Wednesday, September 1, 2010

No Brazilian Wives Here!

So ever since University (where I took many a Women's Studies course) I've had a little issue with male/female traditional roles.  Combine with it my aggressive and non-defeatest attitude and you have what some may call a feminist. 
At this point, I feel like some of these old ideas of male and female differences are ancient and stupid.  Like, who thinks that it's the men who should work and the women who should clean and cook anymore?

Oh, everyone in Brazil y'say?  Oh.

Well, maybe not everyone.  And maybe not so 1930's like.  But definitely 1950's.  Brazilian ideals of male and female roles has stopped in about 1950. 
For example, my inherited family's matriarch (my MIL) said to me today with searing pride in her eyes "Viu??  Viu o Rodrigo passou as ropas ontem??" (My husband did some of the ironing the other day because I asked him if he could help me with it). 

What kind of threw me off about her ecstatic joy that her oldest son had done some of his own ironing (see this post re how people view the oldest son in Brazil) was that a) I asked him do it. So thanks for helping when I ask.  And b) has she ever once shown the same ecstatic joy when *I* do ALL of the ironing, folding and putting away??? When I cook a whole meal by myself??? When I do 4 loads of laundry in one day???  When I clean and wash the bedroom, bathroom and her room??  Does she go running to Ro saying "Viu??? Viu o que a Lindsey fez hoje???"

No.  No she does not.  Because that is expected of me.  Nevermind the fact that I am working a full time job as well.  Nevermind the fact that just because I'm home doesn't mean I'm doing nothing.  I'm planning for my classes.  I'm working too. 

But being a woman in Brazil means that you are responsible for feeding and cleaning up after your entire family while they work and relax. 

Let's clarify that I don't DISAGREE with this.  I just firmly believe that if we're both working, we're both sharing the housework.  Equally.  None of this woman stays home to do all of this shit and man goes out to work.  I am used to, and enjoy, being the main breadwinner or at the very least, an equal breadwinner.  

There is a lot of sexism and inequality present in Brazil still.  You can see it in the way many people treat and look at women (or totally ignore them as I've experienced more times than I can count).  It's not even something people are aware of.  Just the same way that sexism exists in our language (the fact that we always say "hey guys" and many other examples I'll just not get into).  Brazil is a feminine and masculine language.  It's something that just exists culturally and was created a very long time ago.  It takes work to change a habit.  A lot of people aren't even aware that there's a problem. 

I never felt like an inadequate women/wife until I moved to Brazil and saw the role of the wife here.  There is so much responsibility that falls on women here.  I didn't grow up like that and even though Ro is a forward thinking person (which came from living on his own for several years in another country) I can still see that he is used to and ok with this dynamic.  

Sorry to break it to you but I will never be a Brazilian wife. 


  1. I want to be a Brazilian wife, just the kind that has an "Empregada"! lol :)

    Can totally relate!

  2. Yes. It's ridiculous. The only thing that gives me some relief is that our generation is improving by leaps and bounds. Neither of our husbands think like this, right? And I can argue that most of their friends don't, either. You'll maintain these ideas in poorer social classes, but at that point, it isn't much different from the US. So.... these ideas are dying out. That gives me comfort.

  3. sorry. It isn't different from the US or CANADA... I always forget you're not American because your English is so similar. hahaha

  4. Hi, Linds.

    I found your blog through Danielle's! Soooo funny. I love your wit! Get'cher own sandwich!

    This post reminds me of a discussion I had with one of my students the other day. She's in her mid-thirties, has a husband and kids, and although educated to be an accountant, is a stay at home mom. She went to Sweden a few years ago and was chatting with this guy when she realized it was time to go home and start dinner for her husband. The Swede looked at her incredulously and said, "Are you kidding me???? What are you, a slave!??!?!? Let him make dinner for you!" To which she responded, no-- I'm not a slave. It's an agreement that we've come to. He takes care of the bills and the making of money, and I take care of the house stuff.

    But she doesn't realize that this agreement is easier perhaps for her family unit to come to, because of the culture of sexism, where men are expected to perform in the public realm while women take care of the home. It's kind of an unspoken agreement in most cases.

  5. Spot on observation. When Luiz and I first got here this dynamic manifest as my MIL insisting on our having a housekeeper 3x/week so she could cook for us and iron our underwear. Surely two guys would be useles in the kitchen or around the house -- nevermind that Luiz had lived on his own in the US for the past 24 years (and I had moved out of my parents house 30 years prior).

    The first time I insisted on cooking my MIL hovered near the stove to ensure I peeled the carrots and did not burn the rice. We have come a long way - and I do not pretend to understand the pressures placed on women in this regard.

    It has always been paradoxical to me that Brazilian women, is seems to me, put so much time, energy and resources into looking fabulous head to toe, complete with sexy open-toe shoes for every occasion. (Modern women, old-style role.) And it infuriates me that Brazilian men can hook up with women (not their wife or girlfriend) and experience so little fall from grace. It is so widely expected of them... sigh.

  6. i can totally understand what you are saying, but you also have to understand that this ancient thinking is dying, and who still thinking like this are usually older people, and if you ask womem who do everything at home and works are usually happy with their role, they don't complain or are unhappy; they don't feel like a slave. We grow up knowing how it is, and what is expected from us, so when the time comes, its not a big deal anymore. But since you werent raised like most of women in brazil were i understand how it looks for you, but try to see things the way women in brazil do.

    You have to see that they are happy with that, I live in the usa and i cant say that this freedom that woman has here is that much better than what we have in brazil, women here are so worried about equality that they forget what it is to be a woman.

    But, as a brazilian woman i can say i was never ignored or neglected by any means for being a woman.
    I do belive that many things need to be different in brazil, and a lot of them has to do with women, but i think thats not near bad as you made it look like.

  7. I sweared to myself at a young age I wouldn't become a Brazilian wife. That my future husband would do the half or more of the house chores and help with kids. My mother told me to marry a gringo. I did it.

  8. My folks are from Brazil and I visited back in the early 2000s. Im glad Im not a Brazilian wife either. Its mostly older people and poorer people that staunchly believe in "a womans place is in the house." But here in America, I've met the most educated middle class people saying the same with stay at home moms. One difference: They have servants. I dont want to be a traditional wife in any country: all the work and responsibility for the man to take all credit. My folks dont miss Brazil at all. Im not surprised.


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