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Interface - Comunicação, Saúde, Educação

Print version ISSN 1414-3283On-line version ISSN 1807-5762

Interface (Botucatu) vol.22 no.64 Botucatu Jan./Mar. 2018  Epub May 18, 2017

http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/1807-57622016.0286 

DOSSIÊ: GÊNERO, SAÚDE, CORPOREIDADES

Construction of the stereotype of “Northeastern macho” in the Brazilian forro songs

Aline Veras Morais Brilhante(a) 

Juliana Guimarães e Silva(b) 

Luiza Jane Eyre de Souza Vieira(c) 

Nelson Filice de Barros(d) 

Ana Maria Fontenelle Catrib(e) 

(a,c,e) Programa de PósGraduação em Saúde Coletiva, Universidade de Fortaleza (UNIFOR). Av. Washington Soares, 1321, Bloco S, Sala S-1 – Edson Queiroz. Fortaleza, CE, Brasil. 60811-905. alineveras@unifor.br; janeeyre@unifor.br; catrib@unifor.br

(b) Instituto de Educação, Universidade do Minho. Braga, Portugal. ju.guimaraess@gmail.com

(d) Departamento de Saúde Coletiva, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas, Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp). Campinas, SP, Brasil. nelfel@uol.com.br


ABSTRACT

The objective is to understand the process of construction and evolution of male gender identity in Brazilian Northeast, based on study of forró songs. Based on analyzes of the lyrics as a semiotic territory, the corpus of research was composed of letters of iconic representatives of each period of forró from the Brazilian composer Luiz Gonzaga to contemporaneity, organized in the following categories ‘Nordestinidade’ (to be from the Northeast”, ‘’male imagery’, ‘female imagery’ and ‘gender violence’. From the analysis emerged that cultural identity of Northeast was historically consolidated through patriarchal principles. Forró lyrics discourse showed how these principle were adapted to the market laws of a globalized world, progressively perceiving women as a commodity thus legitimizing their subordination. In this context it is emphasized the importance of understanding cultural symbols and their role in the construction of male and female subjectivities in Brazilian Northeast.

Key words: Gender identity; Culture; Violence against women

RESUMO

Objetiva-se compreender a construção e as modificações da identidade de gênero masculina na Região Nordeste, com base no estudo das letras de forró. A partir das análises das canções como um território semiótico, o corpus da pesquisa conglomera letras de representantes icônicos, de cada período do forró, incluindo desde o compositor brasileiro Luiz Gonzaga até a contemporaneidade. Este corpus organiza-se nas categorias ‘Nordestinidade’, ‘Imagética Masculina’, ‘Imagética feminina’ e ‘Violência de Gênero’. Pode-se apreender que a identidade cultural do nordestino foi historicamente consolidada nos princípios patriarcais. Os discursos do forró comprovaram a adaptação desses preceitos às leis de mercado do mundo globalizado, levando, cada vez mais, a mulher a se perceber como mercadoria e a legitimar sua subordinação. Neste contexto, ressalta-se a relevância da compreensão dos símbolos culturais e de seu papel na construção das subjetividades masculinas e femininas no Nordeste brasileiro.

Palavras-Chave: Identidade de gênero; Cultura; Violência de gênero

RESUMEN

El objetivo es comprender la construcción y las modificaciones de la identidad de género masculina en la Región Nordeste, con base en el estudio de las letras de forró. A partir de los análisis de las canciones como un territorio semiótico, el corpus de la investigación congrega letras de representantes icónicos de cada período del forró, incluyendo desde el compositor brasileño Luiz Gonzaga hasta el período contemporáneo. Este corpus se organiza en las categorías ‘Nordestinidad’, ‘Imagética Masculina’, ‘Imagética femenina’ y ‘Violencia de Género’. Se puede captar que la identidad del nordestino fue históricamente consolidada en los principios patriarcales. Los discursos del forró comprobaron la adaptación de esos preceptos a las leyes de mercado del mundo globalizado, llevando cada vez más a que la mujer se percibiera como mercancía y a legitimar su subordinación. En este contexto, se subraya la relevancia de la comprensión de los símbolos culturales y de su papel en la construcción de las subjetividades masculinas y femeninas en el Nordeste brasileño.

Palabras-clave: Identidad de género; Cultura; Violencia de género

INTRODUCTION

“If money is in hand, the panties are on the floor.” This is how gender relationships have been treated in the lyrics of forró, which has contributed to the persistence of stereotypes of a violent masculinity, in spite of the public policies established in Brazil.

Sustainable measures for confronting gender-based violence demand that we break free of the trap of a masculine-feminine binary. Such dichotomies reinforce the power relations and prevent remedial possibilities. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss the hegemonic stereotypes of gender with the aim of deconstructing and resignifying them1,2,3.

Masculinity – like femininity and even sexuality itself – does not represent a mere cultural formulation of a natural fact. There are different models of masculinity constructed in accordance with the insertion of men in the social, political, economic, and cultural structure 2-4.

