The invisible ones

Emily Speed< Bedroom designed for a woman, video from 2017.
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By WALNICE NOGUEIRA GALVÃO*

For centuries, scientists thought that ants and bees, in the kingdoms they build, had a King

1.

Alaíde Costa didn't go far in Bossa Nova. A woman, black and the daughter of a washerwoman, she was not a girl of fine extraction like the muses of the movement. She is among the precursors, among those few who participated in the first meetings and who defined the style's guidelines. As a composer, she was at the time a partner of Tom Jobim, Vinicius, Johnny Alf, Geraldo Vandré. Today, the person asking her to be a partner is Emicida.

At 89 years old, always a great lady, she does not practice backbiting and does not like to comment on the indignities that remain in the past. But she doesn't forget that she remained unwavering in the face of proposals from record companies to record a samba. Of course, a black woman should sing samba... Perhaps the combination of being black and a woman was too much for a movement of white boys from Rio's South Zone to absorb, a movement that was born as dissent from the black people's samba de morro.

There were those who thought that, due to her extraordinary gifts, she would become the great female voice of Bossa Nova. But, on the contrary, she became eclipsed and would remain out of the scene for many years, absent from TV and shows, although she continued to record sporadically.

There were, however, those who opened their ears to his unusual talents. This was the case of maestro Diogo Pacheco, who in 1965 took Alaíde Costa to the Municipal Theater in a recital of Renaissance and medieval melodies, the wonderful show called Alaíde Alaúde. He understood who Alaíde Costa was and her unusual timbre, capable of incredible chromaticism, rivaling jazz singers like Sarah Vaungh, and others.

Something similar happened in the cinema. Helena Solberg and Teresa Trautman, the only two women in Cinema Novo, were integrated in a subordinate and almost anonymous position. Both worked on their colleagues' films.

Much later, the first would direct Carmen Miranda: Bananas is my business, awarded here and abroad. At the time, she did The interview (1966), in which he gave a voice to girls, in a genre that was then rare. The cut makes the film original and historical at the same time. As a professional, he would develop his career in the United States.

The second did The men I had (1973). Of great independence as a conception, it deals with free love and erotic experiences with the utmost seriousness. Needless to say, the dictatorship's censorship banned it forever, after just a few weeks of being shown. The director, producer and screenwriter would dedicate herself to audiovisual.

In cinema, a remarkable discovery was made yesterday. Everyone knows that the Lumnière brothers invented the cinematograph and Méliès invented the fiction film. But now it is known that it is not up to them, but Alice Guy-Blaché honors it. What happened? The usual; She was number 2 at Gaumont Studios, only answering to the owner himself. And she had already made around 1000 short fiction films, starting in 1895. Her husband moved to the United States and she went with her, as a family. There she had a long and illustrious career, eventually running a studio.

Meanwhile, her name was carefully erased from everything she had done in France, without her realizing it. When, many years later, she returned to her homeland, she had to begin a campaign to restore her name where it had been obliterated. When she died, she still hadn't completed the task. But today no one says that Méliès invented the fictional film.

In world cinema, the process has already been well studied. While it was new, amateurish and incredibly creative, women predominated in art, both in Europe and the United States. As soon as it started making money and industrializing, men arrived en masse and expelled women – in fact for good. See how many women are behind the camera in cinema today. There are statistics: it is called the exercise of power.

Tata Amaral made a mini-series titled The protagonists, in 13 epishatreds, studying women in audiovisual, covering the entire history of Brazilian cinema, There are around 70 women who made a colossal contribution. The mini-series is from 2021, the year in which it was shown by Brazil Channel, but it's time to reprise it.

2.

In all fields, history repeats itself. In science, then... Nobody remembers that to this day only one person has won two Nobel Prizes, one for Chemistry and the other for Physics, and that person was a woman, Marie Curie. Now, you might say, Linus Pauling also won two… Yes, but one for science and the other “for Peace”.

In Brussels, Tatiana, 10 years old, who had just done a school project on the scientist, was shocked to discover a Pierre Curie street and no Marie Curie street. She then wrote to the city hall, complaining, and was happy to see the sign's words changed to “Rue Pierre et Marie Curie”. It’s already progress…

The film Stars beyond time shows a group of black female NASA scientists who did all the basic calculations for the American space program, for launching the first rockets, and disappeared. We only hear about men, culminating in Neil Armstrong setting foot on the Moon in 1969. In the real world, it is true that Barack Obama still managed to receive one of the three, when he reached the age of 97... but better late than never. A precursor was the Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who made the second sidereal flight in 1963, circumnavigating the Earth, shortly after the pioneer Yuri Gagárin

All of this shows that biologist Bertha Lutz was not unaware when she bothered God and everyone over what seemed like a minor issue. The renowned scientist, a delegate from Brazil to the conference creating the United Nations in 1947, was one of eight women in the group of 850 male delegates. That's what representation is, skeptics will say, that is, a representation of approximately 1%... She pestered the delegates, demanding an explanation that human rights were “men's and women's rights”, in full. Because, she said, everything that uses the adjective “human” is soon usurped by men as their privilege, and women are once again left out. Fortunately, she managed to impose her point of view, and there we have been in the UN Charter ever since, thanks to her.

