By Vanessa Fonseca
Despite advances in gender justice in recent decades, the consequences of gender norms are still relevant in the job market, in violence rates, in the division of household labor and childcare, and in health, to name a few. Women still receive approximately 70 percent of the income earned by men. A comparative study—the International Men and Gender Equality Survey—(IMAGES) which focuses on women and men and was coordinated by Instituto Promundo and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)—revealed that in Brazil 44 percent of men say that their female partners do more household labor than they do. Male participation in taking care of children is also inferior; just 42 percent of men change their children’s diapers, and only 37 percent bathe them. The study also found that nearly a quarter of women (24 percent) were victims of some kind of domestic violence.
Aiming to reduce these social consequences, Instituto Promundo works in developing methodologies for gender transformation, mainly involving men. Such methodologies are based on two models. One focuses on promoting behaviors and attitudes that are alternative to traditional expressions of masculinities, and that rely on a “positive” perspective demonstrating the “advantages” of becoming a “transformed man.” In the same way masculinities are socially formed by spreading masculine models, it’s important to offer alternatives that foster transformations that lead to equity. It’s a model aimed at sensitizing men to the benefits of being a man “who dialogues,” “who is flexible,” “who assumes his role in the care of his children,” “who shares decisions” and “who establishes relationships based on respect.” This strategy is inspired by the concept of social marketing, which instead of just informing people about the consequences of certain behaviors, looks to communicate “certain behaviors and lifestyles that are more attractive for a certain public, emphasizing their advantages and disadvantages.”
Another model of achieving gender transformation is through campaigns aimed at deconstructing gender boxes as a way to promote respect for diversity. The “Sem Vergonha” or “Shameless” campaign, a part of the Mais Pai+ Brasil project, advocates for men’s engagement in paternity and caregiving, and is based on this second perspective. Mais Pai+ believes that promoting paternal caregiving must involve young adults reflecting about gender norms and discussing their responsibility in reproductive health. The project has developed several actions targeting this population, including developing group educational activities and collectively creating a campaign to communicate each group’s thoughts to their peers.
The “Shameless” campaign was created by nine boys and three girls after four months of group discussions. The tagline of the campaign, “Vergonha pra quê?” (“Why be embarrassed?”), arose from questioning gender norms that often undermine communication about adolescent sexuality, create prejudice, and fail to encourage using condoms. The group observed various so-called deficiencies from which adolescents suffer, including not having pretty enough bodies to attract partners; being mistaken as homosexuals, or not feeling free enough to express their sexual orientation; assuming an active sexuality (in the case of women), and relating to women with more sexual experience (in the case of men). All of these factors appeared as interfering with the normal delivery of condoms in health centers. “Embarrassed” was the most repeated word to express how the adolescents felt about behaviors outside traditional gender norms. As a result, four verbs were chosen to guide the campaign: “Previna-se, sem vergonha!,” “Dialogue, sem vergonha!,” “Curta, sem vergonha” and “Seja você, sem vergonha!” (“Be preventative, don’t be embarrassed!,” “Dialogue, don’t be embarrassed!,” “Have fun, don’t be embarrassed!” and “Be yourself, don’t be embarrassed.”)
The work created by the students includes a website (http://campanhasemvergonha.org.br/) and a Facebook page (https://Facebook.com/CampanhaSemVergonha?ref=hl) where adolescents can share information about gender, sexuality and health. Also, informative primers and murals are available in schools; T-shirts and pins were distributed and four videos scripted and interpreted by the adolescents, which humorously address the subjects of the campaign.
The campaign was launched in 2013 in 10 public schools and reached some 3,000 students. In 2014, students from three schools—Escola Estadual Julia Kubitschek, Escola Estadual João Alfredo and Escola Estadual Ignácio Azevedo do Amaral—who called themselves “Os Sem Vergonha” (“The Shameless”), also participated in workshops on gender and sexuality. They promoted extending the campaign in their schools, something they demanded and that was supported by their professors.
They also helped launch the campaign in six more schools at the invitation of the state secretary of education. “I learned to listen to everybody’s opinions, what boys think and what girls think,” said Carolina Chagas, 16, student of the Escola Estadual João Alfredo, who participated in the workshops in 2014. Added Guilherme Ferreira, one of the adolescents who participated in the workshop to create the campaign, “I’m not used to talking about sex and this exchange was very fruitful. It’s important to be able to communicate. It’s really cool to see a project that started really small, and was borne out of our ideas, become something so big.”
Translated from Portuguese by Sebastian Torterola
Vanessa Fonseca is program coordinator for Instituto Promundo. Since 2005, the organization has been working to promote gender equity with young men and women to produce educational materials and campaigns the aim of which is to transform masculinities. The Shameless campaign’s creative process was coordinated by Vanessa and Letícia Serafim, communications coordinator, with participation from Mohara Valle and Mórula.