The identity of the Northeastern man is structured by reiterating the image of the crude, harsh, and violent Northeast. Internalizing entirely the characteristics of the land, this man becomes hostile, arid, and dry. Violence becomes a strong component of his subjectivity: forged daily in a specific sociopolitical situation, based and perpetuated on the principles of patriarchy5,6.

In this context, the discourses of different social technologies3 that function in the continuous formation process of cultural identities2 and gender performativity7,8 cannot be ignored. Neither should the historical changes, capable of shaking the traditional frames of reference responsible for the feeling of belonging, and to coalesce in the construction of identity processes4.

Music operates as a form of cultural production that greatly influences the construction of identities,9 and forró is a musical style that accompanied historical and cultural changes since the 1940s, preserving a broad public conception of the North and Notheast regions, among all age groups and social classes, with lyrics strongly characterized by hierarchical gender representations10. This article sets out to understand the construction and modification of the masculine gender identity of the Northeast, based on a study of the lyrics of forró in its different phases and decades.

METHODOLOGY

The methodological plan requires a brief clarification regarding the insertion of the lyrics into the melodies of forró. Influenced by aesthetic standards established in the Southeast of the country in the 1940s, Luiz Gonzaga “created” the baião song genre, moving away from the characteristically instrumental norm of northeastern music of the era. Since then, the parameters that characterized his forró as “traditional” and “roots” were established11. The music of Gonzaga, associated with other social technologies such as the regional literature of the 1930s, contributed to the creation of an idiosyncratic image of a singular and atemporal Northeast which, although it had never existed11,12, was internalized even by northeasterners10.

It was through the forró music recorded by Gonzaga that Brazil constructed a representative image of the Northeast11. Thus, forró acquired the status of a Northeastern cultural symbol13.

By way of other influences and socio-historic changes, forró has undergone various transformations, and can be divided into the following phases13:

  • Traditional forró: beginning in the 1940’s with Luiz Gonzaga, followed by Marinês and Jackson do Pandeiro, among others.

  • “University” forró, itself divided into two phases. The first began around 1975, represented by Alceu Valença, Zé Ramalho, Elba Ramalho, Geraldo Azevedo, and Nando Cordel. The second phase began in the 1990’s, with groups comprised only of men, such as Falamansa.

  • Electric forró: various bands comprised of musicians, vocalists of both sexes, and dancers

Understanding the songs as a semiotic territory, the corpus of the research was composed of the lyrics of iconic representatives of each period, always seeking to hear a feminine voice, which resulted in the exclusion of the second phase of “university” forró. The coexistence of these phases avoided a time gap.

We compiled all of the songs recorded by Luiz Gonzaga and Marinês (traditional forró), Alceu Valença and Elba Ramalho (first phase of “university” forró), Mastruz com Leite (precursor of electronic forró), Aviões do Forró, Garota Safada, Saia Rodada, and Ferro na Boneca (contemporary electronic forró). The selection of songs occurred after an exhaustive examination of the lyrics guided by the analytical constructs that referred to the models of masculinity and feminity, and to the relations between the genders. 617 songs were selected, organized by time period and grouped into the categories Northeastern-ness, Masculine Imagetic, Feminine Imagetic, and Gender Violence. After the exclusion of redundant discourses, 188 songs remained. The selection now presented to us was restricted to eight songs selected in the category Masculine Imagetic and one song in the category Northeastern-ness (“Carcará”). The latter was added with the aim of contributing to the contextualization of the others. In accordance with each period selected and included in this study, the refinement process of 617 songs for a total of 188 is described in Figure 1. For clarification, it should be noted that this compiling process took a period of six months to complete.

Figure 1 Fluxogram of the selection process of the research corpus. 

The lyrics were read, the songs listened to, and the videos, when available, watched on average 20 times. Each lyric was segmented into units of signification, from which we began a detailed process of interpretation, articulating them among themselves and within the socio-historical and political context in which they occured15. We then worked with the discursive formations, relating them to the ideology of the subject in order to interpret them using the meanings of the realized, imagined, or possible discourses.

The understanding of “ideology” used in this essay calls upon the Althusserian16 thinking found in the theoretical construction used by Stuart Hall:

By ideology I mean the mental frameworks – the languages, the concepts, categories, imagery of thought, and the systems of representation – which different classes and social groups deploy in order to make sense of, figure out and render intelligible the way society works17 (p.26).

When we consider that the performances of gender(s) directly relate to the power and ideology that mold social reality7,18, and that “every social practice has cultural or discursive conditions of existence”4 (p.33), we find a favorable panorama for the analysis of discourse, utilized here following the French school19 that articulates the linguistic with the socio-historical and the ideological, placing language in relation to the modes of social production. Considering that the way of saying something has a direct relationship with the meaning attributed to discourses, we opted to make the lyrics available in the same way that they were conveyed to the public, in spite of recognizing the frequent disregard for the formal rules of the Portuguese language.

