“Woman are here to have sex with, not ask questions”

"Presidenta" Dilma by Alexandre Vieira

This was what a man told me this week when I asked if I could join him and his friends for a barbeque. It’s true there was little chance of his accepting, since the story I wanted to do was ultimately not a favourable one. The reason still took my breath away somewhat. It reminds me that at its most serious, harrassment of female journalists can take the form that it did to CBS reporter Lara Logan, assaulted in Egypt last February while reporting on Mubarak’s resignation.

I’m not expecting this to happen to me, and the statement meant more to inform me that a particular door was closed to me rather than anything sinister. It did let me know in no uncertain terms that there are places I could insert myself were I male that aren’t going to be open to me here as a woman, well, unless I’m willing to offer more than my company.

It doesn’t come as a huge surprise. In a country with a female president – who nevertheless gets referred to by some as “presidenta” Dilma, somewhat patronisingly – woman are a long way from being regarded as equal. This kind of barring from social events is something I’ve got used to. An ex-boyfriend told me women watching football games were “pe frio”, or cold feet – like Mick Jagger in an earlier post, this means they bring bad luck and it should be avoided at all costs. It’s more usual for men and women to stick to their own sex when it comes to friendships. This is a generalisation of course, and I happily find exceptions all the time. However, I’ve politely declined the girls’ night out on several occasions, consisting as it does, apparently, of standing in a row with your hair down on one side of your body, boobs out, for photos to appear on Facebook later.

Totally unscientifically, I’ve noticed that most women talk at a pitch which must only be detectable to dogs and dolphins, its so high. I can’t help but conclude the Minnie Mouse register of so many women is connected to a less equal society.

It turns I’m right, not about the voice theory (crackpot even for me) but the chauvinist society. A United Nations survey put Brazil 80th in a list of 138 countries for gender equality. The survey was based on factors including positions of men and women in the job market, number of women in parliament, number of teenage pregnancies and education opportunities.

So where does that leave me, working here as a journalist, not invited to the game and shut out of the barbeque? I’ll do what I can to make sure that door opens, and if the time arrives and I think a little too much is expected of me, I’ll do what all self-respecting reporters do in times of trouble – make my excuses and leave.


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