Being a woman in Zona Sul : Transnational Femininity, Sex and Love in Rio de Janeiro
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"In this research, we analysed how carioca women and female tourists construct, represent and perform female sexual identity in Zona Sul, Rio de Janeiro. What is means to be a woman in Zona Sul - where tourism exists alongside the daily lives of carioca women - is influenced by right wing, conservative political spheres, which increased due to the election of Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro promotes a conservative right-wing policy that places women in a subordinate position while viewing the female body as male property, which reflects notions of machismo in Brazilian society. We seek to move beyond static ideas ascribed to the gendered body. In doing so we understand women not as passive objects within Brazilian society, but as active agents that (re)construct and (re)define notions of gender. From an anthropological and intersectional perspective, we thus understood woman as a fluid, ever-changing concept that moves beyond woman as a static, biological given (Butler 1988, 2011). What it means to be a woman or a man is constructed, and may be resisted, within specific social, cultural contexts that form ideas on how to behave as a woman or a man (Abu-Lughod 2010; Beauvoir 2010). We conducted a complementary qualitative research for a period of three months in Rio de Janeiro. Maurice focused on how female tourists - as non-Brazilian women - give meaning to their sexual identity while being abroad. Elise focused on how carioca women perform and experience their sexual identity as local inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro. By studying carioca women and female tourists, we took the possibility of difference between and within these two groups of women into account since other axes of identity - such as nationality, ethnicity and class - may influence the way women position themselves in society (Crenshaw 1989; Wekker 2016). Furthermore, we aimed to understand the way in which both groups experience, perform and construct notions of femininity, sex and love, which may transform in relation to another sexual being (Vertovec 2009; Walsh 2009). Therefore, we studied how carioca women and female tourists experience their sexual identity in an intimate (transnational) relationship. Machismo can be explained as a set of ideas that view women as weak and subordinate to men (Merker 2009). Female tourists understand femininity in relation to their home country while being in Rio de Janeiro. Some female tourists extend the meaning of gender by understanding gender in terms of energies, where both masculinity and femininity can be expressed by women and men at the same time. Masculine is often seen as dominant, extravert and controlling, while feminine is considered to be more sensitive, kind and introvert. Extending gender boundaries may function as an example for many carioca women because they view European women as (sexually) liberated. Carioca women aim to relate being feminine to being strong, confident and independent. However, they are limited to Rio de Janeiro that is marked by structures of machismo and female unsafety. Since structures of machismo are assumed to be present in every man born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, carioca women may express aversion towards carioca men. Contrarily, female tourists often feel more attracted to attitudes of carioca men over men from their home countries, since European men are seen as less passionate and romantic in comparison to carioca men. This attraction comes both ways since female tourists experience to be an object of sexual desire of carioca men, as blond, white, European women. The received male-attention is sometimes experienced as enjoyable, while at the same time it often remains a superficial, short-term reward. Moreover, sexual attraction might be a trigger to fall in love or to be in an intimate relationship with someone else; as a result sex and love co-exist togerther (Walsh, 2009). Both carioca women and female tourists seek to balance love and sex as important aspects of an intimate relationship. For carioca women, love is embedded in issues of politics and machismo. Therefore - in the eyes of many left-wing, upper class carioca women - a partner cannot be a machista. Machistas are often experienced to be jealous, possessive, aggressive and unfaithful - being most often lower class, low educated men - who keep women from expressing themselves as confident and independent. Therefore, carioca women consciously decide to either start a relationship with a non-Brazilian man or with a highly educated, left-wing, middle- or upper class Brazilian man. Although they might experience a lack of passion in such stable relationships, love and respect are considered more important. Likewise, female tourists argue that it is important to harmonize with their partner in core- values (e.g. respect and honesty) to have a well-functioning relationship with someone who is not from their home country. However, since many female tourists stay in Rio de Janeiro for a limited period of time they are more able - in comparison to carioca women - to be moved by their feelings instead of their ratio. Thus, the way carioca women and female tourists experience and construct their sexual identity in relation to carioca men and non-Brazilian men differs. The main reason for this difference is that carioca women aim to reposition themselves as independent and strong women in Brazilian society while female tourists make less conscious decisions when it comes to starting an intimate relationship in Rio de Janeiro. After all, being a female tourist in Rio de Janeiro is a temporary experience, while carioca are inescapably tied to Rio de Janeiro as the city they were born in."