Feminism is experiencing a resurgence. There are Facebook pages and Instagram accounts exclusively about feminism. It is possible to buy clothes made by women, for women, with feminist slogans. Several artists, on the streets and in galleries, make art with based on feminism. There are songs that talk about feminism. The few political advances for women in 2016 were accomplished in large part by women who identify as feminist. However, being a feminist does not require a political stance or advocacy.
In this current wave of feminism, a few artists stand out for producing not only for the market, but for also fully incorporating the struggle of women’s equality, in all spaces, at all times.
MC Luana Hansen is one of these women: activist, artist, feminist. She identifies herself as a black, lesbian woman from the periphery of São Paulo. She lives at the intersection of the oppression that these identities bring—classism, racism, LGBTQphobia. She does not create songs occassionaly about these realities. She lives these realities daily, and music always stems from the essence of who she is.
“When I started recording “Ventre Livre de Fato” (a rap about the legalization of abortion), about six years ago, there wasn’t this feminist strand of rap that exists today. There was a feminist crowd singing punk rock (not in rap). When I realized this, I missed seeing myself (represented).
I saw discussions about feminism, (people) talking about women, even talking about racism, but there were no black women at the table. I didn’t see someone like me talking about things that were closer to my reality. And then I started to realize how important (representation) was when I would say on stage, “I’m a black woman, a lesbian from the periphery” and the black lesbians would respond, “man, damn it, man, someone said that. How beautiful!” Over time, my declarations became my trademark.
I’m Luana Hansen. But before seeing Luana Hansen, people already see a black woman. Before they see me as a woman, they will see a black and lesbian woman. It’s the way it is.
My name, being Luana Hansen, doesn’t convey that. If you hear someone say Luana Hansen, you probably won’t think of a black, lesbian woman from the periphery. Maybe, you’ll never think of this Luana that I’m telling you. That’s why I chose this (to clearly state how each identity).”
MC Luana Hansen manages to be humble without having the false modesty that women are taught to present to the world. She is proud of her work. She is a very accessible artist, gives interviews to big and small media. She welcomes new people in her home as if they were long-time friends. Possibly, this comes from a very long career trajectory, and a lot of struggle to conquer her space and recognition for her talent.
“I’ve been in rap for sixteen years. For ten years I’ve supported myself solely with music. Today, I have a notion of who Luana Hansen is. I can’t tell you the impact of what I do. I can’t see it. People say, “Your name is out there in the world,” but because it’s something totally done here at home, in my studio, I have no idea of the immensity, of how my work is gaining ground. That’s something I’m still digesting.”
Just last year, in 2016, with the release and unexpected success of the “Ventre Livre de Fato” music video, she finally realized how much her voice matters.
“It’s a song that talks about abortion, in a country like mine (Brazil), totally religious, where abortion is (considered a) sin. This is my first song that has over 100,000 views, for a clip that I recorded, just me and a friend on Avenida Paulista. When Globo called me to go on the program “Amor e Sexo” to sing “Ventre Livre”, then I had notion (of the impact of my voice). (I thought) look, I’m going there to sing my song. I’m not going to interpret someone else’s work. I’m going to play who I am, talking about what I believe and no one told me not to do it.”
Music & Activism
Even as she has achieved greater success and visibility, MC Luana recognizes that there are barriers for her that do not exist for other artists.
“All my work is political. I record, I produce. I try to produce only with women, in a totally independent way. I think that also impacts my work. I have no alliance with the guys (in the industry).
Everything has to do with who I am, not only because of my political position, but also because of my sexual orientation. I think that being a lesbian, in a totally sexist society, hinders my work even more, besides being a feminist. I get disqualified with “let’s segregate her work, because it’s for feminist dykes.” And that’s not it. I try to speak to a broad audience.
I don’t have a publicist. There’s no one who goes out to the press and talks about me. I don’t have a production company that is going to sell my show. You can’t find my CD to buy. It’s a totally independent production, you have to buy my music with me at my show.”
“All this makes my work totally political. And at the same time, it makes people start to respect my work differently. All this makes people start to listen to my work. I think everyone, who talks to me, believes, “Luana is really political. She records a cd with girls detained in juvie, she participates in the Women’s World March, she will be in Luana’s first march, there in Ribeirão with Luana’s family (Luana Barbosa was a thrity-four year old Afro-Brazilian lesbian woman who died of traumatic brain injury five days after being beaten by police, in April 2016). I’m in places as an activist. I’m at the protests, on the street with the ladies, I’m not just on the stage.”
People tell Luana that her goal, that her music awaken the conscious of people who listen to it, be it about racism, violence against women, or transphobia, is a pipe dream. However, she continues to be motivated by that hope.
“More than creating a hot track that you will hear at the club and get you to shake to down to the ground, I think for me what matters is that person stop and say ‘hold on, I want to understand what she is saying. Wait, did she say that Claudia was dragged?’ (In March 2014, thirty-eight year old Afro-Brazilian Claudia Ferreira Silva was hit by a stray bullet, put in the trunk of a police car and during the trip to the hospital fell out and was dragged 350 meters, to her death). I wanted people to have that desire. I want a woman who is married and doesn’t want to have sex with her husband, and her husband goes crazy and says, I want to have sex with you (anyway), to realize that she is being raped, from listening to a song of mine. I wanted people to have that awakening.”