Texto acadêmico: cirurgia plástica e cultura

Por Helô Righetto

Eu estou concluindo um mestrado em Gênero, Mídia e Cultura na Goldsmiths, University of London. Escrevi esse artigo para a matéria Gender, Sexuality and the Media (Gênero, Sexualidade e a Mídia), no começo de 2018. Resolvi disponibilizá-lo pois tive um ótimo feedback da professora da matéria (Dra. Margarita Aragon) e foi um texto que gostei demais de escrever. É sobre como usamos cultura como argumento tanto para emancipação quanto para opressão feminina, dependendo a qual cultura nos referimos.

Caso alguém se interesse em fazer a tradução, é só deixar um alô nos comentários ou entrar em contato comigo por emai: helo@conexaofeminista.com

‘Our own cultural practices are often so normalised that they are rarely subject to the same scrutiny as the practices of ‘others’. Turning a critical lens on what is not challenged in our own practices, but challenged in the practices on culturally different ‘others’, can offer a compelling insight into our practices, and the unquestioned presumptions which they both rely on, and reproduce’ (Braun, 2009: 234). With reference to this quotation, critically analyse how media and culture have influenced the normalisation of cosmetic surgery.

‘In trying to modify female genitals to make them conform to the cultural norm, the cultural norm continues to ignore the fact that female genitalia come in an assortment of shapes, sizes, and sensuality that are unique to each woman.’ (Green, 2005: 171)


On her article about feminist disability theories, Rosemarie Garland-Thompson argues that ‘our unmodified bodies are presented as unnatural and abnormal while the surgically altered bodies are portrayed as normal and natural’ (2002: 12). A straightforward yet striking affirmation, which summarizes how cosmetic surgery is now so embedded in the western culture that is often disassociated with the risks and disadvantages of medical procedures. Virginia Blum affirms that cosmetic surgery is usually ‘justified’ with arguments based on the patients’ mental health, as there is no other way to understand harm being done to a healthy body (2003: 13). According to Blum, Psychological damage takes over for physical impairment. Healthy bodies begin to appear “diseased”’ (Ibid). Heyes and Jones also mention ‘inferiority complex’, ‘a claim that could not be disproved’ (2009: 5) as a justification to go on with aesthetic procedures. In a contemporary world where the female body that did not undergo any type of cosmetic reconstruction is increasingly scrutinised by society – especially by the media – and perceived as disruptive, plastic surgery becomes a source of self-empowerment of the ‘civilised’ and ‘successful’ western woman. Moreover, non-invasive everyday practices such as wearing girdles and high heels are normative – some feminists might say that they are compulsory -, even though such practices, especially when repeated throughout adulthood, ‘impair women’s bodies and restrict their physical agency, imposing disability on them’ (Garland-Thompson, 2002: 17). And again, just like plastic surgery, the act of wearing high heels or any other piece of clothing or accessory that interferes with the natural structure and aesthetics of the female body is perceived as choice. Choice is immediately understood as a result of women’s liberation. Therefore, women who choose to undergo a surgical procedure or wear attire that reduces mobility and causes long-term lesions are not perpetuating oppression embedded in western culture: they are simply expressing their right to choose.

In this essay, I will argue that western society’s understanding of culture creates an environment where surgical aesthetic modifications – cosmetic surgery, with a special focus on labiaplasty – are normalised and even encouraged. Although I will use some examples to show the influence of media in our construction of beauty standards, my objective is to offer a critical reflection on how we use culture to support the pursuit of smooth and homogeneous bodily surfaces. I will start by defining culture, and reflecting on how essentialized notions of culture are hurtful for women (Merry: 2006). I will then discuss how western society accepts media influence as part of culture to justify the control over women’s bodies disguised as choice and empowerment. Moreover, I will use Jones’ arguments on skins and screens to complement the idea of women’s bodies constructed to perform within a patriarchal and heteronormative society (2017). I will finish by comparing labiaplasty and FGM within the human rights framework.

What is culture?

I want to emphasize and define culture, as it is an essential concept for this essay. I want to analyse how western perceptions of culture are not only responsible for the normalization of female bodily modifications in western society, but also for using this normalization as a tool to disguise the perpetuation of women’s oppression by ‘othering’ non-western societies. When writing about humans rights and gender violence, Sally Engle Merry (2006: 10-16) deconstruct essentialized models of culture that often become obstacles to the realisation of human rights, especially women’s rights.

The first essentialized model is culture as tradition. When we construct an indestructible link between culture and tradition we evoke an evolutionary idea that ‘all cultures are positioned on a continuum from primitive to modern’ (Ibid: 12). The culture as tradition model maintains the idea that ‘traditional societies are at an earlier evolutionary stage than modern ones, which are more evolved and civilized’ (Ibid), and is often used to describe poor countries in the global South. Dorothy Hodgson points out that ‘“cultures” are seen as fundamentally local, moored to specific places, people, and times. Culture (or at least so-called “third world” or “traditional” culture) is often attacked as the obstacle to rights, the impediment to human progress and prosperity’ (2011: 2). Therefore, peoples from ‘traditional’ societies become, in the view of the global North, victims of culture: they need to be rescued, saved and civilized to overcome oppression. Female genital mutilation is the poster child of this essentialized view of culture, and is typically described as a ‘harmful cultural practice’ (Merry, 2006: 12).

The second essentialized model is culture as national essence. This view is rooted in Germany, as a result of the claims of universal civilization from England and France in the nineteenth century. ‘German romantics asserted the importance of a distinct culture (…) which formed the spiritual essence of their society’ (Ibid: 13). Cultural as national essence emphasizes national distinctiveness such as language, law and religion. The main issue with this model is that culture is used as a shield to human rights. Those who are opposed to women’s rights use national essence as a disguise to ‘defend culture’ and keep patriarchal privileges. According to Merry, to define culture as national essence is to believe that ‘providing [women’s] rights will cause social chaos and disturb established hierarchies’ (Ibid: 14). Therefore, culture as national essence is an excellent excuse for governments when they fail to adopt, protect and provide women’s rights. The idea of ‘not intervening with culture’ is especially dangerous for women. According to Florence Butegwa, ‘why is it only when women want to bring about change for their own benefit do culture and custom become sacred and unchangeable [?]’ (2002: 123).

