With sugar and affection

Image: Brett Sayles


Considerations on Chico Buarque and feminism

I thought a lot about whether I should stick my nose in this aesthetic-cultural-political bullshit. Common sense would advise anyone to stay away. But I couldn't resist. Gay man, columnist, left-wing activist with a degree in literature and a card-carrying “chicoholic”. I could not ignore an almost call coming from so many of my speaking places (contains irony).
In short: Chico Buarque revealed that he will no longer sing “With sugar and affection” and made the following observation in the documentary Nara Leão's free song, available on the organizations streaming service Globe (I haven't seen it yet!): “she [Nara] asked me, she ordered me this song, and she said 'now I want a song about a suffering woman'; she ordered it and I did it, I enjoyed doing [the song], we didn't have that problem [the criticisms]; Feminists are right, I will always agree with feminists, but they need to understand that at that time it did not exist, it did not cross our minds that this was oppression”.

Identitarianism? It is impossible to talk about this topic – even in a journalistic article – without laying some foundations in advance. Even if it may seem like a fleeting bullshit typical of social networks, this “controversy” refers to old and very dense theoretical discussions. What is the role of art and culture? What is the relationship between reality and representation? How to interpret works of art?

Forgive me if I don't adhere to fads. My master of masters – Antonio Candido – taught us the complex dialectic between work, author and historical context. Feminist, anti-racist struggles, for sexual and gender freedoms are constitutive of any and all leftist programs – whether socialist, communist, social democratic, reformist or popular-democratic. From Rosa Luxemburgo we learned: “for a world where we are socially equal, humanly different and totally free”.

We, people of the left, progressives, democrats, petistas, socialists, communists, cannot fall into two mistakes that are still unfortunately very common. The first – more and more demodé – yet present: disqualifying the struggle of women, young people, blacks, LGBT, labeling them as movements that take the focus off the main thing, the class struggle.

The second: getting involved in modern trails and following trends in social networks, the hegemonic media, the supposedly progressive capitalists. Fact. There is a class that just wants to “seal” it. They work only in the sphere of representation, symbolism, the affirmation of identities. They are the “progressive neoliberals”, in the precise definition of Nancy Fraser.

No social classes or redistribution of income. The vibe focuses on making space for women, blacks, LGBT. A sophisticated movement made by a good part of the bourgeoisie, which Globo and many businessmen in tune with what is happening in the US have been promoting it.

In the universe of activism, however, there are sectors that aim only at the struggle for representativeness – which, yes, is extremely important. They practically ignore the anti-systemic battle, for social transformation, against inequality. They make no criticism of neoliberalism. As if the agendas of women, blacks, LGBT could be considered only through the insertion of these sectors in the advertising market, TV programs, series and films, social networks, or, the ultimate achievement, on the boards of large companies. They do not problematize structural exploitation and oppression. Nor do they have the prospect of overcoming neoliberal capitalism.

In Brazil today, for example, the maximum horizon of these sectors is to oppose Bolsonarism. Large capitalist companies, which understood this new context well, changed their advertising strategies. And they keep doing what they always do: seducing, co-opting and absorbing into the “system” all the talented people who stand out on our side.

On the one hand, there are still a number of “orthodox” on the left who ignore, underestimate, reject or openly fight all these struggles. Recently, an important leader of the largest party of the Brazilian left caused controversy by tweeting: “identitarianism is a mistake, an agenda imported from the USA”. He stated, in the same tweet, that the central issue is inequality and the rest only distances the left from the people. That is: he and so many other leaders of the left do not understand or do not recognize the importance of the movement of women, blacks, LGBT.

Are the feminist movement and the black movement something new, recent, artificially imported? Is the LGBT movement, over 40 years old, a minor thing, copied from the gringos? How to combat social inequality without recognizing that the working class has race and gender, lives in different places, has different ages, disabilities, sexual orientations and plural gender identities?

On the other hand, the activism of the black, feminist, LGBT movement cannot establish a kind of permanent court (which validates or cancels), via social networks, people, music, films, series, opinions. In many moments we have watched the battle against the patriarchal, sexist, racist, heteronormative system turn into judgments and attacks on individuals – cisgender, heterosexual white men.

It is a kind of essentialism, in practice. As if every black, poor, LGBT person is “naturally” progressive. It is as if working white men, or middle class, intellectuals, young men – are not or cannot become subjects of mobilizations and social transformations. There is no general and unifying strategy or program to articulate the battle against oppression. But there is no lack of arrogance and sectarianism.

Making a better, fairer, more equal and diverse world is only possible with an alliance between all exploited and oppressed. It is not just adding particularist demands. It is about uniting workers and workers, black and white, young or not so young, lesbians, gays, trans, peripheral or middle class, peasants, small landowners. Facing patriarchy along with structural racism, heteronormativity and neoliberalism.

Returning then to the beginning of this article. It's not cool that our Chico convinced himself that it was necessary to cancel one of his songs. This gesture only reinforces his greatness, delicacy and commitment to a better world. It was not clear which “feminists” criticized the song (by the way, feminism is very plural). Even better is to continue listening to the blue-eyed poet, without giving space to certain norms on the social network, which, deep down, do not contest or transform anything.

* Julian Rodrigues, professor and journalist, is an LGBT and human rights activist.

Originally published on the website Viomundo.


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