In the Fall of 2017, many of Hollywood’s celebrated actresses and artists began to break their silence about sexual harassment in the film industry by posting on social media, using the simple hashtag, #MeToo. Since the day those two little words blew up the internet and millions responded and shared their stories, several other movements have emerged, such as the now famous #TimesUp campaign. Today, worlds away from Hollywood, professional women in Brazil are making a stand as well against the misogynistic culture and machismo in the workplace there, by tweeting and sharing a video with the hashtag, #LetHerWork or #DeixaElaTrabalhar in Portuguese.
The video, in which sports journalist Bruna Dealtry is kissed without consent quite literally in the middle of a broadcast, was created by a group of women who work in the testosterone-rich world of professional sports and media in Brazil, hoping to inspire a change. They want what everyone wants – to be able to work without being harassed, to be respected as professionals and women, to feel safe and for Brazilian machismo to end.
#LetHerWork: such a simple request. But in Brazil, where the culture is considerably more “macho” than it is in North America, it may take a lot more than a social media movement to change things in any real way. But, it’s a step in the right direction.
Brazil: Macho Men
Brazilians are known for a number of wonderful things. They’re really good at soccer. They make some seriously delicious coffee. They have beautiful beaches (filled with scantily clad beautiful people, who are also mostly responsible for the Brazilian wax.) What is probably not advertised in the travel brochures, however, is that Brazil’s culture is one in which men generally hold the power, best described as “machismo.” Simply defined, machismo is a state of aggressive masculinity, and in Latin culture, where a clear distinction in the roles and abilities of men and women is highly valued, machismo thrives.
In Brazil, women are more likely to stay at home and raise families, and when they do work, their income is considered supplementary. As for men, their value is based on their physical strength and power. Women are considered to be weaker physically and are expected to live under the rules of their fathers and husbands. In short, what machismo really means is that women are not equal to men and that men hold power over them.
The trouble with this type of culture is that Latin women are increasingly growing sick of it. The Brazilian journalists behind the #LetHerWork campaign have spent several years and thousands of dollars on an education, building up their careers, doing something they love, and to make money for themselves – “supplementary” income be damned. The frustration that female sports journalists must feel when their male counterparts still think they need to explain the game to them, after everything they’ve already accomplished, must be great.
For Bruna Dealtry, being suddenly kissed by a man she didn’t know or care to know in the middle of her broadcast felt like a big step backward in her career, and for women in general.
“College, courses, many lost weekends, many soccer games analyzed, tactical study, technical, research, etc… the simple fact of being a woman in the midst of a crowd, none of this had value to him,” Dealtry said.
Employment Equality: #LetHerWork
Women all around the globe have come a long way in the fight for their rights, since they’ve only been allowed to work in their chosen professions, vote, and have some control over their place in the world since the late 19th century. Though the various timeframes differ between nations and cultures, there have been significant strides globally in women’s rights over the last few centuries. While women now have, in theory, the same opportunities as men to make a buck, the working conditions and experiences still sometimes differ between the sexes – especially in professions that are typically dominated by males.
In Brazil, in particular, modern day women’s rights are lagging behind a little bit, and their day to day experiences are somewhat different than what North American women experience. According to Brazilian writer Vanessa Barbara, in Brazil men earn more for the same work.
“I earn 35 to 50 percent less than my male colleagues, although we cannot say for sure it is a gender issue. Maybe it’s just lack of talent,” Barbara said. And yet this quote was taken from an article she wrote for the prestigious New York Times. Lack of talent? Unlikely.
In a society that has been drowning in the machismo culture for so long, it seems unlikely that a small movement like #LetHerWork will inspire an immediate change in Brazil. What is promising, though, is that there are many men, even men in the sports industry, who support these women, especially since there are many men who have also experienced this kind of harassment at work themselves. There’s hope, then, that future generations will continue to push back and support equality. The movement’s timing couldn’t be more perfect, as the social tides have been changing ever since #MeToo emerged – perhaps this is the exact climate in which real change can actually happen.
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