RESULTS

VIOLENCE AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE REGIONAL IDENTITY OF THE NORTHEASTERN MALE

In 1964, the song “Carcará” by João do Vale and José Candido was released, rerecorded as a forró by Marinês.

“Carcará Carcarái

Lá no sertão There in the backlands

É um bicho que avoa que nem avião Is a beast that flies just like an airplane

É um pássaro malvado It is an evil beast

Tem o bico volteado que nem gavião It has a hooked beak just like an eagle

Carcará Carcará

Quando vê roça queimada When he sees the burnt earth

Sai voando, cantando He takes off flying, singing

Carcará Carcará

Vai fazer sua caçada Going for his hunt

Carcará come inté cobra queimada Carcará even eats the burned snake

Quando chega o tempo de invernada When the dry season arrives

Carcará mesmo assim num passa fome Even then Carcará does not go hungry

Os burrego que nasce na baixada The lamb born in the lowland

Carcará Carcará

Pega, mata, e come Captures, kills, and eats

Carcará Carcará

Num vai morrer de fome Will never die of hunger

Carcará Carcará

Mais coragem do que home More courage than man

Carcará Carcará

Pega, mata e come Captures, kills, and eats

Carcará e malvado, é valentão Carcará is evil, he’s a bully

É a águia de lá do meu sertão He’s the eagle of my backlands

Os burrego novinho num pode andá The new lambs can’t even walk

Ele puxa o imbigo inté matá He hauls them by their belly and kills them

Carcará Carcará

Pega, mata e come Captures, kills, and eats

Carcará Carcará

Num vai morrer de fome Will never go hungry

Carcará Carcará

Mais coragem do que home More courage than man

Carcará Carcará

Pega, mata e come Captures, kills, and eats”

The bird of prey is transfigured into the northeastern oligarchy, which “invented” the image of an exclusively dry Northeast, with the goal of maintaining its political and economic power after the shift of the national economic axis to the Southeastern coffee planters20. The backlands came to synthesize the imagetic of a new and unified Northeast, in a perennial state of calamity, ignoring the geographic and climactic diversity of the Region21.

The dry and poor Northeast became the banner of the regional elites under which they asserted the continuous influx of resources. Their political power, meanwhile, was guaranteed by coronelismoii and by an inventive war of values between the traditional Northeast and the modern South/Southeast. They created another reductionist hierarchical binary22 that defined the imagetic of the Northeast for the rest of Brazil, characterized the sentiment of belonging of the northeasterners themselves, and created an imagetic-discursive elaboration replete with xenophobia10 that reifies and traverses regions.

Exposed to an exploitative situation, northeasterners of all regions – the beach-dwellers, the fishermen, the cowboys, the cotton growers – identify with this stereotype of the arid, rough, and naturally aggressive Northeast, valorizing above all the attributes that guarantee survival in these circumstances, including courage. More than intrepidness and confidence, courage is synonymous with bravery and fearlessness, attributes easily confused with aggressiveness. There is no honesty in the Carcará; there is courage, ill-will… violence.

The naturalized violence in the discourse and life of the northeastern male is confirmed in “Forró de Caruaru” (1955) by Zé Dantas, recorded by Luiz Gonzaga.

“No forró de Sá Joaninha At the forró of Miss Joaninha

No Caruaru In Caruaruiii

Compadre Mané Bento My friend, Mané Bento,

Só faltava tu All it lacked was you

Nunca vi meu cumpadi My friend, I’ve never seen

Forgança tão boa A party so good

Tão cheia de brinquedo So full of amusements

De animação And animation

Bebendo na função Drinking at the event

Nós dancemos sem parar We danced non-stop

Num galope de matá Killing it on the dance floor

Mas alta madrugada But in the middle of the night

Pro mode uma danada Because of a damned woman

Que veio de Tacaratu Who came from Tacaratu

Matemo dois sordado We killed two soldiers

Quatro cabo e um argento Four corporals and one sergeant

Cumpadi Mané Bento Friend Mané Bento

Só fartava tu. We only lacked you.

Meu irmão Jesuíno My brother Jesuíno

Grudou numa nega Grabbed hold of a black woman

Chamego dum sujeito Some man’s sweetheart

Valente e brigão He was a troublemaker, ready to fight

Eu vi que a confusão I could tell that trouble

Não tardava começar Was about to begin

Pois o cabra de punhá Because the guy with the dagger

Com cara de assassin With the face of a murderer

Partiu pra Jesuíno Made straight for Jesuíno

Tava feito o sururu And all hell broke loose

[…]”

Dance, animation, “forgança” (regionalism for the world folgança or pass-time, characteristic of the “folgado” or carefree person) and murder, all on the same level, serving the mesh of micropower that is interlaced through all spheres, bringing together men with no possession with power holders by way of violence and arbitrariness. The motivation for the crimes, “because of a woman,” reveals the transformation of the woman into an object possessed by men and the stereotype of the female as a traitorous, destabilizing being. Nevertheless, the masculine force will be the force of order, naturalizing violence as an element to enforce order23.

