“How can we be better than white women if we’re not put on the same level?” International Women’s Day: Black women’s struggle against prejudice, violence and inequality

capa - IWD

Note from BW of Brazil: People in Brazil often like to hide behind empty rhetoric such as the phrase “we are all equal”, which lets them conveniently not address the severity of inequality that is a the very root of Brazilian society.  Deep down, people really do know what thoughts and beliefs come to their mind when they hear the terms “mulher branca” (white woman) and “mulher negra” (black woman). It’s quite obvious that these two women are not thought of in equal terms, even not considering the hard data, but acknowledging it would mean having to deal with the realities of race, which most people really don’t want to do. I mean, how can we realistically believe “we are all equal” when most positions of command in the country belong to men and of the positions that women DO occupy, most of them belong to white women? I won’t get into the details here because since 2011, the position of black Brazilian women has been thoroughly documented in a number of previous posts on this blog, but in recognition of International Women’s Day, below some of the realities of the struggle of black women in Brazil are emphasized. 


Women’s Day: the struggle of black women against prejudice and violence

By Adrieli Evarini

Racism and machismo allied result in high numbers of violence against black women, analyzes Julia Mariane Américo

The song “A vida é desafio” (Life is a challenge) was composed back in the 1990s, but the reality portrayed in the verses rapped by Edi Rock has not changed in more than two decades since the lyrics were written. For black women, it is a constant.

“From early on our mother speaks like this: filho, por você ser preto, você tem que ser duas vezes melhor (son, because you’re black, you have to be twice as good) After a few years, I thought: how do you do twice as well if you are at least 100 times behind due to slavery, history, prejudice, traumas, psychosis, due to everything that happened? Twice as good, how?”

This song is in line with the question of retired teacher Julia Mariane Américo, an activist from Moconevi (Black Consciousness Movement of the Vale do Itapocu), who points out how much the black woman still suffers from prejudice and is the biggest victim of violence and discrimination on the job.

“You’re competing with a white woman, you have to be better, but how can you be the best if we’re not on the same level?” she asks.

The data show how black women are undervalued and targets of violence in Brazil. The numbers brought by the Atlas da Violência (Atlas of Violence) 2018, organized by the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Ipea) and the Brazilian Forum of Public Security show that, in 2016, the rate of homicides of black women was 71% higher than that of non-black women.

In the state of Santa Catarina, the homicide rate of black women per 100,000 inhabitants rose from 4.0 to 5.1 between 2015 and 2016, a 27.7% increase.

The 2015 Mapa da Violência  pointed to a frightening growth of homicides of black women between 2003 and 2013, from 1,864 to 2,875, a jump of 54% in ten years.

On the other hand, the number of homicides of white women fell by 9.8% in the same period. The chance of a black woman being murdered is twice as high. The percentage of black women victims of domestic violence was, in 2015, 58.86%, according to data from the Central de Atendimento à Mulher (Women’s Assistance Center).


And violence numbers reach all levels with more impact on black women. More than 53% of the victims of maternal mortality were black. The Fiocruz data for 2014 showed that 65.9% of the victims of obstetric violence were black.

The Ministério da Justiça (Ministry of Justice) announced in 2015 that 68.8 percent of the women killed by assault were black. In the same year, in Rio de Janeiro, more than 56% of rape victims in the state were black. Years pass and indices continue to point to black women as the biggest victims of violence.

When the subject points to pay, they are also the most devalued. Women, on the whole, receive only 76.5% of the men’s salary, on average and, according to the study

“Retrato das desigualdades de gênero e raça – 20 anos” (Portrait of gender and race inequalities – 20 years) of the Ipea, the average salary of black women between 1995 and 2015 was 40.9% of the remuneration of white men. Black women in management positions? 1.6%.

On executive boards, only 0.4% pointed out the study Perfil social e de gêneros das 500 maiores empresas do Brasil e suas ações afirmativas (social and gender profile of the 500 largest companies in Brazil and their affirmative actions), of the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank), in partnership with the Instituto Ethos.

This is happening in a country where almost 54% of the population is black and where 15.9 million families are headed by black women.

“Everything goes through self-esteem”

The scarves are delicately set on the head and show the pride of history, tradition and black culture. The Jaraguaense (native of Jaraguá do Sul, Santa Catarina) retired teacher Julia Mariane Américo has developed a project that aims at the recognition of meninas negras (black girls).

In a box, more than 30 dolls are brought to the schools and put on display for them to play with, but they’re not just any dolls, they are black.


For her, this contact of the black girls with dolls that represent them is fundamental for the formation of the personality and fortification of the self-esteem, so undermined in a racist society, she emphasizes.

“Every day women hear something like: cabelo ruim (bad hair), cabelo de bombril (scouring pad hair). I heard that in my childhood. We suffered and so we were looking for ways to straighten, lower it, hide it. Today, I am very happy when I see children proud of their voluminous hair, going to school with their hair loose,” she says.

The teacher and activist points out that the focus of the project is to touch upon the children’s self-esteem while showing cultura negra (black culture) through the hair of the dolls, turbans and clothes.

“Everything goes through self-esteem and it starts in childhood. I realized this with colleagues, with myself. We were diminished in relation to color, then to hair, then to the social level,” she says.

Therefore, she says, it is important for children to see themselves in dolls, to feel represented. “They can see themselves in a boneca bonita e negra (beautiful black doll),” she adds.

The number of violence acts against black women is a serious issue that needs to be debated, Julia points out.

“This is a very difficult thing to accept and understand, because the largest population is black, but we seem to be a minority in places and we are once again the majority on the issue of violence. I cannot do this math. Why is the majority not in evidence? And is it in the evidence such a strong issue as violence? The pain is very great,” she says.


For her, the answer to this question is the same as that for centuries: racism. The teacher stresses that racism, allied to machismo – both structural in Brazilian society -, breaks out into indices that daily victimize the black woman in insults, harassment, rape, obstetric violence, physical violence and murder.

“What most leaves us indignant is that cases continue to appear, new cases, things that we thought had been overcome already, it seems that the campaigns do not have the effect that we imagined,” she says.

Despite this, the activist affirms that the struggle of the black women’s movements has been important to recover the self-esteem and to show the protagonism in the society. She points out that women are very strong when they have this power to speak and to be heard.

The representation of black thinkers and artists is fundamental for black women to be represented in spaces still very limited to them.

According to the teacher, names like actress Taís Araújo, singer Iza and journalist Maju Coutinho are sources of inspiration and serve as a foundation so that black girls can feel represented and have a mirror to fight for their space and to feel impelled to raise her voice to racial issues.

Source: OCP News

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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