Note from BW of Brazil: The solitude of the black Brazilian woman is a topic that has been approached in numerous previous posts on this blog. Specifically over the period of about the last 4-5 years, as black women continue to come into their own, appreciating their unique beauty and developing a collective black pride that simply didn’t exist for most of the last century, many are coming to the conclusion that the black Brazilian man (and men in general) don’t immediately think of them when the topic is romantic relationships. This discovery has led to a widespread analysis of black men that posits that most of them have a preference for white women, a phenomenon that black women have labeled as “palmitagem”. To be fair about this, many black men have also pointed out a similar preference of black women for white men. Today’s post is in fact about neither accusations, but rather another person coming to terms with the possibility that, in terms of long-term relationships, being a black woman may be one of the principle reasons for her solitude.
In a performance video, Val Souza addressed the issue in the Praça da Sé square in São Paulo. Below is the text to the video followed by a further analysis by Souza.
The solitude of the black woman. In the social context to which I belong (BLACK WOMEN) I have to deal daily with the multiple forms of emotional violence. It is the padrão de beleza (standard of beauty) that has excluded us and the construction of personal taste based on our denial. The perpetual idea that amor não tem cor (love has no color). At the same time as black women learn from an early age that love is not something they can have.
But if I were Snow White would you marry me?
The construction of affectivity of the woman deconstructing fairytales
By Val Souza
This text is an attempt to understand the social frameworks that structure our society: marriage, romantic love, children, heterosexuality. Writing this text calls attention to two points: 1. Underlining the existence of black women as subjects and 2. Understanding how coloniality and the effects of branquitude (whiteness) still affect in me an inquisitorial character.
It is noteworthy that I am a mulher negra (black woman) and to label myself as such makes me realize that I have an afrocentrado (Afrocentric) look on the world and I think it is important to affirm this, because at all times I am interested in understanding how people relate to my black body.
My name is Val Souza and since I was eight I realized that there are signs and meanings in my body that I could not explain. But it was recently in 2012 that I understood that what bothered me was in the difference of the looks and touches intended for me by men. Maybe because at that time I had been invited to eight ceremonies and wedding parties, but none of them were of my amigas negras (black friends).
After countless times in those events I already knew exactly what script would follow. At some point, an aunt, my mother’s friend, or anything of the sort, would to ask me, “WHERE IS YOUR NAMORADINHO (boyfriend)? Isn’t it time to get married? YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL! I NEVER SEE YOU WITH ANYONE! VERA IS NEEDING SOME GRANDCHILDREN YOU KNOW?!
This led me to think that there was something strange about my relations and relationships. Those invitations to the wedding ceremonies looked like rituals of torture, where I was there to open wide the total bankruptcy in my relationships, and along came the certainty that that model of happiness had nothing to do with me. I have often seen my amigas brancas (white friends) designing plans for me to catch the bouquet, and they would introduce me to any man at any cost. And the saying ‘antes só do que mal-acompanhada’ (it’s better to be alone than being with a person that you’re not in love with) was the recurring inverse in my life. They did not understand that this experience of a romantic love was taken from me along with enslavement.
The idea of romantic love for blacks in Brazil is recent, considering that it has only been 128 years since the promulgation of the law that abolished the use of mulheres e homens de pele preta (black skinned women and men) as objects of use. Now, I invite you to imagine with me the days that followed the abolition of slavery. The signing of the law of liberation of the enslaved did not guarantee the end of the racism, much less the end of the hegemonia branca (white hegemony) over them. After years of massacre and violence, in short, black women and men of the color of the night were freed.
I imagine that many of them wanted to review their families, sometimes their families were mutilated, fragmented, scattered along the Brazilian coast. And I keep wondering, but under what perspective did their practices of loving and love of those women and men appear?
The fact that they are daily witnesses of abuses and violence may have led them to set and establish their family relationships mirrored in the brutality that they knew at the time of enslavement. Well, what was totally different from those times, right?! Married and happy. Like a true fairy tale, my white friends had the right and perfect plan for life: to study, to date, to marry, to have children and to live happily ever after, just like the contos de fadas (fairy tales) I had heard so much during my childhood.