Northeastern pride was introjected the characteristics that the cultural artifacts projected as innate10. This reading of a naturalistic/deterministic base contributed to a culturally constructed system of references, that converges for the creation of a homogenous image and a sentiment of belonging to the Region, in a context of intense inter-regional conflicts and power struggles with the capital5,10,21.

The patriarchal structure is not the exclusive provenance of northeast Brazil10. The particularity of the northeastern patriarchy, however, is in the context in which it is strengthened. Abolition of slavery, ascension of the Republic, industrialization, and the political transformations at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century – these events counterbalance the decadent power of the northeastern oligarchy. This oligarchy, for its part, treated these processes as “social feminization,” minimizing the impact of an emerging crisis of masculinity based on a hierarchy of the races, classes, and gender24.

The binary of northeastern masculinity versus the “feminization” of the South became incorporated into the regional identity invented for the northeastern male, being personified in “Xote dos Cabeludos” (Dance of the Long-hairs” (1967) by José Clementino and Luiz Gonzaga, recorded by Luiz Gonzaga.

“Atenção senhores cabeludos Attention, long-haired men

Aqui vai o desabafo de um quadradão A big “square” is going to vent now.

Cabra do cabelo grande A guy with big hair

Cinturinha de pilão Skinny waist

Calça justa bem cintada Well-fitted tight pants

Costeleta bem fechada Thick sideburns

Salto alto, fivelão High-heeled shoes with buckles

Cabra que usa pulseira A guy who wears a bracelet

No pescoço medalhão A medallion around the neck

Cabra com esse jeitinho A guy who is this way

No sertão de meu padrinho In the backlands of my Godfather

Cabra assim não tem vez não A guy like that has no place

Não tem vez não Has no place there, no

Não tem vez não Has no place there, no

No sertão de cabra macho In the backlands of the tough guys

Que brigou com Lampião Who fought with Lampiãoiv

Brigou com Antônio Silvino Fought with Antônio Silvino

Que enfrenta um batalhão Who confront the battalion

Amansa burro brabo Tame the wild donkey

Pega cobra com a mão Catch a snake by the hand

Trabalha sol a sol Work from sun-up to sundown

De noite vai pro sermão At night they go to the sermon

Rezar pra Padre Ciço To pray for Father Cicerov

Falar com Frei Damião To speak with Friar Damião

No sertão de gente assim In the backlands of people like that

No sertão de gente assim In the backlands of people like that

Cabeludo tem vez não The long-hair has no place, no

Cabeludo tem vez não The long-hair has no place, no

Cabeludo tem vez não The long-hair has no place, no”

All the attributes of the “macho guy” are represented by courage mixed with aggressiveness, the disposition for work, and religiosity. Any image that deviates from this is rejected, such as in the expression “man with this jeitinho,” the diminutive way of saying “this way” which ridicules the image of a man with characteristics taken as feminine.

ADAPTATIONS AND RESISTENCES OF THE PATRIARCHY

During the processes of modernization in the country in the 1970s and 80s and the advance of the feminist movement, there emerged new and subtle mechanisms of control, as described in “Anjo do Prazer” (Angel of Pleasure, 1985) by Jaguar and Tadeu Mathias, recorded by Elba Ramalho.

“Olha bem nego nesse meu jeitinho Look here, man, this is my way

De dançar chorinho Of dancing chorinhovi

De dançar forró Of dancing forró

De brincadeira lá na gafieira Having fun at the dance club

Varo a noite inteira I pass the whole night

Gosto de xodó I like a little affection

Tiro de letra um bolero, um tango I’ll master a bolero, a tango

Um xaxado, um mambo A xaxadovii, a mambo

Mando bem no pé I’m good on my feet

Tenho estampado aqui no meu rosto It’s written on my face

Sou pra qualquer gosto I’m good for any taste

Sou de A e B I belong to A and B

Anjo da noite, bandido” Angel of the night, bandit”

Already in the title, the feminine voice self-identifies as an “angel of pleasure,” a title reflecting sensuality and expressing the singer’s freedom in relation to her body, behavior, and sexuality. She occupies the external space – the club – and permits herself to enjoy “a little pleasure”, openly expressing her desire.

The tradition, however, is essentially conservative and is also present in the periods of historic changes23. The apparent freeing from the masculine dominance and abuse regarding female sexuality hides another type of submission. “I’m good for any taste,” she affirms, after listing for the “man” a series of qualities about her aptitude as a dancer and her voluptuousness. In a subtle way, she places herself as a product, whose packaging is compatible with the function on offer, wherein she has it “written on her face” that is she is “for any taste.”

The prepositional clause “belong to,” with its implicit sense of possession, was chosen by the personage to declare she belongs to “A” and “B,” which dispels the notion of her supposed liberation, assuming that she can only belong to one owner, to someone hierarchically superior. In the song in question, the woman does not belong to a man, she belongs to “A and B.” The letters of the alphabet, like unknown variables in a mathematical equation, suggest a non-specificity, corroborated by the connective conjunction “and,” suggesting that she belongs to men in general, which makes her an “angel of the night, bandit,” just like women who allow themselves to express their sexuality and occupy an environment different from the home were considered.

