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January 10, 2018

Talk on women’s resistance to Brazilian military dictatorship held at the Old Chapel

(Gretchen Keller/ Daily Collegian)

Around 20 people shuffled their way into the second floor of the newly-renovated Old Chapel building 4 p.m. Monday to hear a talk entitled “Women’s Resistance to Military Dictatorship and the Conservative Coup in Brazil.” Cristina Scheibe Wolff covered the history of women’s resistance in Brazil, and how that same resistance is continuing to be used in relationship to the misogyny demonstrated in Brazilian politics.

Scheibe Wolff is a feminist historian at Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil, and Fulbright chair of Brazilian studies at the University of Massachusetts for the fall semester of 2017. Her current research analyzes gender in relation to opposing dictatorships.

The talk started with an introduction from Sonia E. Alvarez, the director for the center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies, who welcomed the talk as the first big event of the year and the first event in the “Learning through Latin America” series hosted by the center. She made a point to tell the audience that the center is looking into setting up disaster-relief work for Puerto Rico and Mexico, before introducing Scheibe Wolff .

“Most recently and very significantly, she was bravely the coordinator of the 13th Women’s Worlds Conference,” Alvarez said of Wolff’s involvement in an international and interdisciplinary meeting about women in Brazil last July.

Scheibe Wolff introduced her talk, explaining how her research as a historian has helped her connect to current circumstances in Brazil today. She said her research is always growing, and has already led to the publication of two books. She said there were many ways to take the conversation involving the resistance of women in opposing power, but today she was going to limit herself to talking specifically about Brazil.

Scheibe Wolff first spoke on the resistance movements in the early 1960s, consisting of armed groups, political parties, human rights organizations, individuals and mother and parent groups.

“Resistance can be considered as any kind of individual or collective action taken against the government or an institution,” said Scheibe Wolff, who also gave credit to those who subtly influenced the movement. “The groups of mothers and family members, the nuns that [brought] people to their convents, the people who passed on messages and documents all in their own way participated in the resistance.”

She went on to explain the rise of the feminist movement in Brazil and those who broke with the church in order to move forward. She described how hard it was at the time where subjects related to women’s liberation were often excluded from bulletins and classified as “divisive.”

“It’s important to consider that it was not common in this time for women to be powerful,” Scheibe Wolff said.

She explained movements that were designed to help build amnesty for the feminist movement. Today, she said these same ideals have been carried over with Brazil’s conservative wave with a misogynist coup against President Dilma Rousseff, representative of an uprising against the feminist movement.

“They do not believe that teachers should express any political component in their classrooms,” said Scheibe Wolff, who continued to explain that the coup had included even the Catholic church in their uprising.

Scheibe Wolff spoke on walks and demonstrations such as the “Marcha das Vadias,” also known as the “Slut Walk” that took place in cities and countrysides all over Brazil to stand up against sexual assault. She also mentioned the Feminist Spring campaign that brought together wide media coverage of demonstrations shown on social networks like Facebook and Whatsapp. The Marcha das Mulheras Negras brought together Black women to fight against racism and misogyny.

Scheibe Wolff concluded her talk by speaking on her time at the 13th World’s Women Conference where women came together not only for the event, but to really construct and connect education and activism.

Following her talk, she showed a YouTube video demonstrating the current resistance movement, and followed up by opening the floor to questions and answers. Attendants then were opened to a room of pastries, chips and drinks to “continue on the conversation.”

“I wanted to see how women empower themselves during dictatorship,” said Venus Green, a Ph.D. student in the Sociology Department who attended the event after seeing posters on campus.

The lecture was listed under the University’s featured events for the Hate Has No Home at UMass campaign. On the same night, the event site also listed the film “The Great White Hoax” and “Parenting for the Long Haul: The Pediatrician’s Perspective” in the Integrative Learning Center and the Student Union, respectively.

Caeli Chesin can be reached at mchesin@umass.edu and followed on twitter @caeli_chesin.

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