The two essentialized models of culture explained above imply that culture is something that exists in villages, in remote places far away from urban world capitals, but not in places where human rights and women’s rights are discussed, such as the conference halls of the United Nations in New York or Geneva. Merry presents a more organic and inclusive conception of culture, based on anthropological observations. She calls this conception ‘culture as contentious’ (2006: 14-16) and explains that the emphasis in on making and transforming culture as it consists of many more pillars than beliefs and values. Cultures ‘include institutional arrangements, political structures, and legal regulations. As institutions such as laws and policing change so do beliefs, values and practices’ (Ibid: 15). Saying that culture is contentious is accepting that it is malleable, it is shaped according to changes in institutions, it is open to hybridization. It is in constant change instead of being ‘closed’ and ‘pure’. Consequently, a contentious culture is a culture that allows barriers to be broken and includes local practices as resources for thinking and realising women’s rights. Analysing and theorizing culture as contentious rather than an immutable concept amplifies the debate and allows for a more in-depth and accurate women’s rights activism.

Culture, media and choices

When I speak to friends, family and acquaintances about the definition of feminism, even with fellow feminists activists, I come across the word ‘choice’ several times. ‘Freedom to choose’, ‘right to choose’, ‘women making choices’ are ready-made answers to the question ‘how to do you define feminism in a few words?’. Virginia Braun says that ‘Ideas of autonomy and agency, and alongside these, choice, have been at the heart of feminism since the first efforts towards women’s emancipation, and have remained an important tenet of feminist discourse since that time’ (2009: 235). Choice is cherished and used as an argument for those that believe that there are no such a thing as sexism or misogyny in western society, that these are issues encountered only outside the global North, issues rooted in cultures that do not allow women to make choices. By stigmatizing and othering non-western cultures, including practices such as FGM and customs that exclude women from the fabric of society, we are building a pretence in which all women in the global North are emancipated, free and therefore able to make unbiased choices. Including choosing to do bodily alterations such as labiaplasty.

Virginia Braun suggests that the alleged patient’s autonomy is not free from marketing and advertising influences and that free choice is ‘culturally circumscribed’ (Braun, 2010: 1400). She points out: ‘how autonomous individual choices can be when considerable societal and media pressure exist for women to alter their appearances (?)’ (Ibid). Braun presents other sociocultural factors that influence choice, such as women’s lack of awareness of the diversity of vulvas as a result of the visual attention that only certain versions of vulva get, especially in pornography: ‘The most oft-cited visual vulval reference is pornography. A result of the ‘pornographica- tion’ of mainstream culture, where pornography is chic and (use is) normalised, is that seeing women’s genitalia – particularly supposedly desirable versions – has become more common for heterosexual women. This ‘porn’ vulva is reportedly desired by women’ (Braun, 2009: 242). Green corroborates, saying that several studies suggest that women are more likely to consider labiaplasty after seeing edited images of vulvas in photographs as well as pornography (2005: 174). This is particularly evident when Braun provides examples of the aesthetically ideal vulva that patients-to-be seek through: ‘a “neat” vulva that resembles that of a prepubescent girl, a fleshy but smooth-skinned (and firm) vulva, with labia minora that do not “protrude” beyond the labia majora; a “nicely” hooded and “contained” clitoris, as well as a “tight” vagina’ (Braun, 2010: 1401). In a website dedicated to promoting cosmetic surgery practice in the United States, the following statement was found: ‘The purpose of the procedure is to provide a youthful look of the labia minora and reduce the excess prepuce the excess skin along the sides of the clitoris. Patients want to have a youthful look of the minora. Patients want the minora nice, thin and perky. Patients do not want sagging, droopy and bunched up minora. Patients want a clean look. Patients also want the excess skin of the clitoris to be sculptured down so that the prepuce hugs the clitoris like a piece of paper draped tightly over a pencil’.

Images of ‘perfect’, unattainable bodies – including flattened, symmetric, screen-like vulvas – populate social media and screens. A recent article published on Huffington Post investigated the power of influence of social media celebrities on consumer habits, especially when it comes to beauty trends and habits. The report highlights the ‘Kardashian effect’, and refers to the physically harming homemade procedure to obtain temporary plump lips showcased on social media by Kylie Kardashian back in 2015, which led millions of young women to do the same. The same report also suggests that image editing apps such as Facetune – used to smooth skin or to make eyes look bigger – or face filters from Instagram and Snapchat play an important role in homogenizing the idea of beauty. Interviewed by the Huffington Post, Professor Renee Engeln said that ‘It’s not enough [to] have to compare yourself to these perfected images of models, but now you’ve got this daily comparison of your real self to this intentional or unintentional fake self that you present on social media. It’s just one more way to feel like your falling short every day.’

In 2017 an app named Princess Plastic Surgery, aimed at young girls, encouraged users to use scalpels and fillers to save the princess from being ugly as a result from a spell cast by a wicked witch. And in 2016 a cosmetic surgery clinic ran a television ad with a popular fashion blogger that had breast augmentation, in which she talks about how her self-esteem and confidence have increased after the procedure. A similar message was at the heart of a campaign that ran on television in 2017. Using the ‘do it for you’ rhetoric, the ad targeted new mothers who have insecurities about their bodies look after childbirth. The pressure to return to their pre-pregnancy weight leave new mothers vulnerable and at risk of depression. Although the ad was later deemed irresponsible and banned, it was on air long enough, exposing women once again to images of perfect bodies under the pretence of choice. Women are taught, from a very young age, that not only their natural features are wrong and that is normal to have plastic surgery to fix their bodies but also that doing a cosmetic procedure is empowering.