While female sexuality continued to be regulated, violence was still celebrated as a masculine trait, as we can observe in the song “Martelo a Bala e Facão” (Marteloviii with the Bullet and Machete”(1974) by Sérgio Ricardo, recorded by Alceu Valença.

“Zé Tulão é chegada a tua hora Zé Tulão, your hour has arrived

Vá fazendo o teu último pedido Go on and make your last wish

É na faca é na foice é no estampido With knife, with sickle, with shots

É no verso é na rima e sem demora It’s in the verse and the rhyme without delay

Já que tu vai correr comece agora Since you are going to run, start now

Que no fim da peleja esta Maria Because at the end of this fight, this Maria

Vai levar das minhas mãos a luz do dia Will take from my hands the light of day

Que só sendo jagunço em qualquer lida Because being a hired gun in any kind of work

Pode o cabra possuir tudo na vida A guy can have everything in life

E entregar a uma mulher toda alegria And deliver every joy unto a woman

Treme a terra e o trovão se arrebenta The Earth shakes and the thunder bursts

Toda vez que um vaqueiro se enfurece Every time that a cowboy gets angry

Mãos pro céu se levantam numa prece Hands raised to the heavens in prayer

Corre o fraco e o forte não se aguenta The weak run and the strong can’t withstand it

Para o rio o mar não se movimenta The river stops, the sea does not move

E se então é por amor a luta dobra And if it is for love, it’s twice the struggle

Pois coragem de amar tenho e de sobra I have courage to love, enough to spare

Se acabou Zé do Cão prepara a cova It’s all over Zé do Cão, prepare your grave

Que eu te pego te aleijo e dou-te sova Because I’ll catch you, cripple you and beat you

E te faço rastejar pior que cobra I’ll make you crawl lower than a snake

É o inferno no meu canto de guerra There is hell in my war-cry

Pois consigo arrancar da pedra o pranto Because I can draw tears from a stone

O meu nome é temido em todo canto My name is feared all over the place

Onde voam as aves sobre a terra Where birds fly over the earth

E se existe um amor atrás da serra And if there is love across the mountains

Não há nada que feche o meu caminho There is nothing that will stand in my way

Eu enfrento a vereda e todo espinho I’ll face every path and every thorn

Ouve bem Zé Tulão segura o tombo Listen well, Zé Tulão, and don’t fall over

Que eu te capo te esfolo caço e zombo Or I will castrate you, fleece you, hunt and mock you

Sou leão e tu és o passarinho I am a lion and you are little bird

Se é o inferno no teu canto de guerra If there is hell in your war-cry

É no inferno o meu canto de paz There is hell in my song of peace

Por amor eu derrubo Satanás For love I would defeat Satan

Bem e mal são a luta desta terra Good and evil is the struggle of this land

Mas comigo o que é mal a lança fera But with me, the spear wounds what is evil

Corre Cão Pé de Vento e Lúcifer Run - Dog, Lazybones, and Lucifer

Corre todo diabo que vier Run, every devil that I see

Pelo bem desse amor digo e não nego For the sake of this love, I say, I won’t deny

Eu enfrento um batalhão e não me entrego I will confront a battalion and not surrender

Zé do Cão tu pra mim é uma mulher” Zé do Cão, to me, you are a woman.”

In spite of the many criticisms of the hegemonic model of masculinity, unlocked by the advance of the feminist movement and the modernization of relations between the genders, its association with virility, competition, and violence still persists.

VIRILITY, CONSUMERISM, AND MASCULINITIES IN TIMES OF GLOBALIZATION

The feminist achievements of recent decades modified the balance of household economies, altering the inter-family and social relationships of knowledge/power and the prescribed standards of family and society21. In contrast, there emerge a series of discourses seeking to control female emancipation and preserve the basic characteristics of hegemonic masculinity, adapting it to a globalized world25.

Ignoring the social structures in flux, the songs illustrate a new stereotype: a man – increasingly an urbanite – that adapts the strength and virility of the traditional cowboy to the laws of consumerism and the demands of globalization and neoliberalism9.

Let us look at “Vida de Vaqueiro” (Life of the Cowboy, 1993) by Ednir, recorded by the band Mastruz com Leite.