In the arts the outlook is no longer encouraging. In the Louvre there are 35 thousand works of art, but only 50 of these are by women, even taking into account those by Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun, who was the official painter of Marie Antoinette and of whom the museum has preserved several paintings. She is the best-known female artist of all.

The famous Italian painters Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1626) and Artemísia Gentileschi (1593-1656), directors of studios and artists exclusively from aristocratic courts, were recently valued and rescued from invisibilization. Canvases from both were even attributed to other painters, men of course, and it took centuries for them to be recognized, currently receiving exhibitions, books and films.

Not even music escaped selective erasure. The lyrical singer Marília Vargas, a soprano who spent years in Switzerland specializing in bel canto baroque and renaissance, has carried out research and dissemination of female composers of classical music, on CDs, concerts, radio programs such as Mater music na Culture Radio, and TV. Everyone has heard of the 12th century Abbess Hildegarde von Bingen, a wise writer, poet and composer of merit. But Marília also included Chiquinha Gonzaga, whom she considers a great artist.

And it goes beyond that, searching other sources in search of other musicians, including Brazilian ones. And he has already found, and recorded, gems, such as the composition of an anonymous Venetian from the Baroque era who questions her lover, about to fall asleep, because she wants more, and inveighs against him in a very funny way: “The afternoon! The pigger!”…

It is good to remember that for centuries scientists thought that ants and bees, in the kingdoms they build, had a King. Because it did not occur to them that a single figure of much larger size, fed and pampered by all the others, could be anything other than a male. The surprise is that anthills and hives never had Kings, but Queens, and they do very well without them. Surprise, surprise!

All of this shows that biologist Bertha Lutz knew what she was doing.

3.

It is not true that the verdict of history is the only judicial instance, far from it. It turns out that the canon is what determines who will or will not remain for posterity. And guess who determines the canon? Has any woman ever been part of the cenacle of sages that determines the canon?

From England comes news of a curious discovery, a writer named Margaret Oliphant. who lived in the century. XIX (London Review of Books, 16.7.2020/96/XNUMX). She wrote XNUMX novels, as she was the breadwinner of the family and depended on the pen to support herself as a widow with young children, two older brothers, a nephew and two nieces. She fed everyone. The commentary focuses on her romance Miss Marjoribanks, of 1866.

Unlike famous writers of the time such as Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, who invariably write about love and achieving marriage, the protagonist is single and highly critical of men, whom she calls “that inferior branch of the human species”. An exception among women romancers of her time, she is interested in everything other than love and winning a marriage. And she mocks Charles Dickens, who performs sudden, sentimental and unlikely masculine twists.

It is realistic, lucid and without illusions. She criticizes men all the time, through the voice of the narrator but also through the voices of the characters. The commentator states that this novel is, without a doubt, the most interesting example of a woman writing about men in the 21st century. XIX.

Gives you something to think about. Do women really only write about love and achieving marriage, or did men try to erase women who didn't write about that? At least she didn't need to adopt male pseudonyms, like the excellent coeval writers George Sand in France and George Eliot in England, or even female ones, like the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen.

If these are still great novelists, and Margaret Oliphant did not survive, it is inevitable to ask: did she not survive because she did not obey the canon? Boy writes about boy and girl writes about girl? The world of men can only be written by men, why don't women get there? Who did Margaret Oliphant think she was, Balzac?

I'm not making it up... At least two and a half millennia ago, the trilogy Oresteia, Aeschylus, a sequence of three tragedies titled Agamemnon, The Coephoras e The Eumenides, it deals with nothing less than the foundation of democracy and the first court.

It begins with the execution of Agamemnon, carried out by his wife Clytemnestra, escorted by Aegisthus, regent of Mycenae. It was revenge for the murder of his daughter Iphigenia by his own father, to provide the calm that paralyzed the invading armada heading towards Troy. The son and heir, Orestes, flees, as he is an obvious obstacle to the enthronement of the Aegisthus family. When he returns much later, he avenges his father, killing his mother and Aegisthus.

Matricide is a major crime, it is not just murder: it is murder with multiple aggravating factors. And the Furies of Hell begin to pursue Orestes. It is then that Pallas Athena, patron saint of Athens and creator of polis, intervenes and orders that he be tried by a court, the first in history. Once the verdict is tied, she breaks the tie (“Minerva's vote”) by acquitting Orestes.

Matricide will go unpunished, the goddesses of revenge of the maternal lineage, the Furies, will be placated and tamed, transforming from Erinias into Eumenides. Clytemnestra's men will receive no justice or redress. So, in a single move, the patriarchal oligarchy creates democracy and the exclusion of women, foreigners and slaves. And that is Greek legacy.

This is the most beautiful justification of patriarchy and the highest art, none other than Attic tragedy. Even at the cost of leaving a matricide unpunished and the specter of the murdered mother wandering aimlessly. Imagine the smaller cases examined here…

But there are reasons to celebrate. France has just included the right to abortion in the Constitution: it is the first country to do so, just as it was the first to decriminalize abortion when Health Minister Simone Weil took up the cause and pushed the law's approval to the end, in 1974, It's good that there are countries that believe in the law.

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of reading and rereading (Sesc\Ouro over Blue). [amzn.to/3ZboOZj]


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