On the other hand, images of childbirth and breastfeeding, which include exposed vulvas and breasts which are far from the ‘youthful look’ promised by plastic surgery, are banned from social media and censored under misogynistic ‘community guidelines’. According to a report published on the website The Pool about the hashtag #stopcensoringbirth movement, ‘What has incensed and mystified campaigners worldwide is how something as natural, everyday and universal as childbirth can be classed as obscene, when women’s bodies are routinely used on social media for arguably more offensive purposes and positively sail through clearance. And because, as users, our squeamishness is highly selective and that – dare anyone say it – suggests deep-seated misogyny over how women’s bodies are permitted to be seen and for whom and what purpose they exist’.

Therefore, women are willing to have labiaplasty not because they can choose but because they feel the need to conform, to fill expectations, to be the idealised woman created by a patriarchal society. Angela King adds that ‘surgery is also promoted as being about individual choice and self-determination, but the end results aimed for, especially by the most popular procedures, seem to be profoundly normalizing’ (2004: 36). It is only normal then women that have done the procedure feel satisfied and happy with the result. Moreover, according to Braun, these women are not perceived as ‘victims’ of culture, even though they are influenced by it and may see labiaplasty as a positive side of western culture: the possibility of ‘choosing’ to undergo surgery is the argument itself, as women have the information they need to make a decision and can choose not to do the surgery (Braun, 2009: 238). Although I agree with Jones when she affirms that ‘we need to abandon narrowly reductive politics of representation such as “the media made me do it” narratives’ (2017: 44), and with Green when she says that women are not ‘cultural dupes’ (2005: 176), especially because patients are aware of media influence, I do believe that western society fails to acknowledge that labiaplasty and cosmetic surgery in general are a tool for perpetuating oppression. Jones herself says that ‘Our surgical culture literally shaves labia down to be even, immobile and small – and there’s no doubt that this is a profound way of silencing women’ (2017: 42), which could easily be a comment on FGM practices. There is no doubt that women with perfect health are putting themselves at risk to have aesthetically pleasing vulvas as a result of ‘growing cultural ideals of female genitalia seen in popular women’s and men’s magazines, as well as in pornography’ (Green, 2005: 175).

In summary, even though cosmetic surgery might be considered an aspect of western culture, the choice of becoming a surgical subject becomes an individual act, free from social norms. The woman that seeks aesthetics modifications is taking control over her body, is doing it ‘for herself’ and using her alleged freedom of choice (Braun, 2009: 238). This view taps into Merry’s aforementioned arguments that culture has different connotations in western society: it is prejudicial and oppressive for women in the global South, and a source of self-empowerment and agency for women in the global North.

Flattened vulvas and heteronormative sexuality

On her investigation about ‘media-bodies’, Meredith Jones argues that skins and screens are merging (2017: 29-48). Jones affirms that media – and especially social media – and bodies – especially female bodies – are so entangled that screens’ flatness (representation) is affecting the way we perceive three-dimensional surfaces (real life) and vice versa (Ibid: 29). She suggests that we no longer should mourn the detriment ‘real life’ relations because of our ‘parallel’ online lives, but instead we should ‘interrogate the paradigm in which bodies and media are formed together and continually re-form each other in an ongoing and under-examined tension between two- and three-dimensional ways of being’ (Ibid: 30). Jones proposes that skins and screens are coming together, and that ‘both are interfaces, both are media’ (Ibid: 33). For this essay, I will use Jones’s arguments that focus on the relations of images on media and plastic surgery – more specifically labiaplasty – in order to construct and support my own argument that, for western society, culture is only relevant and brought to the fore to support women’s rights when it highlights women’s oppression outside the global North.

When investigating the merge of skins and screens, Jones focuses on labiaplasty not only because of the vulva’s ‘complex and fraught history (…) and its distinction as the quintessential liminal part of women’s bodies’ (Ibid: 34) but also because of its three-dimensionality (folds, curves, asymmetry) and ambiguity (skin and orifice, hidden and exposed, receiver and expeller) and most importantly because we are led to perceive vulvas as ‘messy and irregular’ rather than just normal (Ibid: 34-35). The asymmetry and complexity of vulvas, as well as its individual particularities, instead of being seen as part of a woman’s essence and a normal and healthy component of a woman’s body, has become problematic, something to be improved, corrected, flattened, in order to be adapted to heteronormative homogeneity (Braun, 2010).

One example given by Jones is the use of image correction softwares such as Photoshop (or more user-friendly apps for mobile phones that do not require technical skills) to ‘adjust’ nude images of women and make them less ‘obscene’. The visible part of the labia minora is removed, so the vulva is reduced to the labia majora and a vertical crease (Jones, 2017: 36). Although consumers of popular culture are able to separate what is seen in the media from reality, manipulated images are partially responsible for the construction of beauty ideals. Jones argues that although women know that bodies and faces on screens and magazines are heavily edited they still wish to have their features altered to look like two-dimensional images (Ibid). She says that ‘In an image-saturated world where people wish they could be Photoshopped in real life and where scalpels can be aligned with digital tools, there is an under-examined tension between two and three dimensions’ (Ibid: 36-37). Here, I would like to make a link to the aforementioned app Princess Plastic Surgery, in which scalpels are literally digital tools, already constructing a notion that the two-dimensional and three-dimensional can merge.