“Quando o claro do sol vai despontando When the rays of the sun come shining

Por detrás das montanhas lá da serra From behind the mountains on the horizon

Abro a porta e sinto o cheiro da terra I open the door and feel the smell of the earth

Do poleiro do quintal canta o galo The rooster sings in the chicken coop in the backyard

Boto a sela no lombo do cavalo I put the saddle on the back of the horse

E depois de tomar meu café And after my coffee

Com carinho, amor e muita fé With love, care, and much faith

Vou tocando minha vida de gado I go on living the cattle life

Sou vaqueiro, e vivo apaixonado I’m a cowboy, I live in love

Por forró, vaquejada e mulher With forró, rodeos, and women

Sou vaqueiro, e vivo apaixonado I’m a cowboy, I live in love

Por forró, vaquejada e mulher With forró, rodeos and women

O que vejo de belo no sertão What I find beautiful in the backlands

É o gado comendo na colina Is cattle eating on the hillside

O sorriso na boca da menina The smile on the face of a young girl

E o segredo que tem seu coração And the secret in your heart

Meu forró e as festas de são João My forró and the parties of St. John’s Day

Santo Antônio, São Pedro e São José Saint Anthony, Saint Peter, and Saint Joseph

O meu vício você já sabe qual é And my vice, you already know

Me perdoe se isso for pecado Forgive me if it is a sin

Sou vaqueiro, e vivo apaixonado I’m a cowboy, I live in love

Por forró, vaquejada e mulher With forró, rodeos, and women

Sou vaqueiro, e vivo apaixonado I’m a cowboy, I live in love

Por forró, vaquejada e mulher With forró, rodeos and women”

In the first and third stanzas, the bucolic scene relays a fantasy that ignores the structural power that underpins life on the farms, serving only to emphasize concepts associated with the idealized image: strength and courage. The refrain, however, uncovers the central idea: “I’m a cowboy, in love with forró, rodeos, and women,” reinforcing the ideals of strength, courage, and virility, attributes of masculinity.

In this context, the imagetic of the woman not only aids the commercialization of a series of products, she herself becomes a product for sale, as in the song “Dinheiro na Mão, Calcinha no Chão” (Money In The Hand, Panties On The Floor, 2005), by Jailson Nascimento, recorded by the band Saia Rodada.

“Olha que eu tenho uma gatinha muito cara Look here, I have a real expensive cute chick

E eu já gastei mais de um milhão I already spent more than a million

E quando ela foi me conhecer ela disse: And when she met me, she said:

Tá liso, quero não. You’re broke, I’m not interested.

Mas se o dinheiro tá na mão’ But if money is in the hand

Não precisa ser gatão You don’t need to be handsome

Mas se o dinheiro tá na mão But if money is in hand

Não precisa ser gatão You don’t need to be handsome

Mas se o dinheiro tá na mão But if the money is in hand

Não precisa ser gatão You don’t need to be handsome

Olha que eu tenho uma gatinha muito cara Look here, I have a real expensive cute chick

E eu já gastei mais de um milhão I already spent more than a million

E quando chamou pra passear ela disse: And when I go pick her up to go out, she says:

A pé? Vou não. On foot? Not me, I won’t go.

Mas se o dinheiro tá na mão But if the money is in hand

Eu só ando de carrão I only ride in a big car

Mas se o dinheiro tá na mão But if the money is in hand

Eu só ando de carrão I only ride in a big car

Mas se o dinheiro tá na mão But if the money is in hand

Eu só ando de Hillux I only ride in a pickup truck

Olha que eu tenho uma gatinha muito cara Look here, I have a real expensive cute chick

E eu já gastei mais de um milhão And I already spent more than a million

E quando chamou pra viajar And when I pick her up to travel

De ônibus? Quero não. By bus? Not me, I won’t go

Mas se o dinheiro tá na mão But if the money is in hand

Eu só ando de jatinho I only travel by private jet

Mas se o dinheiro tá na mão But if the money is in hand

Eu só ando de jatinho I only travel by private jet

Mas se o dinheiro tá na mão But if the money is in hand

Avião é pobre Airplanes are for poor folks

Olha que eu tenho uma gatinha muito cara Look here, I have a real expensive cute chick

E eu já gastei mais de um milhão And I already spent a million

E quando chamou para um motel, ela disse: And when I go to take her to a motel, she says:

De graça? Tá louco? For free? Are you crazy?

Mas se o dinheiro tá na mão But if the money is in hand

A calcinha tá no chão The panties are on the floor

Mas se o dinheiro tá na mão But if the money is in hand

A calcinha tá no chão The panties are on the floor

Mas se o dinheiro tá na mão But if the money is in hand

A calcinha tá no chão” The panties are on the floor.”

The massification of the stereotype of the gold-digger moves to the totality of women26, supporting of prejudices and violence that, in a process of feedback with the sexual division of labor and women made responsible for domestic activities, comprise the structures that sustain patriarchal power. In “Vida de Playboy,” (Life of a Playboy, 2006,) written by Wesley Safadão and recorded by his band Garota Safada, the commercial relationship is exposed without euphemisms, requiring no further explanation:

“Sou forrozeiro, 100% biriteiro, I’m a forrozeiro, 100% party animal

Mas só gasto meu dinheiro But I only spend my Money

se a mulher for avião. If the woman is hot.

Vida de playboy é uma coisa maravilhosa, The life of a playboy is a marvelous thing

Não falta mulher gostosa no meu carro turbinado My turbocharged car has no lack of hot women

E o som arregaçado With the sound turned way up loud

só querendo curtição. Just wanting a big party.

