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Brazilian Feminism: The Struggle to Overcome Male Dominance

For decades, women around the world have looked to each other for support and help in empowering the gender overall. In Brazil, for example, women have been making themselves heard and seen in the public arena since the early 1970’s. Brazilian feminism is a political action in which both theory and practice are incorporated. Moreover, it centers on women as agents effecting change in their conditions. They seek to create opportunities for women’s political participation, demand better conditions in women’s daily live and “address issues stemming from women’s socially defined reproduction roles.”

In addition to the struggle to change existing laws and create new laws, they’re emphasizing the demand for more rights, new public policies, and more participation. Presently, feminist movements are concentrating against human misery and women’s exercise of citizenship. “Brazilian Feminists struggle in congress, in the streets, for the right to formal education, to vote, equal salaries, and suitable working conditions. In addition to obtaining control over their bodies and sexual pleasures.”

Beginning with the power of the pen, Nisia Floresta Brasileira Augusta, advocated women’s right to formal education by publishing many works. Brazilian suffragist campaigns led to women’s right to vote in 1932. Brazilian Communist Party “mobilized low-income women to strive for better working conditions and participate in the broader struggles of society.” Such mobilizations, especially after the 1940’s, started many women’s organizations.

The conservative stances of the Catholic Church have had an enormous impact on laws, including such issues as contraceptives and abortions. Moreover, the military coup of the 1960’s put an end to the women’s movements. It brought women two steps backwards in that it “focused on maintaining order, preserving traditional family ties, protection of property, obeying the church, family, military hierarchy.” Oppression by the military caused Feminism not to reemerge until the 1970’s.

In addition to demanding better conditions in daily lives, ending human misery and the exercising of citizenship, feminists and women’s organizations in Brazil identified and targeted such issues as denouncing political repression. This was especially true during military regime. At this time they also fought against increase costs of living, demanding adequate schools, health centers, running water, transportation, electricity, and housing. Women were behind the first public demonstrations during this time of repression. Eventually new themes and more specialized issue such as women’s rights, female sexuality, sexual violence, and abortion were introduced. Overall, they fought for and continue to fight for new rights for women. Since the movement also encompasses working women, issues such as adequate day care and sex discrimination at the work place also became prominent.

Brazilian women sought change by calling those with existing power to change things. Others however relied on reflection and study and establishing links with other groups of women. There was an overall feeling to engaged in action and even participate in political parties. In searching for a “place in government,” state councils on women’s rights such as CNDM were established. “The CNDM was linked to the Ministry of Justice and by law had power to make policies to eliminate discrimination against women.”

Feminism around the world, whether it be in Brazil or in our very own country seeks to encompass every woman. Women not only need “their own institutional place within the state structure and need to develop political parties,” but moreover, a strong place in the world. Feminism is not about putting down our male counterparts but about lifting the woman.

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