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SOCIETIES have incorporated gender hierarchies into the manner in which they organize power and into their value systems and their social perceptions of what is masculine and what is feminine along different points in history. To redefine concepts whose meanings have crystallized over the centuries into rigid frameworks , to find new ways of exercising power and new spaces where this power can be effected, to stress the links between personal relationships and public organization, and to uncover the emotional mask behind which gender oppression shields itself have been, and remain, the main challenges faced by feminists throughout the world. The extent of their success depends on the strength and power of the women’s movement and on macropolitical arrangements at the national and international levels. In a broad sense, gender relations are the agenda of feminist political action. Gender relations comprise specific issues such as domestic violence, reproductive and sexual rights, and labor, education , and political participation. These issues do not carry the same weight, and are also unevenly distributed in the public’s SOCIAL RESEARCH, Vol. 69, No. 3 (Fall 2002) Bridging the Local and the Global: Feminism in Brazil and the International Human Rights Agenda* BY JACQUELINE PITANGUY *I would like to dedicate this article to Leila Linhares Barsted, who, since the 1970s, has been committed to consolidating advances for and responding to new challenges to Brazilian women. consciousness. The degree to which feminist political action can effect change in these areas is also determined by the influence of institutions such as the Roman Catholic Church, along with traditions and cultural values. As Bourdieu (1992) notes, a law or governmental program expresses not only the dynamic of social forces but also the symbolic systems that allow a logical coordination of public policies. This article will highlight the role of civil society—especially women’s organizations—in reshaping gender relations and influencing human rights language at the national and international level. It will focus mainly on the experience of Brazilian activists and their partners in Latin America’s southern cone countries (Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay). Despite the complexity of Latin America and the major differences in race and ethnicity that characterize this continent, the countries in the southern cone have gone through similar political processes in recent decades (Pitanguy and Heringer, 2001: 9). Until the 1960s and early 1970s, they were ruled by democratic civil governments—albeit with workers, nonwhites, and women largely excluded from the sphere of power. In the sixties and seventies, all these countries suffered military coups, and in the eighties and early nineties all saw their democratic systems restored. The public policies and legislation that have been implemented in Latin American countries reflect the negotiations, pressures, tensions, and alliances that have played out among different social actors in the political arena. Through the use of political parties, social movements, nongovernmental organizations , associations, and unions, these actors fought to have a voice and to be represented in the design of economic and social programs , the formulation of laws and norms, the creation of priorities in public policies, and the distribution of budgetary resources. Current public policies thus express the strengths, influences, exclusions, and conflicts of a game whose dynamics respond to society’s structural characteristics and that incorporates conjunctures of specific historical moments 806 SOCIAL RESEARCH Political Context and Feminism in Brazil In considering the rise of the women’s movement in Brazil, it is essential to refer to the political context of the last 30 years. Although political processes intermingle, for analytical purposes I will distinguish three periods in the recent history of the Brazilian women’s rights movements. The first, running from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties, marks the appearance of feminism as a political actor and its struggle for legitimacy and visibility. The second period, which occurred in the eighties, is dominated by the inclusion of a feminist agenda in public policies and normative frames. The third, in the nineties, sees the internationalization of this agenda through transnational coalitions that will play a major role in the reconceptualization of human rights language. In the sixties and the seventies, the struggle for human rights in most Latin American countries was focused on...


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