Is it possible to establish your career, open your own business, find love, be athletic, and peacefully confront prejudice in social media—before your 22nd birthday? Yes. Cacau, native of São Bernardo do Campo (a city on the outskirts of São Paulo), is proof of that. She embodies the saying that women can do anything they put their minds to. Cacau has found true happiness at such a young age, not because of an absence of insecurity but because of the courage to face her fears.
Nearly her whole life she has been involved with sports. She grew up in an environment that encouraged physical activity, and she never considered that it wasn’t something for girls. “Today I don’t care if someone says something (about women in sports). If someone thinks something about me, I don’t notice anymore. It doesn’t matter. I have always liked (sports), my parents always supported me—they never restricted me from playing sports, quite the opposite.”
After experiences with judo and handball, she discovered Parkour, an urban sport that uses just the body to negotiate environmental obstacles. For the past three years she has trained with the largest team in Brazil—Parkour Brazil. She notices a physical and emotional difference from when she started to now. She appreciates how the sport has allowed her to know the city of São Paulo more intimately and the way Parkour works her body and her concentration. Over the years she has become physically stronger and her health has improved considerably. Her increased immunity comes from climbing, jumping and flipping over the walls and streets of the city. Mentally, Parkour is a form of relaxation for her and a constant lesson about the need to test her own limits. “Some fears have to be overcome and some have to be respected. I’ve cried a lot in Parkour, but when I stop to think to think about it, it wasn’t because I couldn’t overcome (an obstacle)—something external was holding me back. (Parkour) has helped me a lot with problems at home, with the frustrations and relationships. ”
It’s easy to think that a woman who practices Parkour must be very brave, someone who is unafraid. That’s not the case. Cacau sees herself as a complex woman, “brave but insecure at the same time.” When she realizes she is embarrassed or afraid, as she often is, she seeks to confront those emotions.
This is what has enabled her to become a photographer, a journey she began when she was fifteen years old. When she was first hired as a photographer, she had to work with a film camera and she was scared to death. She did not know anyone at the party or what she was doing with the equipment. It worked out and she’s been a photographer ever since. She owns her own business and mostly works with events. What she most enjoys is the connection with people.
While she does not feel that she is discriminated against at work, she has suffered harassment on the street and understands how others suffer. She hears the stereotypes that people have about women and has a personal example of how these preconceived notions simply aren’t true. “(An example is when a person) says that the man is holding a gun “like a girl”. I know a policewoman who saved me from a very serious assault—she killed the criminal. She didn’t hold the gun like a man, because she is a woman. She held the gun like a woman and killed the guy.”
When people have positions or make comments that offend her, she makes an effort to talk to them about it. “I was always the type of person to read what other people say and think, regardless of their position, so that I could try to understand better. I realize that from the moment you approach someone in a somewhat aggressive manner, even if it seems harmless, the answer you will get will be the same or worse. So if there’s something that I didn’t like or affected me (on social media), I go to the person and say, ‘hey, how are you?’, as if it were a normal conversation and then I say, ‘you posted something that bothered me a little, and I want to talk to you about it’.”
She identifies as a feminist, but “the only problem is that the name feminism is being defamed. People see feminists as something negative, calling them sluts, victims and feminazis, (which is a result of) not seeking information and a lack of empathy, and intensifies a macho culture already rooted in society. People think feminism is the opposite of machismo, which it is not. Feminism is not women wanting to be better than everyone, but a request for equality.”