Affectivity of the black woman
But I – a black woman – who understood from my father’s abandonment that love was almost an interpretation, something not real or concrete, and this loving dedication was not something directed at me. I understood that, even with the end of enslavement, there were still remnants and effects of the time when affective and family relations were impossible to construct.
Well, I, at the height of my 27 years, an “empowered”, successful and beautiful black woman (PAUSE FOR ADMIRAL!) frequently exposed me to abusive relationships. Abusive in the semantics of relationships, after all, how could I, being this black woman, not accept a man calling me at dawn?
They only see my vagina! From men thinking I was available. Mostly sexually available at all times! Or a relationship in which I was often betrayed? And when not betrayed, I was the other, the lover on the sly! That we only see each other on Mondays? That I should pay our bills and our dates? Let’s stay together without anyone knowing, after all, keeping it hidden it was more delicious, right preta (black woman)? And I made it so hot, but I was never free to meet your family.
It could not be a coincidence that during these relationships, and it should be said here that what I am calling here of relationships were unstable relations, and I only noticed after that, I met men who saw me as an objectified body or financial structure at the foundation of those relations. I realized how much this violated me.
That was their way of loving me; that was the way my dad loved me and they love in their way. And we love for the two.
‘Wedding Album’ Essay
It was then that my eyes, ears and my whole body began to pay attention. After all, what does a man see when he sees a black woman? I noticed that when passing through the street, men only see chest and butt. Men looking at me see in me a body for usage and therefore people like me of color and pain, are always the last ones to have rights over our own bodies.
My body was a man’s machine to be relieved. And I began to feel anger, anger at myself, anger at my father, anger at his cowardice for not loving me, anger at his abandonment that exposed me to countless situations of fear and sadness, anger at the men who have passed through my life. I FELT AL OT OF RAGE! But in my case, anger was power! It gave me strength and energy to understand these poetics that enveloped my black female body. In this search and attempt to find myself, I decided that the best way to communicate this was to use my body, this body that magnetizes police bullets, looks of disapproval, not so subtle and perverse touches, words of racism, because o meu corpo negro é linguagem (my black body is language).
And these black modes of existence in the afrodiáspora brasileira (Brazilian Afro-Diaspora) have triggered me through artistic performative acts that have caused me to construct the “Experimentos de Negração” (Experiments of Negration) which are short performances where I question the social frames and places of socially constructed determinant standards.
I remember the first time that I had performed the “Case-se” (marry me) (and I was in front of the cathedral, in the Praça da Sé in São Paulo, dressed as a bride, wearing a white snow mask and a plaque written “CASE-SE COMIGO?” (will you marry me?). That for me was so obvious, the reason I was there and dressed like this, but I was scared. A man had passed me by and said: que palhaçada é essa? (what the hell is this?)
It was when a black woman came up the stairs crying, hugged me and said: é isso ai negona! Não se preocupe o seu príncipe vai aparecer (this is it black woman! Don’t worry your prince will show up). Can I bring your bouquet to give me luck?! For me, this woman also wanted to be free of being the black warrior woman, strong that can handle everything. She just wanted to be loved, spoiled and cherished.
I was so scared, after all I was sure that what I was doing was not just talking about Valdimere Pereira de Souza, daughter of Vera Lucia Pereira de Souza, sister of Valdirene and Weder, but speaking of Val I was speaking of a NÓS COLETIVO (COLLECTIVE US), present in the black feminine body. And it concerns a complex and diverse way of being alive in the Brazilian Afro-diaspora. I understood that there was no black woman in the singular because our stories are like a mirror where we do politics by the body and tell each other our memories.
Val Souza – Text of Val Souza especially for the Portal SoteroPreta. Val is a Master’s student at the Federal University of Bahia in the graduate program of Dance. An artist performer, as a researcher, she has been focusing on studies of the performance of black women.
Source: Sotero Preta