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Bitches Unleashed

Performance and Embodied Politics in Favela Funk


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 Three: Femininities on Display: Transgression and the Body in Performance


Even though funkeiras face similar systemic barriers as a group, they are not a monolithic unit. Mainstream media, governments, and academia insist on constructing funkeiras homogeneously, but their performative styles are actually diverse. The many ways funkeiras perform femininities are not only affirming of their positions as marginal artists, as women and travestis of color, and as poor individuals but are also in constant negotiation with normative white femininity and white cisheteropatriarchy, and differences in race and gender identity play an important part in the level of conformity funkeiras might try to enact. In this chapter, I discuss how the intersections of gender, race, and class shape funkeiras’ transgressive embodiments of femininities. First, I make a brief note on the concepts of performance and transgression this analysis espouses. Then, I shed light on funkeiras’ reflections on the material and symbolic aspects of their performances of racialized femininities on and off stage, such as clothing, body shape, and occupation in the movement (MC, dancer, or both) in connection with issues of morality. I end this chapter with further illustrations of ←77 | 78→funkeiras’ varied ways of transgressing normative white femininity in performance.

The study of performance (and of identity as performance) is central to marginalized communities, as it offers an alternative to other ways of thinking that position identity and representation as exclusively symbolic and fixed.1 Madison and Hamera add that, more than referring exclusively to theatrics, performance is conceptualized as “ways of comprehending how human beings fundamentally make...

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