Jones also taps into the Kardashian effect mentioned in the previous section. She focuses on Kim Kardashian-West’s nude photographs for a Prada advertising campaign produced not long after Kardashian-West gave birth. In this series of photographs, one stands out: ‘a photograph shot from below, emphasizing her hairless, oiled vulva rather than her face’ (Ibid: 39). Jones labels Kardashian-West’s vulva as ‘mainstream’ (Ibid), as it is symmetric, flat and smooth. There is an obvious paradox between the ‘seen on screen’ vulva on the series of photographs and the fact that Kardashian-West had recently given birth. Jones says that ‘In giving birth her vulva’s capacity as a (…) expandable, three-dimensional, living object had been utterly proven. And yet she was most keen (…) that it still satisfied notions of beauty in context of a two-dimensional surface’ (Ibid).

The desire for a body as a representation of a screen – becoming screen rather being skin – is not simply a result of the rise of technology. Jones highlights that the pursuit of the flattened vulva has been constructed since European colonizers highlighted the ‘extraordinary physicality of African women’ (Ibid: 37). The features of the vulva of the African women, such as elongated labia minora, were associated with race as a biological difference between the women colonized (wild, black and savage) and the women related to colonizers (civilized, white and docile). This inherited racist notion fits into the essentialized views of culture explained by Merry and explored in the first part of this essay. Colonizers were already creating a separation of what is accepted and what is not in women’s bodies (Ibid: 38-39). Jones affirms that ‘Such historical and contemporary entanglements help foster a powerful urge to modify (…), to smooth and diminish and reduce to a single surface’ (Ibid: 39).

Green highlights another historical factor, the clitoridectomies performed since the second century to ‘combat’ any subversion of the female sexuality, such as lesbianism and masturbation (2005: 160). Clitoridectomies were particularly popular among middle-class women in England during the Victorian Era in order to ‘preserve their energy’ and fulfil their ‘primary role in life; that of wife and mother’ (Ibid: 161). Green quotes of historian Ann Dally, who states that ‘clitoridectomies were practised during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries on ‘women and girls of whose behaviour middle-class men disapproved’ (Ibid: 163). I want to link this quote with the explanation Green provides about the extra vaginal stitch performed in women which had tears or episiotomies after giving birth. The ‘extra stitch’ is also known as the ‘husband’s knot’ (Ibid: 170). Therefore, the medicalization of women’s bodies, more specifically women’s vulvas and vaginas, continues to be a tool to control women and mould their sexuality around the desires of heterosexual men. Moreover, the pressure to conform – which has been discussed in the previous section – is based in a patriarchal and heteronormative view about gender roles and the existence of only two sexes (Ibid: 177).

Once again I want to draw a parallel with the work of Rosemarie Garland-Thompson on feminist disability theories, which I previously mentioned in the first paragraph of this essay. She questions the ‘insistent narrative that one must overcome an impairment rather than incorporating it into one’s life and self, even perhaps as a benefit’ (2002: 27). For the context of this essay, the impairment can be understood as the unmodified body, leading us to reflect on the insistent narrative of living with our natural bodily features rather than ‘overcoming’ – transforming, altering, erasing, flattening – and understanding this as a benefit, which can be even interpreted as a political act and a way of changing culture, linking to Merry’s ideal of culture as contentious (2006: 14-16).

Labiaplasty x FGM x Culture and Human Rights

FGM is ‘often labelled a “harmful traditional practice” as well as a form of violence against women and violation of human rights. The human rights framework does not see consent as diminishing the violation. Even if a woman chooses to have this surgery, it is still a human rights violation. The critique of FGC incorporates concerns about health consequences, loss of sexual pleasure, violence against women, and gender oppression’ (Levitt and Merry, 2011: 85). James affirms that FGM ‘must be recognized as a patriarchal practice embedded within the complexity of gender hierarchy’ (2002: 99). However, it is imperative to consider that, in the case of FGM, ‘the opposition between guilty perpetrator and innocent victim is not so clear-cut (…). Those who carry out FGM, and who have done it to their children, do it for reasons of love, not hate. The reasons people give for continuing the practice are tied up with the belief that a girl cannot become a proper woman without the ritual of FGM’ (Nash, 2015: 132).

Levitt and Merry raise the question about plastic surgery in countries like the US ‘where these practices are common’ (2011: 85). In fact, 5070 women in the US had cosmetic vaginal surgery in 2013. Although cosmetic procedures can have debilitating bodily consequences they are not accepted as human rights violations (Ibid). Therefore, when we talk about cultural change and consequently the eradication of practices identified as violence against women, we must acknowledge that ‘there is a selection taking place in which other practices harmful to women are ignored’ (Ibid: 87). Although, as previously discussed, cosmetic surgery is perceived by western societies as choice and the women that undergo cosmetic procedures are considered to have agency, plastic surgery is a product of a culture that objectifies women and pressures women to achieve impossible beauty standards. According to Garland-Thompson, ‘the beautiful woman of the twenty-first century is sculpted surgically from top to bottom, generically neutral, all irregularities regularized, all particularities expunged’ (2002: 12). By drawing a parallel between labiaplasty and FGM, my intention is not to say that FGM practices are excusable and not a violation of human rights, but to highlight the issue that able-bodied women going through surgical interventions is not considered violence against women or a product of culture although it is inherent in patriarchal traditions and structures (Coomaraswamy and Kois, 1999: 190).

Surgical intervention for bodily modifications is an acceptable form of violence against women. Merry says that most societies have a boundary between what is acceptable and unacceptable, and ‘redrawing this boundary is at the heart of the human rights project concerning violence against women’ (Merry, 2006: 25). Hodgson agrees: ‘“culture” is often depicted as an obstacle to “progress”, thereby, at times, undermining women’s power and autonomy by ignoring cultural practices and beliefs that serve to empower women, while stigmatizing others, like FGM, that are often central to rites of passage or ritual transformations’ (2011: 140).

