Center for Studies and Research on Women) at the University of Brasilia (UnB), Bruna Cristina Pereira, presented data from the study that resulted from her master’s dissertation, entitled Tramas e Dramas de Gênero e de Cor – A violência doméstica e familiar contra as mulheres negras (Traumas & Dramas of Gender and Color – Domestic and family violence against black women).
The study presented testimonies of 14 black women from different social levels, showing that skin color affects the relationship with the partner, with family and generates violence.
“We have the studies on domestic violence, a discussion about disciplinary power that would, in our society, patriarchal and essentially masculine. And what I found was that disciplinary power is never detached from the racial question, ie, the disciplinary power also has a color, and it is white,” she said.
Bruna exemplified this with the case of one of the interviewees identified as “Manoela” (fictitious name), who has suffered discrimination while living with her parents, because she is the darkest among her sisters. At home, her father forced her to perform household chores, but her sisters had other duties. And when referring to Manoela in conversation with his wife, the father called her “essa sua negrinha (this little black thing)”.
Manoela later married a man darker than her, but was also subjected to violence. He told her that white women wanted him and that he had had an affair with a white woman.
“In many studies, marriage constitutes an indicator that there is no racism. This needs to be questioned. Not necessarily because there is a loving relationship is there no longer racialized dynamics. Quite to the contrary, they may even be reinforced,” she said.
The ideal woman
According to the research of Bruna, there is a model of the ideal woman, that is not black women, but the white woman. Mulata or black women are assigned a stereotype of sexuality without virtue.
Bruna also cited the case of Emília (also ficticious), an activist of the Movimento Negro (black rights movement) that, at one point, was confronted by a comrade with the statement that “he knew he should not have married a black woman, because black women are vagabonds (or sluts), they are prostitutes.”
“That is, they are not virtuous women,” Bruna noted, interpreting the view expressed by the man.
Bruna also stressed a point that surprised her in the research: the view that the “virtue” of black women, differently from the mulata, was always work-related. There were even partners who left work in order be sustained by their companions or assaulted if they left work or refused to support them.
For the researcher, the government and militants against violence have not yet been able to create tools to understand and combat racism in relationships.
“Although studies don’t have extensive or broad connections between racial violence and higher homicide of black women, there is no way not think that these forms of violence are not connected,” she said.
Source: Agência Senado