Estar na minha casa é somente alegria, Here at my place it’s only joy

mulherada e cachaçada, Women and much drinking

Uma grande putaria, sacanagem de montão A big fuckfest and fooling around

só querendo curtição. Just wanting a big party

Forró e vaquejada, Forró and rodeos

Procuro mulher safada, I look for a fast woman

Que na hora da trepada Who, when it comes time to fuck

Me chame de gostosão. Calls me sexy

Mulher raparigueira A slutty woman

Que na hora da zueira, Who when it’s time to make some noise

Aguente e passe a noite inteira Can stay up all night

Pra matar o meu tesão. To satisfy my lust.

Sou forrozeiro, 100% biriteiro, I’m a forrozeiro, 100% party animal

Mas só gasto meu dinheiro But I only spend my money

se a mulher for avião If the woman is hot

Sou playboyzinho, 100% mauricinho I’m a playboy, 100% preppy

Só pego piteuzinho, sou tremendo “garanhão” I only screw hot babes, I’m a tremendous stud

The term “trepada”ix refers to a merely physical act that seeks the full satisfaction of the male consumer, while the woman is depersonalized and subjected to this ideology wherein, because “there’s no lack of hot women in my turbocharged car,” there is complacency and acceptance, caused by the internalization of the dominating discourse by the dominated.

Homophobia also appears in the lyrics of forró, as illustrated in “Caçador” (Hunter, 2013) by Dorgival Dantas and performed by the band Ferro na Boneca.

“Sou um caçador moro na cidade I’m a hunter, I live in the city

Só ando armado prestando atenção I’m always armed, paying attention

Olhando pra frente pra trás e pro lado Looking in front, behind, and to the side

Não tem quem escape da minha visão Nobody escapes my vision

De todas as caças que eu já cacei Of all the game that I have hunted

A mais complicada eu vou lhe dizer The most difficult, I’ll tell you

Se chegar perto e ela corre If you come close, and it runs

Pode ter certeza que é o veado You can be certain, it’s a deer

Corre veado, Run, deer

Corre veado Run, deer

Se não eu te como If not, I will eat you

Cozido ou assado... Cooked or roasted…”

As deer do not live in the city, the place where the “hunter” resides, and thus the term “veado” does not refer to an animal, but instead is a jocular reference to male homosexuals. Alongside this moral and psychological violence, we can observe the naturalization of physical and sexual violence, expressed in the association of the verb “comer” (to eat)x with the warning “run, deer,” reflecting the homophobic nature of non-recognition of diverse masculinities, with them delegated to an abject position.

The prejudices are inherited from the past and from tradition, and even faced with dramatic cultural changes they conserve innumerable preconceived cultural factors. In a culture where to be “macho” is at the heart of men’s identity construction, the fundamental characteristics that define them (strength, violence, possession of a woman), mixed with those of the globalized man (vain and free of social obligations) are not lost. To the contrary, when they are in jeopardy, they resurge even stronger and more aggressively, culminating in symbolic and concrete violence.

DISCUSSION

A specific and single standard of masculinity does not exist. Different cultures, in different historical periods, will establish different manifestations and expressions of “being a man” 27. In every social, political, economic and cultural structure, however, there emerges a model of “hegemonic masculinity” that establishes a series of attributes, values, and specific behaviors27,28.

The regional identity of the northeastern male begins with a construction that has at its heart the hegemonic masculinity structured in the western world over the years. The political and economic scenario that has been established in the region, however, provided a favorable panorama to the strengthening of dichotomies, with the valorization of northeastern masculinity in detriment to the supposed “feminization” of the south5.

In the model of hegemonic masculinity in the northeast, we can perceive an exponential and excessive valorization of all the characteristics traditionally attributed to the masculine. If violence is a characteristic traditionally associated with the concept of hegemonic masculinity29, in the northeast it is reinforced by the culturally constructed identification of the northeastern male with the dryness of the scrubland and the aggressiveness attributed to the region’s climate5,10. Aggressiveness emerges not only as an indispensable attribute for his survival, but as an inherent quality of the nature of the fearless man of the countryside, possessed of a native roughness.

However, even the hegemonic models sanctioned by society are constantly in (re)construction. If, in commonsense thinking, to be a man is to not be a woman, then at every resignification of the role of women in society there emerges a crisis in the hegemonic model of masculinity30.

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with the French Précieuses and English feminists; the French Revolution; economic and social changes provoked by industrialization and the urbanization in Europe and the United States at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century – all these periods were characterized by feminist advances and by identity crises of masculinity31. This was no different in the feminist advances begun in the 1960s; in all these periods, the reaction to the drive for female emancipation is characterized by hostilities30.

The hegemonic gender stereotypes that form the basis of the construction of regional and gender identity for the northeasterner were not subdued by the feminist advances, they merely adapted. If the 1970s and 1980s saw the continued valorization of masculine aggressiveness and the growing disqualification of the woman who sought her agency, beginning in the 1990s these events found reinforcement in the globalization of neoliberalism, with the reduction of labor obligations and social conventions32. In a period in which the woman gained the right to external spaces and remunerated work, the strength of sexuality as a reference of biopolitical function emerges even more robust.

