Note from BW of Brazil: The conversation continues. Or at least one side continues to express their feelings on the topic. Since the topic of the solidão da mulher negra (solitude of the black woman) first appeared a few years ago, there have been countless articles written by black Brazilian women who have opened up about a very personal, painful phenomenon that in a racist, sexist society affects black women more than any other group, as both of these forms of oppression uniquely affect black women. Over the course of this period, this blog has covered perhaps only a fraction of the material on the topic that has been posted on blogs and social networking sites.
A little over a week, one man decided to chime on the issue and defined the whole idea of the loneliness of black woman as a myth. This writer doesn’t see this as a myth as I have noticed and heard from various black women throughout the country who can attest to the reality of black women in their 20s to 40s finding it difficult to find long-lasting relationships as well as older black women who find themselves alone in their later years. Some of these women simply outlived their partners. Others divorced while their former partners/husbands go on to marry other (often white) women. Others, after parting with their mates, finding themselves alone to raise the children from these relationships and find themselves joining the ranks of their mothers and grandmothers in living a sort of forced solitude/celibacy.
While this writer agrees with the male writer who pointed out that ALL black Brazilians are victims of a psychological warfare that encourages them to adore whiteness in the detriment of their own race, it is also true that it is black women who are bringing this important issue to the forefront as a conversation that needs to happen in order to begin the healing of some of the many emotional wounds inflicted upon the black population since the discovering of the land that later become known as Brazil. The four women featured in today’s piece bring still more perspective to the debate and it is also positive to see a few black men adding their voices to the conversation.
About love and color
By Tatiana Mendonça
“Look at how my eye already is.” Carla Akotirene, 36, is not a woman to go unnoticed. Just being there sitting there waiting, after eating a slice of cake and drinking a Coke, she shows herself to be stunning. The conversation begins amid a syrupy song that plays on the radio and the first sentence it says, that calls attention to her teary eyes, sounds like a discordant note. “I am someone who was never chosen to experience a relationship of love.” Of all the possible reasons to anchor such a hard comment, Carla believes that one weighs more than the others. É uma mulher negra (She is a black woman).
She was involved romantically for the first time at age 18, when she received her first kiss. “I was dying of fear, because I thought about my big mouth and thought no one would want to kiss me.” Then came other stories, but looking back in retrospect, thinks that she was always alone. Either because she experienced relationships that were monogamous only to her or because she saw herself unable to match the image that they made of her.
She still searches for an explanation. “I am a beautiful woman, I have a master’s (degree), I’m taking my doctorate, I have financial autonomy. And the guys who come to me, after a while, they start to think sou preta demais (I’m too black), I spend an idea of force …They look at me seeking an archetype of a sexual athlete.” Her last relationship was four years ago. She remembers to having asked her ex-boyfriend why he was so hard on her. “Because you can handle it,” he said. (1) “I think the blacker, the more pigmented the skin, the worse the treatment.”
Carla began to notice that her solidão (solitude/loneliness) was monitored at meetings with partners of the movimento negro (black movement). They complained of not finding company or complained about the sexist behavior of partners. In her work as a social worker of a unit of emergency care in the suburbs, she also began to collect denials of men who were not willing to accompany their women who fell ill. “Black men, who are chosen by us, had their manhood deformed by racism to the point that a good part of the homes of black women is intersected by domestic violence,” she says, with their way of one who has no time to waste with being deceived.
Today, she understands her bachelorhood not as a place of victimization but of political positioning. “Every time we break with a relationship marked by subjugation, we go on to look in the mirror to take care ourselves, to address these emotional wounds.”
Being passed over
Discussions around the passing over of the black woman came out of private spaces and are gaining strength on the internet. In April, the poet and professor of literary theory Lívia Natália Santos, 36, who teaches at Ufba (Federal University of Bahia), published on a blog a text entitled “Eu mereço ser amada” (I deserve to be loved), which focuses on the topic.
