Friday, July 1

Sexist Violence: Recreational Harassment | Opinion

A protest in favor of women's rights in São Paulo, in 2019.
A protest in favor of women’s rights in São Paulo, in 2019.Cris Faga

The scene circulated through distant countries: from Brazil to Egypt in 24 hours. The images They were posted by a white Brazilian man, camera in hand, filming a young Egyptian woman demonstrating papyri for sale. While the woman described the product, the man pretended to converse in Portuguese. The woman smiled, as kind people do in intercultural and interlinguistic encounters in which the other’s attempt to communicate is welcomed. She didn’t know it, but the anonymous Brazilian was harassing her: instead of asking her questions about the papyrus, he was asking her obscene questions about sex and the size of the male phallus: “As you like it, it’s really hard, right? No one is made of iron. Big is also good, right? ”, Says the man in the recording, while laughing out loud with another Brazilian. It was a case of recreational bullying.

Why talk about recreational bullying and not just bullying? Because recreational bullying is one of the most difficult to identify as violence, since it has the complicity and laughter of those who see or share the image. Recreational harassment happens when a woman is harassed as part of a domination project that seeks to provoke laughter from other men. It’s not a liberating laughRecent behavior), but a laugh that is based on stereotypes and regimes of domination. José Adilson Moreira defined “recreational racism” as a cultural policy based on discriminatory practices against racial minorities. These are practices that, disguised as oppressive laughter, naturalize racial hostility and are not even recognized by legal systems as illegal.

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In dialogue with Moreira, Carla Akotirene wrote about the inseparable recreational sexism-racism of situations in which the humor of memes becomes a weapon to ridicule black women for various purposes, either to stereotype their body frailty imposed by the poverty, such as the loss of teeth, or to try to control the insubordinate voices of black intellectuals, described as “divas” or “accusers.” The victim of the anonymous Brazilian was a woman stereotyped by Islamophobia: a young Muslim woman with a veil.

The event could be taken as an isolated case of a Latin American male in distant lands. But it is not: in 2014, the Brazilian also released a video in which he harassed an Australian woman, asking her to repeat sexual phrases in Portuguese. There is a pattern to harassment: sarcasm to humiliate people marked by gender or sexuality, race or religion, is a power tactic of those who imagine themselves in a position of superiority. Behind the obscene comments in the recent recording were gender and cultural stereotypes about Egyptian women. The arrogance of sarcasm was fueled by a sense of ethnic and gender superiority: a white patriarch who operates both at home and abroad under the certainty of impunity granted by the naturalization of his privileges. Without any surprise about what he was doing, the man posted the images on his Instagram account that has almost a million followers.

The anonymous guy who was wandering the streets of Luxor is a well-known guy in Brazil. A doctor coach of techniques of cult of the body, supporter of President Jair Bolsonaro, who, after more than a year of pandemic, abuses a vocabulary of fragile scientific veneer to continue defending treatments without proven scientific evidence, such as hydroxychloroquine. It is better to describe him beyond his parochial nationality, as a representative without borders of the racist patriarchy that persecutes women. When confronted by the scene, the doctor made his Instagram account private and justified himself: “I am like that. I’m a pretty joker ”. Brazilian feminists copied the video, translated it and sent it to Egyptian women’s movements, including the profile on social networks Speak Up, a “feminist initiative to support victims of violence”. The online mobilization was immediate and they began to circulate hashtags between the two countries, in Arabic, English and Portuguese, they said: “expel the Brazilian stalker from Egypt”, “investigate the Brazilian stalker”, “we do not want stalkers in our country.”

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The doctor was identified by the Egyptian police and is being investigated for the crime of sexual harassment, a crime whose punishment can range from monetary fines to imprisonment of between six months and three years. The nomination of the scene as “harassment” came from feminists and not from the rules of coexistence of Instagram, whose platform allowed the publication and circulation of the images on the doctor’s account. After the intense mobilization and solidarity between young Brazilian and Egyptian feminists, Instagram finally began to classify the images as “language that incites hatred”. The doctor’s apology to the victim shows how difficult the road is for women: “since I saw that you were a smiling person, and you were joking with us, I ended up joking too.” No, the victims don’t laugh; recreational sarcasm is unique to bullies.

Debora Diniz is Brazilian, anthropologist, researcher at Brown University

Cute Giselle is Argentine, political scientist, director of the IPPFWHR

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