As the critiques towards FGM have started based on the health hazards associated with it but in the past few years focused on gender oppression – ‘a practice justified by custom and culture and redefined as an act of violence and a breach of human rights’ (Merry, 2006: 25) – we conclude that other forms of violence against women that are also a consequence and a symptom of gender oppression must be analysed through cultural lens and be included as human rights violations. The forms of violence against women ‘not labeled as harmful cultural practices’ (Ibid) include cosmetic surgery.

Conclusion

Each of the institutions that perpetuate gender inequality, as well as the understanding of gender, functions and is embedded in communities – therefore, cultures – in different ways. The complexity of the mechanisms of each and every one of the institutions cannot be accepted as perennial, uniform or static. If gender itself is not perennial or a given but a socially constructed performance (Butler, 1990), all the structures constructed to support and maintain gender oppression – such as the beauty industry and its range of cosmetic surgeries for the purpose of achieving contemporary beauty standards – need to undergo transformation. Lionnet says that ‘different cultures, for better or for worse, impose similar constraints on the bodies of their members, especially when those bodies are already marked by the sign of the feminine’ (1992: 8, quoted in Green, 2005: 178 ). These constraints are practised in different ways within different contexts – whether within communities in small villages in the global South or requested by women seeking a designer vagina in the global North – but we continue to witness a control over women’s bodies based on suitable essentialized interpretations of culture that deny gender equality.

I want to finish this essay borrowing Green’s words one more time: ‘The genital ideal may differ historically and cross-culturally, yet the fact remains, to be a woman is to have a specific culturally prescribed and approved form of genitalia. Indeed, her most ruthless critic may be herself’ (2005: 177).

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  • Feminismo em modo acadêmico

    Por Renata Senlle

    Em julho, logo depois que rolou o Intercâmbio Feminista, eu, Renata, fui participar de um Simpósio de ‘Gêneros, gerações e violências: Investigações sobre América Latina e Caribe’, que aconteceu na Universidade de Salamanca, na Espanha.

    Foi uma oportunidade de apresentar o meu projeto de pesquisa do mestrado, que pretende analisar o impacto das narrativas feministas da internet na cobertura da mídia tradicional dos casos de violência doméstica. Mas o mais bacana desse evento foi que fui convidada por uma querida professora que tive na escola, que hoje acompanha o trabalho que fazemos aqui na Conexão Feminista.

    Foi por conta das conversas que propomos aqui, das conexões reais que estabelecemos entre mulheres, dos antigos vínculos que resgatamos e dos novos vínculos que criamos toda vez que falamos das nossas questões, é que fui para a Espanha reencontrar a Vanessa. Quando ela me chamou eu já tinha o projeto, mas não tinha entrado no mestrado. Me inscrevi primeiro por conta desse trabalho aqui.

    Ela foi a professora mais marcante do meu tempo de escola. Dava aula de história de um jeito que abriu minha cabeça para as questões das mulheres (lembro das discussões sobre A Letra Escarlate, das mulheres bruxas queimadas pela inquisição e do quanto aquilo conectava com uma raiva interna, que hoje sei que é o feminismo). Gostava tanto dela que fui assistir a defesa da dissertação de mestrado dela que, logicamente, tratava de mulheres. Era sobre as memórias das mulheres católicas do Colégio Sion.

    Imagine a emoção de encontrar com ela novamente (nem vou falar quanto tempo depois) e apresentar minhas ideias de pesquisa!? Não sei descrever ainda como foi incrível e impactante. Hoje, ela é pesquisadora do Programa de Pós-Graduação Programa em Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Mulheres, Gênero e Feminismo da UFBA. E continua sendo uma mulher admirável.

    É “A” Conexão Feminista

    Por Helô Righetto

    O primeiro texto que foi publicado nesse site, dia 23 de julho de 2018, é sobre machismo na linguagem. Foi um texto que escrevi originalmente para o (agora descontinuado) jornal Brasil Observer, e que acabou não sendo publicado. Eu sou muito interessada nesse tema, em como a gente expressa machismo na maneira que falamos/escrevemos. Nosso vocabulário é super machista e é difícil demais mudar isso. Uma pequena mudança que nós duas, Heloisa e Renata, fizemos, foi parar de falar sobre a Conexão Feminista usando artigo masculino. Não chamamos a Conexão de “o” Conexão Feminista, e sim de “a” Conexão Feminista. Parece um detalhe bobo, mas no começo foi bem difícil a gente virar essa chave. Até nos acostumarmos parecia que estavamos cometendo uma gafe gramatical. Ninguém mais além de nós duas se refere a Conexão Feminista assim. Sempre recebemos mensagens de pessoas que nos assistem, escutam ou nos seguem nas redes sociais e que nos mandam links e depoimentos com o seguinte comentário: “lembrei do Conexão quando vi isso”. É realmente algo tão corriqueiro que demora pra gente perceber o quanto é importante. A Conexão gosta de ser ela. Um passinho pequeno para o feminismo (a feminismo?) mas um grande avanço pra gente desconstruir o machismo nosso de cada dia.

    Chega de Fiu Fiu em Londres

    Por Helô Righetto

    No dia 2 de agosto o documentário Chega de Fiu Fiu – baseado na campanha homônima lançada por Juliana de Faria, a fundadora da ONG Think Olga, em 2014 – foi exibido na embaixada do Brasil em Londres. Eu tive o privilégio de organizar essa exibição e participar de um painel no final para responder perguntas da audiência. Junto comigo, estavam Juliana Bueno, Gabriela Loureiro e Katucha Bento, todas pesquisadoras de gênero e feministas ativistas.

    Cerca de 80 pessoas estavam presentes para a exibição de filme. O impacto foi grande, e o público se baseou no conteúdo para as perguntas para o painel no final. Falamos sobre assédio no Brasil e Reino Unido, sobre o clichê da mulher brasileira que mora fora, sobre a participação dos homens na solução do problema (e no feminismo como um todo) e sobre uso da raiva no ativismo.

