Demanding respect and more space in society but why does black women’s activism bother people so much?



Note from BW of Brazil: Well, one must admit that this seems to be the case. For the decades and in fact centuries that black women of Brazil simply accepted the position that Brazilian society reserved for them, no one really said anything because, well, it was just the way things were. But times have changed and continue to change. Black Brazilian women want representation in ALL areas of Brazilian society as well as a voice at the table to discuss her role and how she will be portrayed. But with this activism has come all sorts of complaints and push back. Black women and the black population as a whole has been accused of “seeing racism in everything”, “whining” and forgetting “their place.” And we also note these attitudes in the increased racist internet attacks on black women who have prominent public profiles (see here, here, here and here). Regardless, with the advances that have been made in recent years and a rising activism that refuses to be silenced, there’s no turning back now!

Why does black women’s activism bother people so much?

Courtesy of El País

Whether it is in the labor or culture market, the struggle of the black woman to gain space and being respected is even more difficult than that of the white woman

Luana Genot

Advertising rep and former model Luana Genot has long taken on the challenge of taking the fight against the privilege of skin color to the business world. Tired of suffering from racism and machismo, she founded the Instituto Identidades do Brasil (ID_BR), and has literally knocked on the doors of companies to change this reality. “I asked a six-year-old boy what he wanted to be when he grew up, and I heard that he would be a security guard because this is a profissão de preto (black profession) (1). We cannot allow children to assume this discourse, so we need examples,” said Luana, who participated in the Seminário Brasileiras – how they are changing the course of the country, held on December 2 in São Paulo, by EL PAÍS and Agência Locomotiva.

Maria Rita Casagrande (left) with labor activist Creuza Oliveira

Maria Rita Casagrande, founder of Blogueiras Negras and partner of Infopreta, also knows up close the suffering that the stereotype in relation to the black woman can cause. With a degree in systems analysis, for many years Maria Rita worked as telemarketer because of not finding another job. From the necessity of sharing their experiences, Blogueiras Negras was born, a space that unites women who write, speak and produce knowledge from their experiences as black women. Undertaking Infopreta was another opportunity she found to do what she wanted and not what others wanted for her. “It’s common for us to offer visibility, but we want opportunities, employment, support,” she says.

Djamila Ribeiro

The advance of black women’s online activism has become an important channel for overcoming the barriers created by racism. “The internet is the space that black women have found to exist, since the hegemonic media ignores us,” explains Djamila Ribeiro, deputy secretary of human rights of the city of São Paulo. According to her, Brazilians still see racism as something private, for example, when the actress Taís Araújo was attacked on the internet. And not as a system of oppression, which prevents access to certain spheres.

Bringing this topic to the fore and proposing reflections on the role of society in maintaining structures of racism is not easy. “There is a discomfort of the people with the theme, but this is important, or everyone will think it’s okay,” Djamila explains.

Representation in culture

Tata Amaral

Filmmaker Tata Amaral discovered this discomfort through the eyes of her daughter. In the 80’s, the two used to go to the movies to see mostly American blockbusters. The girl couldn’t even read, but realized that the black characters systematically died in the movies. The child also noticed that the crooks were always Latinos, blacks and Arabs. Tata regrets that the representation that orients cinema at that time has changed little. “I made a documentary about hip hop and realized that the young man identified himself as PPP – preto, pobre da periferia (black, poor and from the periphery), which in society has a bad image, representing the drug dealer, the criminal.”

The cinema that is produced in Brazil reflects a powerful complex of representations, which excludes the majority of the Brazilian population, composed of mulheres e homens negros (black women and men). The stratagems of depicting racism and machismo come as entertainment, and the public doesn’t realize it. “The other day I turned on the TV and there was a bunda rebolando (ass gyrating) for the camera. The ass had no body, leg, feeling, nothing, it was the portrait of the Brazilian woman,” says Tata. And who sponsors this program? “It’s the same people that sponsor programs in which blacks only serve to die, so it’s no use discussing women without discussing the racial issue, without discussing the creation of the black audiovisual,” replies the filmmaker.

From discomfort to aggression

It’s not been a few times that black women activists are called “chiliquentas” or “aggressive” by those who want to disqualify their struggle, lacking empathy even within the feminist movement, Djamila explains that black women cannot choose against which oppression they will fight first: being a woman or being black women. Because of this she criticizes those who work with generic data on the subject, such as women earning 30% less than men. After all, it shows that black men earn less than white women, and black women less than black men. “Machismo and racism make us more vulnerable, so we have to name if we are talking about white, black, trans or lesbian women,” she says.

Djamila is emphatic in demanding that white people take responsibility for racism, become familiar with the subject and understanding their participation in this national malaise, so that they can be part of the change. But there is no point in doing this and paying 600 reais [less than a minimum salary, currently about US$177] to the black woman to work as a domestic in her home,” warns the secretary.

Source: El País


  1. Brazilian society has long indoctrinated its black population to accept that certain jobs are meant for blacks and certain ones for whites. And black children pick up on this.
About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. Certain activist positions can do great damage.racism is real in brazil , oppression of black women is real in brazil. Finding racism in brazil is a turkey shoot, you point your gun and fire…

    That is why not well thought out activist positions hurt their cause , this has played out dramatically in brazil and the usa recently, only someone in self denial can’t recognize the damage that stupid activist positions had on these two countries.

    As far as black Brazilian or American activism, I have a simple rule, if you throw black men or woman under the bus , or put down or destroy black culture , I don’t agree with it…and this happens a lot…

    And about feminism, if you deflect from violence against women , under payment in the work force and job discrimination , to focus on what women wear , personal consenting sex choices , dances women choose to do with “showing of flesh , shaking of hips ” , I don’t agree with that…really disappointing seeing one women on there hung up about a rolling butt, there are much more important issues..

    I don’t accept just any activism , not all activism is good , pretending it is , is the hight of arrogance and the road to failure…

    Chose your actions wisely

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