Businessmen wear blue, businesswomen wear pink

Christiana Carvalho's photo


President Jair Bolsonaro once again naturalizes Brazil's patriarchal and phallocratic structure

“Boys wear blue, girls wear pink” is the ontological phrase pronounced by the Minister of Women, Family and Human Rights, Damares Alves, right at the beginning of the Bolsonaro government. For many, a gaffe that should be overcome. In general, it demonstrates the reactionary support of this government.

When the president says that after four men, he weakened and made a woman, he makes clear his hierarchical perception of gender. So that he establishes a relationship of dominance of one identity over the other. For Bolsonaro, femininity is associated with fragility, emotion and interdependence, while masculinity is linked to power, rationality and autonomy.

By distinguishing spaces in terms of gender identity, socially constructed, it strengthens symbols and structures of patriarchalism characteristic of Brazilian society, constantly reinforced by Jair Bolsonaro's speech. This became more than evident last week when the president treated male and female businessmen in a separate and quite different way.

Dinner with the Businessmen and lunch with the Businesswomen represent and strengthen this “repeated performance” (BUTLER, 2016) that build gender identities in Brazil on a daily and continuous basis.

Without a critical look at the traditional means of communication and with a naturalization of the patriarchal structure, the symbols present in these two Meetings go unnoticed by public opinion in general. Indeed, for some, Bolsonaro’s Meeting with the Businesswomen Who “Wear Pink” signaled a possible shift in his tone.

Logically, the Meeting with the Businesswomen seeks to create the image of a conciliatory president, although it is very likely that this meeting was treated as a process of humiliation for him and his closest allies. Because, in the patriarchal view, holding a meeting with Businesswomen means going down a step in the hierarchy of genders, which can clearly represent a fragility of their power.

In addition, it is important to highlight that by dividing the business community based on the criteria of sex and gender (considered synonymous with Bolsonaro), the president is going against national interests, without joining the economic efforts of companies that could collaborate.

Finally, it is worth mentioning some of the symbols brought by each of the meetings. When there was a meeting with the businessmen, Bolsonaro was unaccompanied by the First Lady. In the evening, at a dinner, “the businessmen who wear blue” talk alone, with autonomy, about the direction of the country.

In the meeting with “the businesswomen who wear pink”, the meeting time is changed. By proposing a lunch, the president demonstrates his alignment with the norms of a patriarchal society, which understands that the evening does not belong to family women, who must be received by him accompanied, this time, by the First Lady, Michelle Bolsonaro .

And so, without many noticing, President Jair Bolsonaro once again naturalizes Brazil's patriarchal and phallocratic structure.

*Natalia Fingermann Professor of International Relations at the Catholic University of Santos (UNISANTOS).

*Luis Fernando Vitagliano holds a master's degree in political science from Unicamp.


Judith Butler. Gender issues: feminism and identity subversion. Translation: Renato Aguiar. Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 2016.


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