Polarization is right there: Lula, Bolsonaro, and the 2022 Brazilian elections

by Matheus Zago, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the University of Würzburg, Germany.

Reviewed by Matheus Lucas Hebling


If the elections were held today, the elected president would be Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, according to a new survey conducted by Datafolha this month. The scenario for the first round is as follows: Lula (PT) gets 46%, Jair Bolsonaro (no party) 25%, Ciro Gomes (PDT) 8%, Joao Doria (PSDB) 5%, Luis Enrique Mandeta (Democrats) 4% of the voting intentions. With these numbers, Lula has a chance of winning in the first round, as he would have 52% of the valid votes, which would give PT victory within the margin of error (Datafolha 2021).

Voting intention for president – 2022*

Source: Datafolha 2021a

*TN: Não sabe refers to undicisive voters; Em branco/nulo/nenhum refers to voters who would choose none of the candidates or would vote blank.

Of course, it is very early to predict Lula’s victory in the first round, because there is at least a year until the elections, other candidates may appear in the political dispute and Bolsonaro may also rise in future polls. But if we evaluate the situation for the second round, a victory for Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva would be easy. If his opponent in the second round was indeed Bolsonaro, the Petist presidential candidate would win by 58% to 31%.

President’s voting intention – 2nd round – 2022 (Lula x Bolsonaro)*

Source: Datafolha 2021a

*TN: Não sabe refers to undicisive voters; Em branco/nulo/nenhum refers to voters who would choose none of the candidates or would vote blank.

Datafolha interviewed 2074 respondents on 7 and 8 July 2021, the margin of error is two percentage points. The current data highlights an issue not particularly new to Brazilians: a polarization between Bolsonaro and Lula in the second round. However, the current survey (July 2021) showed an additional advantage for Lula over Bolsonaro. The gap between the two candidates was set at 23 percentage points in May, and now the new survey puts Lula at 27 percentage points ahead of Jair Bolsonaro.

In addition to the voters’ intention, the Datafolha survey also asked what voters think about the current government of Jair Bolsonaro. The result shows very bad signs for the actual Brazilian president. According to the data, 51% of respondents think that the Bolsonaro government is bad or terrible, an increase of 6% compared to 45% in May of this year. This is also the highest disapproval of Bolsonaro since the beginning of his term. The result occurs in a context of pressure on the government with the actions of the COVID-19 investigations, serious allegations of corruption in the vaccine market, and other issues as shown in the Bras-Blog especial edition texts: Brazil’s Democratic “Backsliding”: why should we fear Bolsonaro’s government in Brazil? organized by Flavia Batista da Silva (2021).


Can anti-Bolsonarism be in 2022 what anti-Petism was in 2018?

Too early to tell. New investigations need to be followed up, but Datafolha’s survey allows us to develop the hypothesis that anti-Bolsonarism might have the same decisive power in 2022 as anti-Petism did in 2018.  With the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed over 530,000 Brazilians, the sinking economy, rising misery, and the opposition in the Senate controlling a CPI, Bolsonaro still follows with the decisive support of 1/4 of Brazilians.

But the political situation is not as good as Bolsonaro imagines, and the president’s support could change at any moment. In the last Datafolha survey, 63% of respondents believe that there was corruption in the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines in Brazil and 64% say that Bolsonaro knew about the corruption scandals and did not act as he should have.  Six out of ten Brazilians (59%) would not vote for Jair Bolsonaro for president in 2022. The president leads the rejection ranking of presidential candidates in the country. This is the worst indicator Bolsonaro has received since the survey began — there have been 13 Datafolha’s public opinion surveys since Bolsonaro took office in 2019. And for the record, to make the situation worse, among those who voted for Bolsonaro in 2018, 26% say they reject his name for the 2022 presidential race (Datafolha 2021b).

The reports of irregularities give rise to demonstrations and street protests against the president, whose main agenda is to impeach Bolsonaro. The survey also shows that protesters have support for this demand, increasing from 49% to 54% the number of Brazilians who believe that Congress should start impeachment proceedings to remove Bolsonaro from office —  42% disagree and 4% don’t know (Datafolha 2021c).

