The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women could not have arrived at a more bitter moment for Brazil. While Jair Bolsonaro’s victory in the second round of the presidential elections on Oct. 28 was a tragedy for the whole country, it certainly was an even more poignant one for women.
As the former army captain was climbing inexorably in the polls, it was they who managed to mobilize in the most powerful manner, creating the Facebook group “Women united against Bolsonaro,” which in a very short time grew to over three million members, united under the slogan “Ele não” (“Not him”). And it was they who filled up the streets of Brazil—in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre and another 40 municipalities across the country—in an attempt to send a message of rejection of the speeches and gestures full of machismo, sexism and racism that were being flaunted by the fascist-sympathizing candidate.
Their cry of “Ele não! Ele nunca!” (“Not him! Never him!”) resonated so powerfully in Brazil that it managed to cross the country’s borders and echo in more than 90 cities on all continents, transforming the ex-captain into a sort of global symbol to rally against, the embodiment of the fascist wave that is threatening to engulf the entire planet.
The “women united against Bolsonaro” tried in every possible way to warn the electorate about the sexist and anti-democratic positions of the candidate to which they referred, with the greatest contempt they could muster, as “that thing.” On the social networks and in the streets, they highlighted his cult of violence and his attitude of contempt toward women, blacks, indigenous persons and homosexuals.
None of this was enough. After the enormous demonstration on Sept. 29, which turned out a very large crowd of citizens concerned about the advance of the far right, Bolsonaro grew in the polls even more. And there were even those who—in a highly uncharitable manner, to say the least—tried to place the blame for this on the women’s initiative itself—which, they claimed, pushed Edir Macedo, the founder of the powerful Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and the other neo-Pentecostal leaders to mobilize in favor of the ex-captain, seeing him as a defender of the traditional family.
In truth, the electoral defeat does not in any way diminish the greatness of the mobilization in which the Brazilian women have played the leading role, offering an extraordinary lesson in dignity and struggle. And while now, in this difficult moment that the country is facing, discouragement and shock seem to be the prevalent sentiment—and no major initiative was announced for Nov. 25—there is no doubt that they will be the ones at the forefront of the resistance against Bolsonaro’s fascist government.
There will certainly be a great need for resistance, considering that the man who will take office as President of Brazil on Jan. 1 did not hesitate to admit that he would not pay a woman the same salary as a man—in addition to his many other outrageous statements to the same effect, saying, for instance, that his only daughter was conceived “in a moment of weakness,” and saying to a female parliamentarian, “I wouldn’t rape you because you don’t deserve it.”
All this in a country where 13 women are murdered every day—Brazil ranks fifth in the world in femicides—where one rape takes place every 11 minutes, and where women earn on average 76 percent of men’s income (in the world ranking on wage inequality, Brazil is 124th out of 142 countries surveyed). And it is certainly the case that this situation is not likely to improve over the next four years.
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