Lívia says that the idea came from conversations with friends. One of them even said that she didn’t want to get involved with black men because they were “educated to love white women.” “There is also a profile of women to marry and another to have sex with (2). And there is this requirement that black women are sexy, available. We were not taught to think of ourselves as beautiful and desirable beyond sex.” In adolescence, she had two brief flings with white men, but only as an adult did she notice how they hid her. “I was there, but couldn’t kiss, couldn’t hug.”
When the professor’s texts were published on the Internet, many commented that this is just mi-mi-mi (whining). That love is greater than the skin color. And that no one takes any more of this story of everything being racism. Lívia not didn’t alter her perspective after hearing that kind of argument. “Society is based on sexist, racist, homophobic, gordofóbicas (fear of overweight people) structures. This idea that love is given in a cloud, that people find themselves for the first time and fall passionately in love…It’s not like that. Love is a construction.”
For two years ago she has been in a relationship, but continues putting her finger on the wound. Putting the black men in the hot seat not because she thinks they’re worse than white men, but because they are her object of interest. “I find that when they relate to white women, they treat them differently. They call them princesa (princess), minha querida (my dear)…they flutter, they’re almost subservient (3). With the black woman, they want to draw a different hierarchy, of superiority.”
Márcia Macedo, who researches women heading households in the Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre a Mulher (Neim or Interdisciplinary Study Group on Women), at Ufba, this is not “blaming the black man,” but “showing that he is part of a perpetuation of an historical process of racialized sexism.”
For ten years, the Bahian sociologist Ana Cláudia Pacheco researched the theme solidão das mulheres negras (loneliness of black women). In 2008, she defended her thesis Branca para casar, mulata para f…. e negra para trabalhar: escolhas afetivas e significados de solidão entre mulheres negras em Salvador (White woman for marriage, mulata for fucking and black women for work: affective choices and meanings of loneliness among black women in Salvador) at Unicamp (University of Campinas). Besides pointing out historical causes for the problem – that passes through polygyny in Africa and slavery in Brazil, the researcher shows how black women over the decades marry less and later than white women and how intermarriage happens more often between black men and white women than the reverse.
Policy of vindication
In 2013, the work turned into the book Mulher negra: afetividade e solidão (Black Woman: affectivity and loneliness) (Edufba). “What I realized in the narratives of the women I talked to is that the blacker, with the most accented characteristics – wider nose, cabelo mais crespo (kinkier hair), a more rounded body – the greater the rejection of partners.”
In Salvador, 32% of white women over 20 are married and living with their husbands, compared with 22% of black women, according to the 2010 Census. In Brazil, the figures range from 43% (white) and 30% (black).
Ana Cláudia, who teaches at Uneb, believes it is important to demarcate the vindication of marriage claim as a political position, the similarity of what happens to the LGBT population, but not worry about putting solitude in a place of victimization. “These women have gone through terrible stories in adolescence, but throughout life rework their experiences, are strengthened with education, work, friendship networks, religion.”
The researcher is “delighted” with the fact that all this discussion is coming up, but recognizes that the subject remains taboo even among organizations of the movimento negro, considered by some chauvinistic. Carla says that she has ceased to attend “mixed” spaces (with men and women) after she fell into the “blunder of sleeping” with a leader. “On the day of a meeting, he turned and said, ‘Feminists show off so much and ended up in whose bed?’”. Sought after by many, some leaders refused to speak, but there were also those who were willing to dialogue.
Jeronimo da Silva, one of the national directors of UNEGRO, says he has discussed the issue in the organization, but admits that the movement still carries “the sexism of our patriarchal society.” “Demands like this end up being in the background, but we are sensitive to understanding and acting more on that front.” During the conversation, he recalls that some militants often have relationships with white women. “In particular, I find an inconsistency. I understand that the black man is free to choose who he will have a relationship with, but fighting for affirmation, why not choose a black woman?”. Nevertheless, he believes that there is an ongoing behavior change through education and reflection on racism itself. “This development is visible.”
