Monday, November 1, 2010

Brazil's PrimeirA Presidente

Today I was going to write about my recent return to London for my first NaBlo post, but there’s bigger news out there I’d rather discuss. Brazil has elected its first woman president. In a country pretty much based on the patriarch system this qualifies as a HUGE DEAL. Having lived in Brazil, I am not as surprised as some Brazilians seem to be at this feat. I knew it would happen. Brazil has always had huge potential to be a progressive country. It’s right there on the flag: ‘Ordem e Progresso’ (order and progress), though my Brazilian friends often joke self-effacingly it should be ‘desordem e regresso’ (disorder and regression).

There are those who thought the macho Brazilian culture could never withstand a female leader. But I happen to know Brazilian men quite well (I did quite an extensive ‘field study’ on them back in the day), and there’s no one in the world they love more than their mommies. This quality is not exactly desirable while dating ‘studying’ a Brazilian man, because let’s face it, if he’d rather his mom boss him around than you, you’re on a slippery slope that leads to living with the in-laws and being criticised on how you raise your children. On the other hand, this collective mamma’s boy syndrome love for all things maternal means that when it comes to electing the biggest, bossiest boss in all Brazil, ­they have no problem voting for a woman.

There are also plenty of people who believed that no mulher brasileira would vote for another woman. It’s true that on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro you’re likely to run into several examples of women being catty and jealous. To be honest, if I were at the beach and my husband wore a sunga (small swim shorts that fit like a speedo), and all around him were gorgeous, tanned goddesses… well, I’d probably look down at my pasty gringa legs and hate all those other women too. But seriously, name one country where women do not compete with each other. It’s everywhere – that’s right, fashion industry, I’m talking to you. The bottom line is, electing a new president isn’t like trying to get a date, and I always believed Brazilian women to have intelligence and integrity.

But the fact that Dilma Roussef is a woman doesn’t tell us anything about how well she’ll lead Brazil. Up until she was handpicked as Lula’s successor she was relatively unknown. And just because she’s a woman doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll do anything to help women’s rights in Brazil. She pledges to create gender equality, saying that parents should be able to tell their daughters ‘yes, a woman can’. However, some of her social policies are extremely conservative. Her religious beliefs (ah Catholicism, keeping women down since 1AD!) prevent her from condoning abortion. Apparently what parents are really supposed to tell their daughters is, ‘yes, a woman can… ruin her life by being forced to give birth to an unwanted child.’

This article by the BBC questions whether or not Brazil simply voted for continuity. I don’t know if it was continuity, or simply being forced to pick the ‘best of the worst’ from a list of candidates – all of them somewhat ill-suited to governing one of the world’s largest and most diverse countries. Only time will tell how Dilma governs. I can only hope she’ll continue to lead Brazil into ordem e progresso.

1 comment:

jenanne said...

ah! i am so happy to see that you are blogging again!

what you say of brazilian men & their mamas rings quite true for the situation among russian* men; however, the difference is, i doubt a russian man would vote in a female leader for russia, because if their mama was running the country, who would have enough time to be there to cater to their every whim? :P

*yes, mass generalization, but i've had some bad experiences recently.

*