In some ways, Brazil is socially progressive. For example, Brazil just recently passed a law dictating that states could not deny registration of marriage for gay couples.
Yet, when it comes to children, the country, even its biggest city, is far behind the times.
Since we arrived in São Paulo, my daughter has wanted to play soccer. I soon inquired with some Brazilian mothers about where and how she might join a team. I was promptly told that soccer is for boys.
Fast forward a couple years. We now belong to a small club, one know for soccer, having been founded by a British man who holds claim to bringing soccer to Brazil. I was excited to have my daughter participate. Yet again, the soccer team is all boys, and though she isn’t able to join until she is 6 years old, I’m guessing we might get some push back.
A friend of mine has a daughter who is playing soccer at our school. She is a year older than mine. Every time she attends, the boys tell her she shouldn’t play and she doesn’t belong because she is a girl. The little girl was so upset by this that despite the fact she loved to play soccer, she would instead play sick when it was time to go. When my friend addressed this issue with the teacher, it was suggested she take her daughter out of the sport and put her in something else because the boys are better than her (actually not true). The teacher went on to suggest that perhaps she is going to be growing into doing “girl” things soon. ( The American Society does have a soccer league in which both boys and girls participate… but it can get complicated to get to the locations.)
On the flip side, two friends have little boys that want do to ballet. One was bullied out of his sister’s ballet class by a little girl. The other held strong and I hope he continues, but has gotten grief from other boys.
Another friend had a teacher tell her little girl that wearing “boy” costumers, like super heroes or Ben Ten, was “muito feio,” or very ugly.
If we lived in a rural area at one of the extreme ends of Brazil, or if this were the 1960’s, I might understand. And yes there are some parts of the U.S. and some families in where these attitudes are predominant, but these attitudes are fading.
São Paulo is South America’s largest city. How could these attitudes be maintain and accepted by society? Yes, religion could have something to do with it. Important cultural celebrations, like Carnaval and Festa Junina hold fast to the roles of man and woman. Brazilians are so relaxed on so many levels, I wonder why on the issue of gender there are still so many restrictions.