Imbued in this process, Valdo Lumumba, of the Partido Popular de Liberdade de Expressão Afro-Brasileira (PPLE or Popular Party of Liberty of Afro-Brazilian expression), is defined as a “sexist in deconstruction” and says he see “maturity” in the discourses of black women on the particularities of their affective relationships. “I think it’s something that needs to be said, even though many men don’t like to hear it. It’s not possible to transform any situation if the two sides are not involved.” He also says that he’s accustomed to appreciating women of his “racial group” but that “sex and love have no boundaries.”
Valdirene Boaventura, 34, also believes that amor não tem cor (love has no color). She shrugs and makes a face of disbelief when the subject comes up. A maid since the age of 14, Val has no memories of feeling pushed aside in adolescence. “What I had was line at my door. My mother went crazy.” When her father left home, she was still a girl. As soon as she had a chance, she also left Camacan, where she was born, to try life in Salvador (capital of Bahia). The promise was for salary and study, of which she had neither. She remembers the date of her liberation: she fled in 1997.
With her life established in her new job, she managed to go to school. At school, she met the father of her son, a black man with whom she had an eight-year relationship. “At first, I didn’t even want him, I thought he was ugly,” she laughs. Val says that the first three years were wonderful, but then the fights started. She just wanted to get a car, and dreamed of buying a house. “It was me who paid for everything. He didn’t even know the price of gas.” As if that weren’t enough, he would cheat on her and said she had to accept it, because no man would want to stay with her. One day, after suffering an aggression, Val decided to separate (from him).
She spent a time single until getting involved with another man, also black, but the relationship did not last long. “He drank and thought he was the owner of the piece. Once he insisted that we practice sex in the room with my son at home. I said that I wouldn’t do that. It was humiliating … I decided to end it.”
After a few years, Val got another boyfriend. This was a “branquinho” (white boy), younger, and said he was giving “virtue” to her, a “nega feinha” (ugly black). The guy didn’t work, was involved with his son and had other women. Val had courage and again is “disconnected” herself. “I suffered in my love life. When we’re needy, we cling to anything…They’re crushes. I still haven’t had a real love.”
But she doesn’t think that this is a hopeless regret. Val insists on the search. Four months ago, she started dating again. “This now is under review,” she laughs. “But a man is not everything in this life.”
Maiara Lourenço, 23, well knows they’re not. The psychology student is the daughter of a white mother and a black father. When he died, she was only 9 years old. She grew up surrounded by her mother’s family, all white, and she herself didn’t see herself as black. At school, she felt she was different, but did not understand why. “I hung out with people who were on the margin of the standard, you know? Each one due to a different characteristic.” In adolescence, she didn’t engage or even date. She even made out with some guys, but only at parties, “those type like ‘shut up and kiss me now.'”
When Maiara vented with friends, she heard that needed to be more open and not choose so much. It was only in a college group, the Liga de Relações Raciais (LAR or League of Race Relations), of which she began to participate this year, that the student began to hear stories like hers and thinking it couldn’t be just coincidence. The discovery was welcoming, but also harrowing. “I’m still between shock and empowerment.”
For four years ago, she’s been dating a white woman, his first serious relationship, experiencing the joys and humiliations of sharing life with someone. Her world got blacker, whiter, more colorful. For Márcia, of Neim, the path is really this, not having a “monochromatic” reading of life. “We live in a ‘romantic comedy’ society, which emphasizes the nuclear family, marriage. But you must remember that not all women want a relationship. For many, being single is an achievement.”
Source: A Tarde
- Note here that black women are stereotyped and treated as if they can endure harsh treatment in relationships in the same manner in that they are perceived to be more “resistant to pain” in terms of medical issues they are perceived to be more “resistant to pain” in terms of medical issues.
- An apparent reference to the still popular ideology that says “white women are for marriage, mulatas for fucking and black women for work.”
- Another common complaint among black women. See here for example.