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Bitches Unleashed

Performance and Embodied Politics in Favela Funk

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Raquel Moreira

This book challenges white and Western feminist approaches to embodied politics, or the use of the body in everyday enactments of resistance, while mapping transgressive performances of femininities by the funkeiras, marginalized women and transfeminine people of color artists in Brazilian favela funk. Often studied from a white feminist perspective, embodied politics reflects debates about agency and structural change that are generally applicable to white women in the West. Concurrently, studies of femininity tend to universalize experiences of gender oppression encountered by white women to women across the globe. In this work, the author offers a transnational perspective on the performative force of embodied politics as a possible means to disrupt white, classist heteropatriarchal structures that oppress particularly poor women and transfeminine people of color in Brazil. This project has a threefold goal: first, it challenges the theoretical shortcomings of white feminist approaches to embodied politics, providing instead a transfeminista take on the concept. Secondly, this project aims to shed light on how traditional methodological approaches have hindered nuanced understandings of women and people of color and their performances. Third and finally, by challenging and re-envisioning the potential of embodied politics from a transnational perspective, the text intends to contribute to the field of critical intercultural communication’s growing but still limited research around bodies and performance, especially of those who are marginalized in global contexts.
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Chapter One: Femininities, Agency, and White Feminist Failures

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“I’m not a feminist, and I don’t even have power to be that,” said Deize Tigrona, who is featured on the cover of this book, in reply to the “feminist question” at the height of the funkeira’s mainstream media popularity, in 2006.1 Deize’s answer illustrates what is at the core of this chapter, namely that: (1) the funkeira associated feminism with power—she was likely referring to class and racial power—and, consequently, (2) the perception that, as a poor Black woman, feminism was not for her. In a way, Deize was correct: much of the feminist theory and movements that had reached Brazil at the time of the interview, in 2006, either ignored favela funk in general and funkeiras in particular or vehemently criticized both.2 That was a symptom of the overreliance on white and middle-class feminist perspectives (many of which originated in the Global North) and their focus on “gender first” analyses, which then tended to generally understand femininity homogenously, as a de-racialized patriarchal device.3 Feminist theory and movements’ tendency to devaluate all femininity through the unexamined focus on its white, normative version, have positioned femininity in opposition to masculine agency. As a result, they have also disregarded agentic ←19 | 20→and transgressive potential of marginalized femininities for political change.

White feminist approaches to agency tend to take for granted ideas of liberal Western agency and its analytical dichotomy—subordination and resistance. Whether for praise or critique, this focus seems reliant on a concept of universal...

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