    Qualquer pessoa pode organizar uma seção do filme, basta encontrar um espaço e fazer cadastro na plataforma Taturana para ter acesso ao filme. Recomendo a todo mundo assistir para entender a gravidade do problema e como assédio afeta a vida de mulheres de várias partes do Brasil.

    Um super obrigada a embaixada por ter cedido espaço e a todo mundo que compareceu a exibição!

    Intercâmbio Feminista: nossas apoiadoras e apoiadores

    O Intercâmbio Feminista só foi realizado por causa do apoio de 176 pessoas, que juntas arrecadaram R$12.330,00! Queremos deixar aqui o nome de todas essas pessoas e mais uma vez agradecer por acreditarem no trabalho que a gente faz. Volta e meia a gente questionava se a ideia de realizar esse projeto era interessante para alguém, e então lembravámos dessas 176 pessoas. MUITO OBRIGADA! A lista está em ordem alfabética e utilizamos os nomes cadastrados na Benfeitoria (plataforma que utilizamos para fazer o financiamento coletivo).
    Aline Hack
    Aline Lickel Pimentel
    Amanda Costa Laranjeira
    Amelia do Vale
    Ana Beatriz Freccia Rosa
    Ana Franco Zacchello
    Ana M D Oliveira
    Ana Olandim
    Ana Paula Farias
    Ana Rodrigues
    Ana Senn
    Anathalia Santos
    Angélica Kalil
    Anna Connors
    Aracele Garcia
    Aurelio Righetto
    Barbara Axt
    Bettina Monteiro Buelau Cogo
    Camila Marim
    Camila Bertolini
    Camila Mafioletti Daltoé
    Camila Navarro
    Camila Picolli
    Carina Dittrich Balvedi
    Carla Zobaran
    Carmem Almeida
    Carol Akemi
    Carol Borba
    Carol May Rodrigues
    Carolina Iegami
    Catarina Rangel Gomes da Silva
    Chico Bicudo
    Chris Lima
    Cintia Bailey
    Clarissa Donda
    Clarissa Martinelli Comim Cassol
    Claudia Beatriz
    Claudia Senlle
    Cris Lustosa
    Cristina Guindani Goncalves
    Cristina Rosa
    Cátia Soares Ferreira
    Dani Alcantara
    Dani Lima
    Daniel Duclos
    Daniela Julião
    Danielle Fullan
    Debora Cardoso Severo
    Debora Regina Durek Biniara
    Denise guimaraes
    Denise Somera
    Débora Foresti
    Débora Raduenz
    edson augusto silva coutinho
    Elisabeth Felix Goutal
    Eneida Dias Vianna Braga
    Fernanda Gonzales Rodrigues
    Fernanda Inouye Miura
    Fernanda Martins de Siqueira
    Flavia Koetz
    Francielle Carpenedo
    Gabriel Britto
    Gabriela Cardoso Gianoti
    Gabriela Cesca de Souza Moreira Waltenberg
    Gabriela Goncalves
    Gabriela Ribeiro de Almeida
    Gabriela Righetto
    Giovania Reis
    Gisele Muniz
    Giuliana Bonanno Schunck
    Giulliano Costa Ribeiro
    Gracia Maria Guimarães Cardeal Pastoriza
    Grazielle Paim-Nieminen
    Guilherme Ribeiro
    Helena Fernandes
    Heloisa Righetto
    Indra Filgueiras
    Isabela Discacciati
    Isadora Dawson
    Ivana Righetto Moser
    Jackeline Mota
    Janara Reder Woehl
    Jaysa de Assis Barbosa
    Jessica Gabellini
    João Pimentel
    Juliana Fleig Bueno
    karine marselle fontes
    Karine Porto
    Leandro Antoniasse
    Leticia Dáquer
    Lidia Aleixo
    Liliana Carneiro
    Lillian Brandão
    Livia Carlini Schmidt
    Livros Infantis em Londres
    Luci Chiovetto Vasconcellos
    Lucia Guimarães
    Luciana Bordallo Misura
    Luíza Antunes
    Marcela Alves
    Marcie Grynblat Pellicano
    Mari Campos
    Maria Elisabeth Righetto
    Maria Eugenia Santos
    Mariana Fauth Piana
    Mariana Laudeauser Coelho
    Mariana Martins
    Marianna Araujo
    Marianna Brito
    Marianne Maeda
    Marilia Cichini
    Marina Cardoso Del Monte
    Marina El Tayar
    Marjory Ohrel
    Marla Rodrigues
    Martin Descalzi
    Martinha Andersen
    Marília Senlle
    Mayra Aiello Correa de Oliveira
    Mayra de Freitas Centelhas Martinelli
    Mayra Jinkings
    Maíra Wenzel
    Melissa Reis Adamo Rossi
    Mirella Matthiesen Peixoto
    Naia Aiello
    Nara Paiva
    Natalia Itabayana Junqueira de Mattos
    Natasha Schiebel Brotto
    Natália Fideles Barbosa Miranda
    Natália Gastão
    Nelson Berndt
    Nicole Rezende da Costa
    Nicole Silva
    Paola Madrid Sartoretto
    Patricia Guerra
    Patricia Mota
    Patricia Platinetti Mazaro
    Patricia Vassib
    Patricia Vieira
    Patrícia Castellem Strebe
    Paula Brum
    Paula Sauer
    Pollyanna Teixeira
    Priscila Dexheimer
    Priscila Pivatto
    Priscila Reder
    Queilita Alves de Almeida Lima
    Rachel Guedes
    Raphaella de Assis Perlingeiro
    Raquel Sol
    Renata Centelhas
    Renata Garcia Senlle
    Renata Garrido
    Renata Gomes de Castro
    Renata Rezende
    Renata Toledo Piza de Mendonça
    Rita Branco
    Rosemar Woehl
    Sandra Sobral Carvalho
    Sarah Penteado
    Scheyla Englert
    Segredos de Londres
    Simone Guedes
    Sophie Zago
    Susan Ferreira
    Sónia Gonçalves
    Tamara Ol
    Tania Pereyra
    Tathj Watzl
    Tatiana Chistotkin
    Tatiana Marques
    Tatiana rocha marmo
    tereza meirelles albuquerque
    Thais Lima
    Thaís Nascimento
    Thiago Medeiros
    Tiago Carvalho
    Valentina Xavier Jacome
    Vanessa Almeida
    Vilma
    Vivi Lescher

