In the last six months we’ve interviewed 25 people about what it means to be a woman. The recurring themes are:
1) The social pressure to behave according to a pattern established by family/ society;
2) How female identity is influenced by other prejudices, be it racism, classism or appearance.
[Sheila, Nena, Ana and Renata discussed the difficulties of facing the intersection of racism and gender. Luana talked about that and the additional prejudice she faces as a lesbian. Eliana shared the humiliations she suffers because of poverty. Gabriela shared her difficulties in being accepted as a woman. Muna said that people have preconceived notions about who she is as a Muslim and because she uses a hijab. Thais noticed that once she became a mother her actions became public domain and subject to judgment.]
Jéssica, a 31-year-old journalist from Poços de Caldas, Minas Gerais, shares similar but nevertheless unique insights about her experiences as a woman.
Being a Woman
Jessica has an incredible memory, and her first lesson in female behavior came at a very young age.
“My aunt came to my house to help my mother make a cake and snacks. She brought her son. I was three and he was still two. He had a toy and I wanted to play with it. (My aunt) said ‘no, you can’t play with it, because it’s a boy’s toy. Do you want to grow a peepee?’ I said, ‘No, but I want to play.’”
She understands that what it means to be a woman “is a constant learning process. Often, we are so rooted in sexism that we reproduce it ourselves, we even think that we don’t deserve certain things. You grow up believing this—that you have far more obligations than rights, many more duties than rights, and that you have to be more submissive because you are a woman.”
Jessica fights against body shaming and a woman’s right to really like her body and to love herself. For all the advances that women have achieved, the right to be proud of one’s appearance, whatever it may be, remains very distant.
“People attack that pride when they use the argument of health. Being fat doesn’t mean you are sick. And it is a false concern, because no one is really worried about my health. People think they have to say that to fat people. There is hardly a day that I don’t have an episode of body shaming (to be seen as sick, subject to random comments and prejudices accepted in the society).”
“Being a woman is difficult. Being a woman outside of the standard is much more difficult.”
Jessica became interested in journalism through hip hop. She read a collection of marginal literature (literature from the perifphery of large cities), organized by Ferréz and by the magazine Caros Amigos. She thought, ‘I want to do that. I want to write about this. I want to talk about the periphery. How can I do this? I’m going to have to do journalism.’ It was at that moment that I decided that I wanted to be a journalist.”
Now that hip hop is part of its daily life, it is worth highlighting why it was so seductive for a girl from the outskirts of Poços de Caldas.
“I say it’s like a bite and that you never recover from. Hiphop was very seductive for me, because of the message, because of the feeling of brotherhood I felt, that desire to change the world from zero possibilities. It’s a culture from the periphery, so people really have no chance at all. (Life’s) more difficult, but this will to change things persists. It’s very enriching.”
Since then, her professional life and personal passion followed parallel interests.
“I worked for many years as a newspaper reporter, on websites, in addition to my passion for hip hop. I worked 10 years with this. But parallel to that, I worked with hip hop, with artists. I wrote a lot about it. In 2014 I entered a masters program and began to do research on the women of marginal literature, who are also very intertwined with hip hop. (Now) I’m exclusively freelancing, working with the culture of the periphery, espeically with women, giving preference to working with women.”
Journalism + Gender
In Brazilian journalism there are more female professionals (64% according to the research “Who is the Brazilian journalist: profile of the profession in the country”). However, the decisions of power, visibility and the culture of journalism continue with a strong masculine orientation. The same research reveals that “women journalists, younger, earned less than men.”
Jessica identifies herself as a feminist. She understands that women journalists are distancing themselves from the word because they think this identification can be viewed as something pejorative. “I think feminism, militancy for women’s rights, is uncomfortable. Whether it’s in journalism, or anywhere you talk about women’s rights, about women’s position, it’s going to be a nuisance to anyone. When I worked in the newsroom, day in and day out, it was like rubbing salt in a wound. People joked, “Don’t say that around Jessica,” or, if there were topics related to feminism, “send Jessica because she understands these things as a woman.” There is this separation (she even had a supervisor who did not allow women to direct), but today there is also feminist journalism. I think this is very cool, very important.”
Jessica has even created an innovative blog (Margens) about women’s literature and other issues that contemplate women.