In this framework, violence is not a natural phenomenon, but belongs to the political realm of human dealings34. Although their types and significations are different35,36, a primordial condition is emphasized in acts of violence: the hierarchical relationship “command-obedience,” in which the perpetrator of violence does not recognize the other as a subject, “thingifying” them37.

It is not a coincidence that the growing exposure of the female body as a product – as something that women should be and that men should have – is accompanied by the exponential increase in the number of deaths of women related to gender issues. Between 2009 and 2011, Brazil recorded 16,900 femicides, with the northeast being the region with the worst rate38, which makes violence against women an important challenge for Public Health, intersectional networks, and civil society.

In a world governed by laws of the market, economic power – or rather, it’s the ostentatious show of it – supplants physical force and combines with virility as important mechanisms for the maintenance of hierarchical power structures and of the feeling of belonging of men to the hegemonic model39,40.

The gears of patriarchal society prescribe standards and normalize them via the techniques of training, which consist of monitoring and punishing41. The masculine model promoted is that of a strong, virile, powerful, and promiscuous man that needs a woman-object to faithfully exercise her role. To show off virility, more than a guarantee of belonging to the group of “northeastern men,” comes to signify insertion into a group of “privileged northeastern men,” given the symbolic commercial value attributed to the woman-as-product. Culture plays an important role in this point, in sexualizing the female body and fragmenting it.

In spite of the coexistence of different models of masculinity, the hegemony of one of them sustains and legitimates different forms of violence against the peripheral masculinties42-44. The Yearly Report on Homosexual Homocides45 reported 312 murders of gays, transvestites, and lesbians in Brazil in 2013, which corresponds to one murder every 28 hours. According to this report, the northeast is the region with the greatest concentration of homoaffective deaths, with 43% of the total, demonstrating the non-recognition of alternative masculinities.

Assuming the principle that the matrix that structures homophobia is the same one that socially defines acceptable masculinities46, then the symbolic violence32 that puts women in a condition of vulnerability is the same that seeks to annul the neutral, ambiguous, or borderline7,8, and which by the same mechanisms sustains violence against women: by way of quips, jokes, and disqualifications. The patriarchal institutions always relativized the morality of the patriarchy depending on the gender of the person, carried out in contemporary society and in the lyrics of songs.

(NON)FINAL CONSIDERATIONS

Understanding the vulnerabilities to which women are exposed uncovers the face of violence to them, naturalized, unmasked, without blind spots. To prove, analyze, and criticize the hegemonic discourses and the different “technologies of gender” that contribute to the reification of being a woman and is urgent to the degree in which one fights against prejudices sustained by the force of tradition23.

In this way, based on the concept of technologies of gender developed by Teresa de Lauretis1 and the formation process of cultural identities described by Joan Scott2, we look at the lyrics of forró – a social technology of significant importance in the construction of cultural identity of the northeastern people – elements that sustain the asymmetry of relations between the genders, being a cause of violence or legitimating it, therefore acquiring a pathological character. The analytical focus consists in the technology of gender (forró) that acts in the construction of men and women, although it appears to simply reproduce the culturally current (pre)conceptions.

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i Translator’s note: a carcará is a bird of prey found in northeast Brazil.

iiCoronelismo (or boss-ism) refers to the political system by which the rural oligarchy maintained power through patron-client relationships during the First Republic (1889-1930), elements of which persist to the present day.

iii Caruaru is the largest city in the interior of Pernambuco, and widely considered the birthplace of the forró style.

ivLampião was a famous bandit of the northeastern backlands in the 1930’s. Regarded as a figure somewhere between Robin Hood and Jesse James in popular culture, he terrorized both the rural oligarchy and the poor, but made accommodations with both to sustain his gang over many years. Lampião was ambushed and killed by police in 1938, and his gang’s severed heads put on display.

v Both Padre Cicero and Friar Damião figure prominently in the popular religiosity of the northeastern poor at the beginning of the twentieth century. Devotees regarded the former as a miracle-worker, and both are still widely venerated by the many northeasterners who make regular pilgrimages to where they once ministered.

viChorinho is a mostly instrumental Brazilian music genre.

vii Dance associated with the northeast.

vii The martelo is a variant of the 10-line décima poetic form originating from the Iberian Peninsula. It is common in the cordel chapbook poetry of the northeast and the repentista tradition of singer-guitarists who challenge each other to verbal duels, of which this song is an example.

ix From the verb “trepar” (to climb), this is a euphemism for fornication.

x “Comer” (to eat) is also a euphemism for sexual intercourse.

Received: April 13, 2016; Accepted: November 30, 2016

Contribution of the authors:

All of the authors participated in the discussion of the findings, and the revision and approval of the final version of the article.

Translated by James Allen

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