    Intercâmbio Feminista: a semana do projeto

    Até a semana interior da chegada da Renata em Londres para a realização do projeto, a agenda de entrevista com as ONGs não estava completamente definida. Algumas confirmações foram feitas depois de muitas trocas de emails, outras foram canceladas, novos contatos realizados. E até mesmo durante a semana do projeto, um ou outro ajuste teve que ser feito, afinal estávamos em contato com mais de 10 ativistas de diferentes campanhas e ONGs.

    Quando saímos na manhã da segunda feira para a primeira entrevista, que foi com a idealizadora do Vagina Museum, a gente não tinha ideia de como a semana desenrolaria. Mas no fim do mesmo dia, apenas o primeiro dia e já com três entrevistas realizadas, a gente já sabia que estava passando por uma transformação e tendo uma oportunidade única, valiosa e engrandecedora.

    O que a gente não previu foi o desgaste físico. Claro que o emocional também foi impactado, mas o otimismo e compromisso das mulheres que conhecemos acabou balanceando isso. A parte física, de cruzar a cidade carregando equipamento, durante uma semana de verão com altas temperaturas em Londres, foi somando a cada dia. Por isso, quando dois cancelamentos abriram uma janela pra descanso no meio do caminho, não achamos ruim!

    Chegou  a sexta feira, último dia de entrevistas, e fechamos com chave de ouro: conversando com a LAWA e a LAWRS, duas ONGs que trabalham pelo bem estar das mulheres latinas em Londres. A última conversa foi com uma brasileira, a única das 10 entrevistas que não foi em inglês!

    Apesar da sensação de missão cumprida que sentimos ao finalizar o ciclo de entrevistas, também começamos a sentir uma saudade, um pequeno vazio. Afinal, não é sempre que nós duas temos a oportunidade de passarmos uma semana juntas, praticando nosso feminismo e crescendo como ativistas. Uma imersão dessas a gente não sabe quando vai acontecer de novo!

    Todas as entrevistas foram disponibilizadas ao longo da semana no canal e também como podcast. Você pode acessá-las aqui no site mesmo, clicando aqui para vídeo e aqui para podcast.

    No momento estamos no processo de legendar todas as entrevistas e começar a escrever o ebook, que trará ainda mais detalhes sobre o Intercâmbio. Enquanto isso, assine o canal e acompanhe os novos hangouts!

    Intercâmbio Feminista: preparativos

    Há aproximadamente um ano, a gente teve uma ideia: e se a gente pudesse conhecer e entrevistas outras mulheres ativistas feministas pelo mundo? Já que ‘conexão’ está no nosso sangue, seria incrível poder reforçar essa ideia de construir pontes não apenas com outras mulheres que trabalham pelo e para o feminismo, mas também entre elas e as pessoas que acompanham o nosso trabalho – o nosso público amado que nos assiste, nos escuta e interage com a gente nas redes sociais.

    Resolvemos afinar a ideia e decidimos que seria bacana começar pelo Reino Unido. Afinal, uma metade da Conexão Feminista já mora lá. Então, na prática, seria assim: a Renata viajaria para Londres pra encontrar a Helô e por lá nós conversaríamos com ONGs e ativistas não apenas na capital, mas pelo resto do país. Essas conversas seriam transmitidas ao vivo no nosso canal, da maneira que já fazemos os hangouts, e depois se tornariam podcasts. O objetivo? Conhecer os diversos recortes do ativismo feminista no Reino Unido e mostrar para nossa audiência no Brasil que há sim misoginia, patriarcado e desigualdade no ‘primeiro mundo’. Mas também queríamos aprender com essas mulheres, queríamos nos inspirar, dividir soluções e ideias para seguir na luta.

    Resolvemos então montar uma campanha de financiamento coletivo para fazer o Intercâmbio Feminista sair do papel. Gravamos vídeo, explicamos tim tim por tim tim o que seria feito com o dinheiro arrecadado, bolamos recompensas e colocamos a campanha no ar no final de novembro de 2017.

    E qual foi a nossa surpresa quando a campanha arrecadou 20% da meta mínima em 10% do tempo? Tivemos um início de campanha forte, com muitas doações e apoio de amigas e de mulheres e homens que conhecemos por causa da Conexão. A arrecadação seguiu bem, e conseguimos chegar na meta mínima de 9 mil reais antes do fim do prazo. O Intercâmbio iria acontecer!

    Na reta final do financiamento conseguimos bater a segunda meta, de 12 mil reais. Foram 176 apoiadores no total! 176 pessoas que acreditaram na gente. Até hoje a gente se belisca para acreditar. Foi por causa da segunda meta, aliás, que conseguimos fazer esse site!

    Financiamento encerrado, era então hora de começar a planejar a execução do projeto e correr com as entregas de recompensas. As duas coisas correram em paralelo: a Renata gerenciou todas as entregas de recompensa no Brasil e começou a ver as passagens para Londres para fecharmos as datas, e a Helô gerenciou as recompensas para o resto do mundo (tivemos apoiadores até no Japão!) e entrou em contato com ONGs e ativistas.

