What is the “gender ideology” ?: social and political transformations in Brazil based on the appropriation of a discursive strategy

Received: February 6, 2019

Acceptance: February 13, 2020

From Brazil, the sociological gaze of Maria das Dores Campos Machado has become a benchmark in Latin America to understand various problems that are articulated at the intersection of religion, gender and politics. Her academic career has been developed at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, where she is coordinator of the Research Center on Religion, Gender, Social Action and Politics.

The research work of Maria das Dores is of great relevance to understand, from a gender perspective, the particularities in which the growth of evangelicals in Brazil took place, as well as the transformations in the politicization of parliamentary and religious actors of this sector. Throughout his career he has investigated gender relations and sexuality in the Pentecostal field, the political participation of evangelicals in issues of sexual morality, the various ways in which religions position themselves against homosexuality.

In recent years, she has focused on the analysis of the way in which the discourse on “gender ideology” was introduced both in the legislative chambers and in Brazilian society. We talked about this topic in the framework of the Platform for Dialogue coves "Religions and Public Space in Latin America", in November 2019, in Guadalajara, Mexico.

This interview constitutes an important approach to understand the origin of the term “gender ideology” as a discursive elaboration created by the Catholic Church to stop the advances of the feminist agenda and sexual diversity. In this conversation, Maria das Dores Campos Machado reveals how this strategy, of Catholic origin, was used by evangelical deputies and senators in Brazil as a counteroffensive to the gender perspective in public policies, which, in turn, diverted attention from various practices of religious intolerance that placed Pentecostal groups and actors at the center of public opinion.

Likewise, it reflects on the consequences of the appropriation of the discourse on the “gender ideology”, such as: polarization in families in which opposing world views concur, the normalization and trivialization of hate speech, the fragmentation of the social fabric, misinformation and the spread of fake news.

In the second part of this interview, we talk about the practices of resistance in Brazil in the face of the rise of neo-conservatism, post-fascism and authoritarian policies that increase inequality, as well as about the centrality of the image of Marielle Franco - a black woman, lesbian and feminist murdered in Rio de Janeiro in 2018 - as a symbol of the resistance inside and outside this country.

Finally, Maria das Dores raises an overview of future scenarios in Brazil in the face of Brazilian society's fear of a return to the military dictatorship with Bolsonaro at the head of the government, as well as in matters of gender and sexuality.

This interview represents an opportunity to look back at Brazil and, based on this, from our own reality, rethink the transformations that Latin America is experiencing in political and religious terms, which do not escape the frameworks that are trying to produce changes on a world scale of course, as happens with the discourse on “gender ideology”, which has called into question the secularism of some nation-states, as well as the advance of secularization in contemporary societies.


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