Misogynistic Political Reporting in Brazil

I’ve commented on how the (overwhelmingly male) national political arena in Brazil is indicative of very real challenges facing women politically, and even wondered if some of the language used to express rancor toward Dilma Rousseff was at least in part due to her gender. One of Brazil’s largest weekly magazines, Época, demonstrates exactly why this is a serious concern in this appalling piece [written by a man] whose political “analysis” of Dilma hinges on how she is not “sexual” enough.

If that seems unfair, well…it’s not. The author (again, for one of the most popular and circulated weekly magazines in Brazil), João Luiz Vieira, opens by insisting:

Dilma needs to make the decision to turn us on. Not only me, who abdicated from my intention to vote in the past election…

So, Dilma is so sexually unappealing I decided not to vote!

…but, principally, to those she deceived with her disconnected or hard phrases, her distemper or her cynicism, her muteness or her verbal virulence.

So, Dilma’s simultaneously awful for being a woman who does not talk enough, and for her virulent verbosity. She simultaneously speaks too much and not enough. It’s hard to imagine this woman-hating being any worse. But wait! We’re only in the first paragraph. If you thought it can’t get worse, well…

Dilma, if I were your friend, I would tell you: make yourself erotic.

If you were her friend and told her that, you would be the worst friend ever.

But even setting snark aside, this is just beyond appallingly misogynistic. Dilma needs to talk just the right amount (according to this man), and if she just makes herself more “erotic” to the electorate, she will somehow overcome corruption scandals to which she as yet actually has no direct ties?

If you think it keeps getting worse, you’re right:

Sex has to do with power. The president of the nation did not understand the principal message of a good part of the protesters who went to the streets on Sunday, August 16: they want her to express a sexuality, a corporal communication that creates empathy, proposes, attaches, welcomes.

If that was the principal message of last Sunday’s protests, then that seems like a message worth disregarding, given that it lacks any actual political substance, constructive critiques, or productive outline for how Brazilian politics and society should change.

The article continues to be awful and misogynistic in every way possible. Vieira brings up the fact that she has been married twice and has a daughter and grandson, before commenting that

sexists and misogynists have produced a series of labels that extinguished her feminine expression.

Because the real misogynists have moved beyond her gender. (And a man telling a female president to become sexier to gain appeal calling others sexist and misogynistic is rich indeed.) He then fantasizes about what she might look like naked, and that she is likely lonely, and if only somebody were there to satisfy her (implicitly sexually), then perhaps she would have more support. She built her career on demonstrating her ability, rather than highlighting her gender and sexuality, Vieira says, and thus, by demonstrating actual skill and competency, she is now unpopular – something she could have prevented if she’d focused more on her physical appearance and femininity in her career.

This is so enraging as to almost leave one at a loss for words. Suffice to say, the content is appalling, abysmal, and the worst kind of patriarchal woman-shaming, even while being incredibly inconsistent in its ascribing of “proper” gender roles. Externally, it’s equally appalling, and reveals how misogyny plays into politics and into discourse in politics – it is safe to say that no major publication ever wrote an article about how Lula, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, or any other president before Dilma would be more popular if he just focused on his sexiness and masculinity more. Anyone who insists otherwise is either willfully obtuse, or holds the same misogynistic beliefs as Vieira. And given (once more) that this is in one of Brazil’s biggest weeklies, the number of people who agree with Vieira is likely frighteningly higher than it ever should be.

About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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