    Nesse meio tempo, entre o fim da campanha e o começo do projeto, a gente já conseguiu se dar conta de algumas coisas: por causa do valor da Libra Esterlina seria impossível viajar pelo país e teríamos que nos concentrar em Londres; as ONGs não podiam fechar compromisso com muita antecedência, e algumas ativistas nem escritório tinham. Ou seja, algumas entrevistas teriam que ser gravadas em vez de transmitidas ao vivo no canal. Isso já foi um grande aprendizado: nos demos conta de que não podemos esperar que outras pessoas, ainda que feministas e ativistas como nós, trabalhem a nossa maneira. Éramos nós que precisaríamos nos adaptar a elas.  E assim foi…

    Continua no próximo post!

    Bem vindas ao novo site!

    Hoje, 25 de julho de 2018, esse site foi pro ar! Nós já tínhamos um site com as informações básicas sobre o trabalho da Conexão Feminista, mas resolvemos fazer um upgrade. Agora temos uma plataforma mais interativa, onde podemos inclusive publicar nossos textos e divulgar nossas participações em outras plataformas. Todos os hangouts (em vídeo ou podcast) vocês também poderão assistir aqui! Ainda precisamos povoar o site e é claro, fazer mudanças necessárias que devem aparecer com o tempo. Esse site renovado aconteceu graças ao apoio das 176 pessoas que apoiaram nosso financiamento coletivo para o projeto Intercâmbio Feminista. Como atingimos a meta de R$12,000.00, nos comprometemos a usar parte desse dinheiro para melhorar essa plataforma. E estamos muito felizes de mais esse pedaço do financiamento coletivo ter sido completado. Sejam bem vindas e bem vindos!

    Machismo, literalmente

    A linguagem é uma das ferramentas mais poderosas de qualquer país ou cultura. A maneira como falamos e escrevemos é carregada de mensagens que refletem nossos valores (por mais enrustidos que sejam). Acho que vocês já sabem onde quero chegar: mostrar que a linguagem – mais precisamente a língua portuguesa, já que é meu idioma natal e o que uso no meu dia a dia – é carregada de machismo e misoginia. O gênero masculino é o dominante no plural, essa é uma das primeiras coisas que aprendemos quando somos alfabetizados. Se existem 10 pessoas em uma sala e apenas uma dessas é pessoas é homem, é o suficiente para que o grupo seja tratado como “todos” em vez de “todas”, por exemplo. Recentemente, e principalmente nas redes sociais, a vogal “a” ou “o” passou a ser substituída pelo “x”, com o objetivo de neutralizar abordagens binárias e sexistas. Por mais inofensivo que pareça (já visualizo olhares de reprovação e comentários do tipo “ah mas essas feministas agora implicam até com a gramática?”), a masculinização das palavras no plural nos mostra que ser homem é a norma, é o que rege, é o correto. Em tempo: usar a letra “x” no lugar de “a” ou “o” tem seus problemas, principalmente no que se refere a acessibilidade. Softwares que lêem para pessoas com defici6encia visual não conseguem fazer essa pronúncia, por exemplo. Mas além das regras gramaticais, muito mais difíceis de serem percebidas como símbolos de machismo, as expressões que usamos de forma rotineira escancaram valores patriarcais. Eu sei que não preciso explicar o significado de nenhuma das expressões a seguir: “botar o pau na mesa”, “ter culhões”, “seja homem” são tão presentes no nosso dia a dia que falamos sem nunca pararmos por alguns segundos para escutar todo o machismo enraizado. É muito falocentrismo para um idioma só. São expressões que conotam poder, dominação e violência, utilizadas tanto para (e por) homens como mulheres. Já no caso de “mulherzinha” ou “correr como uma garota” (Você pode substiuir o “correr” por qualquer outra ação, como “jogar”, “lutar”, “chorar”), ou qualquer expressão que de alguma forma tenha ligação com a mulher ou feminilidade, tem conotação negativa: fraqueza, fragilidade, submissão. Essa percepção é perturbadora, e continuar utilizando esses termos é perpetuar esse assombroso abismo tão benéfico para a sociedade patriarcal. Não é “só uma expressão”, já que nenhum machismo é isolado. Linguagem machista, piadas machistas, cantadas constrangedoras e tantas outras ações que sozinhas parecem inocentes, fazem parte de um mecanismo complexo, que sustenta cultura de estupro, violência de gênero e tradições anacrônicas. Tão ou mais corriqueiros e misóginos do que as expressões citadas acima são os os xingamentos (aviso de gatilho: terei que escrevê-los). Já repararam que as ofensas dirigidas para mulheres tem um significado completamente diferente das que são dirigidas para os homens? Puta, vagabunda, vadia e afins, palavras com forte conotação (negativa) sexual são consideradas algumas das mais fortes quando o alvo é uma mulher. Bicha, veado, e qualquer outra palavra que questione a heterossexualidade masculina são as expressões mais utilizadas para ofender um homem. Ou seja, para xingarmos um homem, questionamos sua preferência sexual (o que é altamente homofóbico), ridicularizamos e afeminamos sua masculinidade. Para xingarmos uma mulher, questionamos sua condição imposta de “bela, recatada e dor lar”. Mulher promíscua não é mulher que mereça respeito, não é mesmo? A mulher é xingada até mesmo quando não é participante da discussão: filho da puta. Corno. Exemplos corriqueiros, mas que claramente mostram a culpa que a mulher carrega mesmo quando nada tem a ver com a situação. Erradicar a linguagem machista, admito, é um passo difícil. É um daqueles momentos que temos um espelho colocado a nossa frente, apontando todos os nossos preconceitos e hipocrisias. Nos descobrirmos feministas não parecia assim tão complicado. É muito mais fácil seguir escolhendo quais ítens da listinha de tarefas feministas adaptam-se ao nosso estilo de vida. Mas não é o feminismo que deve se adaptar ao nosso dia a dia, a nossa cultura. A transformação é trabalhosa.