Brazilian left-wing women have issued two manifestos this week in support of a journalist, Patricia Lelis, who has been accused of transphobia for saying below an Instagram video she created that “woman is not a feeling,” which, according to Ms Lelis, is the main source of the complaint against her. The first manifesto was published last Sunday, July 12, written by women who are members of the same political party as the journalist, the Labour, which had issued a note on July 8 stating that “transphobia is not an opinion, it’s a crime.” The second manifesto was published one day later and is authored by left-wing women, many of whom are members of other leftist political parties in Brazil and radical feminist collectives.
Both manifestos are clear in their goals: they urge Brazilian leftist parties to uphold women’s right to speak freely about male violence against women. Both manifestos also describe Ms Lelis’s reason for making her video: she was motivated by seeing the viral footage by Instagram user Cubana Angel, the customer who complained at Los Angeles’ Wi Spa, and was told by the spa receptionist that the male individual in the women’s section had a right to be there, since he identified as transgender.
Because of this, the manifesto by left-wing women also mentions the importance of speaking up on male indecent exposure, which is an issue that has recently gotten wider coverage in British media. Since last week, the UK has been getting to grips with Sarah Everard, a 33 year old woman who was abducted, raped and murdered in March, 2021. During the trial of Ms Everard’s killer, the public became aware that in 2015, the police were alerted about the former serviceman, who was caught naked from the waist down in his car. Days before he abducted and killed Sarah, he had exposed himself to a female staff at a McDonalds.
Since the Wi Spa video went viral, it has emerged that individuals who were born male have been accessing the women’s areas at Wi Spa at least since 2018, according to a review on Tripadvisor. The customer review from a user nicknamed “Nomad” says that a person, born male, was in the female communal showers, naked with the women, and that she heard him saying “he has had sex with probably one hundred women and that he was looking for a female girlfriend to share his time with,” which she thought was innapropriate. In her review, she also says that “a transgender person does not act like a guy around women nor they state how much they like women nor how much they like having sex with them.”
“This is not the first time that Brazilian left wing parties have attacked women from their own ranks for expressing the need for debate on transgender issues.”
Lelis’s video on Instagram, published on July 8, had thousands of views - she has a verified account - and the backlash came instantly, with trans activists condemning both the video and the message she wrote with the post, which reads that “woman is not a feeling.” The official account of the Brazilian Labour Party posted a link on Twitter to their position statement, which didn’t explain what part of the journalist’s video they considered “transphobic.” They went on to condemn her “transphobic posts'' and threatened the journalist to be disciplined.
According to Lelis, however, the Labour party she is a member of contacted her about the post and, according to her, promised they would address the incident at Wi Spa. Hours later, she was taken by surprise with their position statement condemning not the Wi Spa incident, but herself. Trans groups within the party have also demanded her expulsion.
But the worst part was yet to come. After Lelis’s post went viral and the quick response from Brazil’s Labour Party on the same day, she learned that her employers were flooded with thousands of emails asking for her to be fired. In the meantime, her social media accounts had received a torrent of dick pics. Speaking to 4W.Pub, Ms Lelis said she had never experience such misogyny.
“I witnessed a different kind of violence,” she told 4W.Pub. “I had never received so many aggressive messages, so many death threats and threats of rape, not even when I denounced Brazilian pastor and congressman Marco Feliciano for rape. A little over a month ago a man also affiliated with the same party publicly threatened me with death on his facebook, for all to see. The party did not think it was something serious, because right after this man deleted the post on facebook, there was no repudiation note for the death threat I received, there was nothing. I had to hire lawyers and handle the case in the criminal sphere, but the party did nothing,” Ms Lelis stated.
This is not the first time that Brazilian left wing parties have attacked women from their own ranks for expressing the need for debate on transgender issues. In February 2021, an elected politician, Raquel Marques, was viciously attacked online for posting to Facebook that “she wished some politicians on the left cared as much about child safety issues as they care about trans issues.” The post she wrote, published on Trans Visibility day in Brazil, received a barrage of criticism and cost her her position. Ms Marques was removed from office that same month.
The second manifesto supporting Patricia Lelis, by left wing women, mentions another incident that points to sexist double standards on the Brazilian political left. The same week that Ms Lelis published her video, the labour Party issued a note about a politician from PSOL, another leftist party. This man, Paulo Eduardo Gomes, had said to a black lesbian councilwoman from Labour that if she wanted to be a man, “she would be treated as a man” and. According to the councilwoman, Veronica Lima, he had to be physically contained by other government staff. However, the male politician who verbally attacked a councilwoman in this way was not personally repudiated on social media neither by Brazil’s Labour Party nor their president, contrary to Ms Lelis’s case.
“What we have witnessed scares us," said a member of the group writing the second manifesto published. She continues: "The left punishes hard any woman from their own party if they think it's 'transphobia,' but when a man from another party verbally abuse a black lesbian councilwoman from their own party, we only see a simple note from them saying that he has done ‘self-criticism’ on his acts.” She finishes her statement saying women “won’t be silenced.”
Ms Lelis agrees. “The party wanted me to make a note apologizing for saying that being a woman is not a feeling, it shocked me. We've reached a point where I can't say women menstruate, I have to say "people who menstruate" so that no one is offended, but no one cares about a woman's erasure when we're forced to erase our biology and body. As a woman, I want to have my right to talk about myself and mine, I want to be able to talk about the oppression we are going through and suffering from the queer group that every day has silenced our existence,” she finishes.
Women from the Brazil Labour Party stated for 4W.Pub: “We are women, we are working class, mothers. We are activists, with double shifts, and anticapitalists. We achieved the Maria da Penha bill (to protect women from make violence), the Femicide bill, we are also fighting for women’s emancipation with the Bolsa Familia (a benefit for women with children) and housing benefit. Most of us only graduated from University with government benefits. Our intelectual, feminist emancipationist view is a legacy they will not take from us. We are (in Brazil) 52% of the Brazilian population, and even then they want to silence us. We are women from all skin colours, origins and social class. We are Brazilian women fighting and we are Labour Party.”
The manifesto by leftwing women’s collectives translated to English can be found here.
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