Being A Woman In A Big City Is Like Living Under A Permanent Curfew

A carnival mask sits on a table at the Condal mask factory, well known for its clever designs featuring politicians or other
A carnival mask sits on a table at the Condal mask factory, well known for its clever designs featuring politicians or other news makers, in Sao Goncalo, near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. When Carnival begins, thousands of revelers will take to the streets wearing masks during the countless freewheeling parades throughout the city. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

"Do you feminists never get tired of talking about violence?" an acquaintance of mine asked me once.

"Yes, we do get tired of it," I answered. "I find it very annoying to talk about violence. But what's worse is suffering in silence. I will be glad when we don't need to talk about it anymore. And that will happen when men stop practicing violence against women," I added, visibly annoyed.

I felt frustrated when I came across the ‪campaign #CarnavalSemAssédio (#HarassmentFreeCarnival), a partnership between the AzMina (TheGals) magazine, the #AgoraÉQueSãoElas (#NowIsTheirTurn), and Vamos Juntas? (Let's Walk Together?) among other women and feminist collectives.

The campaign reminded me a little bit of the Chega de Fiu Fiu (No More Wolf-Whistling) campaign created by Think Olga.

There are women in both campaigns that I have a lot of respect for; I don't even need to know them personally to admire them.

It's promising to watch women organizing to fight for the right to lead a life free of violence, including during Carnival. But I find it disheartening that I have to get dressed, put on my make-up, and head out the door with the knowledge that I will face some kind of harassment on the street, and so will many other women. Violence against women during Carnival in Brazil is as common as confetti and streamers.


I don't think it's an overstatement to say that being a woman in a big city is almost like living under a permanent curfew.

The campaign also reminded me of an incident that happened to me last year. I followed a Carnival parade on the streets of downtown São Paulo, dressed in clothes that were appropriate for the weather and the buoyant mood. A man near the Municipal Theater approached me. He looked at me and said: "You may be a slut, but we will f**k you anyway."

It was one of those moments when you are instantly teleported from the sheer joy of Carnival to the harsh reality of Ash Wednesday. I felt that at any time, I could be alone, walking downtown, and one of the members of this secret group would be lurking around, waiting to fulfill the promise.

I always thought that a "pick-up line" had nothing to do with seduction, and everything to do with reaffirming one's masculinity. I never heard a woman say: "Wow, I love it when men hit on me while I'm waiting for the bus."

Most pick-up lines we hear are not innocent. We never hear: "What a nice smile! I hope you always keep it. Have a nice day!" They're more like: "Nice pu**y," "I want to f**k you in the ass" or "I will f**k you."

I believe that no man ever expects to hear an answer such as: "Sure! When should we meet? Should I bring some wine?" Their satisfaction doesn't come from the response of the person being hit on. Their satisfaction comes from the reaffirmation of their masculinity. When he shouts "hot" in the middle of the street, what the man is really saying is: "I am a man and everyone else should know it."

The point is that this desperate need to affirm one's masculinity is combined with women's submission to a reality where autonomy is only valid for those born with a Y chromosome.


When I complained about unsolicited groping by a man, I got the following response: "Don't you know what Carnival is all about?"

This form of sexual assault is a declaration of hate against women. When I experienced on the street near the Municipal Theater was misogyny.

And it's still sexual harassment even if the words used are not as crude. When you mutter jokes to a woman walking alone on a deserted street, you're not being kind to her. It's as if you're telling her: "Aren't you familiar with the rules? You can't walk the streets by yourself. I'm the only one who can do so. And I can do whatever I like to you."

The offensive pick up line "I'd like to lick your whole body" really means: "You can't wear whatever you like. You are a woman."

Affirming yourself and your identity often entails denigrating the other. Or, at least, defining the limits within which the other person can exist, including the time and place, and what she's allowed to wear.

I don't think it's an overstatement to say that being a woman in a big city is almost like living under a permanent curfew.

During Carnival, harassment takes different, more creative and poetic forms. This reminds me of another incident that took place during Carnival. When I complained about unsolicited groping by a man, I got the following response: "Don't you know what Carnival is all about?"

Years went by --and I have enjoyed other Carnivals-- but I still can't forget that man's threat. Especially because he didn't say: "I will f**c you", he said "We will f**k you." He sounded like he was speaking on behalf of a collective or a club. One of its members might be the man who groped me. It feels as though there's a parade of misogynistic men marching through the streets and avenues of Brazil.

This post was originally published on HuffPost Brazil. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.