Youth, race and gender: meet Virajovem Anita

Anita is 19 years old, lives in São Paulo and has the amazing ability to talk about complex subjects in a solid and soothing way. She likes to talk about themes that touch her the most: gender and race.

As a kid, Anita attended a private school where she and her sister were the only black students enroled. “I tought it was normal. I didn´t even realise it. But growing up I began looking at things in a different way, and in my senior year in high school it became a real issue to me. “It was when I gave up straightening my hair and started braiding it instead.”

Before identifying herself as a black woman, Anita tought that calling another person “black” was a bad thing. When she was younger, she and her cousins used to curse each other using expressions such as “dirty tow” or “mechanic’s waste”.

But it wasn’t the first time these expressions were reproduced in such a pejorative way. In Brazil, many things related to the word “black” is a bad thing: black list, black market… And these expressions reinforce racism in our society.

One thing that has helped Anita to identify herself as a black women. was theatre. Among everything she enjoys doing, such as listening to music, playing the flute and going out with friends, theatre has always played an important role in her life.

Her first contact with the stage was through a theatre course in Jabaquara Cultural Center, in São Paulo, where she joined an acting group called “A Ordem do Caos” (Chaos’order, in english). Anita also took  film classes in the organization “Aldeia do Futuro” (Future village, in english). It was only after these previows experiences that Anita met Quizumba, a collective groups that discusses gender and race.

These experiences were really important to Anita’s identity process. “I´ve always knew I was a black woman, because you always know. But only then I started accepting it.”

Through the collective, Anita t engaged in racial and gender discussions, attending to debates and events promoted by Quizumba. One of these activities was a cenography course which, apart from teaching tecniques, discussed about gender in the audiovisual industry. “It’s hard to work with cenography being a woman. During job interviews, for example, it’s common for them to think a man is needed to carry the equipment.”

Everything Anita went through inspired her to create a women collective called “Consagradas”, along with her friends.The idea is to offer workshops on audiovisual tecniques to help poor women who want to be part of the creative industry.

One of Consagradas’ goals is to promote reflexions about alternative ways of living and working, apart from being housewifes or maids. The collective also promotes debates about gender and women roles insociety. They believe that “women belong wherever they want to”, says Anita.

 

Being a black woman

Anita says that racism associated with the feminine gender goes beyond beauty stereotypes. “There’s also the hiper sexualization. Many people have in mind the sexy “mulata” of carnaval. It’s a lose-lose situation: many black women suffer for not fitting under  beauty patterns, and those who have bodies that are considered ‘beautiful’, are victims of sexual haressment.”

Unfortunately, many still think that racism and sexism no longer exist. Anita sees that among adults, and notices that the youth usually questions that.

“We’re always questioning why things are the way they are, why they can’t change, and also trying to be part of a more equal, human and fair world. Above all things, we’re thinking a way to change the unequality that affects black woman, and trying to build public policies for the minorities.”

There is a lot to be done, but Anita believes that the discourse about gender in Brazil is slowly changing, and she percieves that inside her own house. Her 8 year old cousin, for example, says she doesn’t need to straighten her hair and wants to play soccer. Her 5 year old cousin plays with dolls and says: “there’s nothing wrong with that”.

“It would be good if we didn´t need these divisions, because what’s normal is what’s different, and still everyone should feel good about themselves”, concludes Anita.