Evangelical power against feminism

Brazilian women take to the streets to protest the election of Jair Bolsonaro.

By: Raúl Zibechi

At some point in the next few years, the evangelical wave will reach all the Latin American countries because it’s growing exponentially and it’s becoming a social and political tsunami capable of modifying the scenarios to which we are accustomed. So we should learn something about what is happening where that wave has been imposed.

Brazil is the most symptomatic case of Evangelical and Pentecostal growth. The studies that are appearing show that the victory of Jair Bolsonaro was possible thanks to the Evangelical electorate. (goo.gl/YbPEoW). Among the Catholic population there was a tie between Bolsonaro and the PT’s candidate, Fernando Haddad. Among other religions, as well as among atheists and those who don’t profess any religion, there was a slight majority in favor of the candidate of the left.

But the difference was overwhelming among the Evangelical population, among which it got more than double the votes and obtained a difference of 11 million votes, which marked his triumph. Other analyses estimate that he obtained the greatest difference among poor and Evangelical women, where the difference in favor of the extreme right would be even greater.

The change in religious tendencies is very important in Brazil, although other countries in the region seem to be producing a similar although more attenuated process. In 1950, Catholics represented 93.5 percent of the population and Evangelicals 3.4 percent. In 2010 the Catholic population had fallen to 64 percent and the Evangelical climbed to 22 percent.

In 2017, an investigation carried out by a foundation linked to the PT, showed that among residents of the urban peripheries of large cities individualist values were advancing that favored conservative behaviors (goo.gl/3LtZJT).

One of the most interesting works, because of its qualitative character, was carried out in Morro da Cruz, the largest poor periphery of Porto Alegre, which had stood out since 1990 because of its increasing politicization through the participatory budget that the PT implemented in that city. The neighborhood voted massively for Lula, but in 2018 it turned over massively for Bolsonaro.

The first conclusion of the anthropologist Rosana Pinheiro, one of the study’s organizers, says that: “it’s impossible to separate Bolsonaroism from anti-feminism” (goo.gl/HHVNuF). Observing the changes in the same population over a decade, allowed them to understand with greater detail the deep motivations of those who turned to the extreme right. Their conclusions are tremendous, although they contradict other studies.

Since 2014, the economic crisis, has dramatically affected the peripheries that felt the political system abandoned them. In parallel, since the June 2013 protests a new popular mobilization of women, blacks and LGBT was born. “For teenagers from the periphery, Bolsonaroism was a reaction to the new generation of feminist girls, which was unprecedented in Brazil,” the investigator concludes.

Many husbands supported Bolsonaro “as a way of attacking women, who are now more empowered,” she adds. Among other reasons, it’s because it’s impossible to separate the “macho crisis” from the economic crisis, since both feed each other.

The struggle for the recognition of black minorities, LGBT and women was deployed in Brazil just in the last five years. According to Pinheiro, a large part of the population experiences tension and insecurity with their identity, “divided between the role of the oppressed and the desire to be on the side of the oppressor.” She concludes: “As a consequence of colonization, there is also a constant struggle to be/ to seem part of the elite. That explains why so many poor people, blacks, women and LGBT supported Bolsonaro.”

I believe that these analyses illuminate some problems that we have in the antisystemic movements to confront the new right.

The first problem is that there is no other path than territorial work with the popular sectors, direct, without shortcuts, institutions or social policies. Only a militant presence in the territory can allow us to reverse this situation. We cannot attribute our failures to either the social networks or to the media (which do their part), but rather to our abandonment of the popular territories.

The second is that it’s urgent to address the place of men, in general, and that of poor young men, in particular. In a broader work, Pinheiro and her colleague Lucia Mury Scalco, maintain that one of the decisive factors in the formation of “Bolsonaro youth” was “the loss of social leadership and the sensation of the destabilization of hegemonic masculinity” (goo.gl/ZkGhYH).

We have become badly accustomed to the fact that macro policies, inspired in the World Bank, can solve political problems. The social technologies of above cannot substitute for organization and militancy that, like popular education, are the only ones capable of modifying the realities of below.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, March 15, 2019


Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



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