Should the National Congress open impeachment proceedings against President Jair Bolsonaro or not?*

Source: Datafolha (2021c)

*TN: Sim, deveria means They should and Não deveria means They shouldn’t.

Threatened by investigations into the government and a possible defeat in 2022, Bolsonaro has ramped up his criticism of the electoral system, insisting on frauds that never existed and claiming that “without paper elections, there can be no voting in Brazil” or even saying that he will “not participate in elections that are not paper-based” — but electronic voting has been conducted in Brazil since the year 1996 (TSE 2021).

Bolsonaro’s numbers tend to get worse in the short term, because the government is still relying on the recovery of the economy, on maintaining emergency aid for needy families, while positive results may only come in the long term, and it might depend on the progress of the new COVID-19 variants, such as the Delta variant. Overall, there is no optimism.    Meanwhile, former president Luis Inácio da Silva has seen his approval ratings rise and is considered the favorite to win the next election, but it is still a question of what path the former president will take if elected. We can wonder what Lula’s administration will look like if he is elected: would we have a revengeful administration in response to his Lava Jato conviction, would we have an economy similar to his first term, therefore more liberal, or would we follow the same path as Dilma Rousseff’s?

Following in Lula’s steps after his release from federal police prison, all indications are that, politically, he will approach a centrist campaign, seeking out parties of this political spectrum, such as MDB from Renan Calleiros. Moreover, he already met with former PSDB president Fernando Henrique Cardoso and is broadening his negotiation platform with other parties in the center.  Bolsonaro is doing the same, he recently handed over some of his ministries to centrist parties. The Centrão, a group of parties that today support the Bolsonaro government in Congress, is in charge of the main ministries of the current government, competing for positions and indications with the military officers.

The decision to run a centrist campaign is certain because the electorate moved strongly to the right in 2018 and is not expected to radically change its ideological position in 2022, especially the 1/4 of Bolsonaro supporters. The centrist political orientation of Lula or Bolsonaro should translate, if elected, into a governing coalition that could last throughout the next term — one center-right or one center-left.

We might have the opportunity, in future research, to discover new explanations about the dissatisfaction with Bolsonaro and the tendency or not of a Third Way (Terceira Via) for running the Brazilian nation. One thing is valid, the sequence of reports related to the Covid-19 CPI investigations, the suspicions about vaccine purchases, and the results of the Datafolha survey have directly affected the speech of Bolsonaro, who has always insisted that there is no corruption in his government. The next chapters of this story are about to unfold.



da Silva, Flavia Batista. 2021. “Special edition – Brazil’s Democratic “Backsliding”: why should we fear Bolsonaro’s government in Brazil?”. Brazilian Research and Studies Blog. ISSN 2701-4924. Vol. 2 Num. 3. accessed on: July 27, 2021.

Datafolha. 2021a. “Lula lidera disputa presidencial com 46%; Bolsonaro tem 25%”. Opinião Pública, Datafolha. Available at:

Datafolha. 2021b. Recorde, reprovação a governo Jair Bolsonaro atinge 51% Opinião Pública, Datafolha. Available at:

Datafolha. 2021c. “Maioria agora aprova abertura de impeachment de Bolsonaro””. Opinião Pública, Datafolha. Available at:

Tribunal Superior Eleitoral. 2021. “Urna eletrônica 25 anos: lançado em 1996, equipamento é o protagonista da maior eleição informatizada do mundo”. Available at:

Matheus Zago (2021) "Polarization is right there: Lula, Bolsonaro, and the 2022 Brazilian elections". Brazilian Research and Studies Blog. ISSN 2701-4924. Vol. 2 Num. 2. available at:, accessed on: August 4, 2021.

August 2nd, 2021|Categories: Vol. 2 Num. 2|Tags: |

Constitutional Transmutation and Loss of Indigenous Rights – Bill 490

by Tainá Reis* and Vinício Carrilho Martinez**

Translated by Giovanna Imbernon

Edited and reviewed by Anna Paula Bennech


Constitutional transmutation is the legislative, legal, or administrative interposition in total disagreement with the Federal Constitution of 1988, whether in a twisted “understanding” (interpretation) of the precepts and constitutional rights or a “future attack,” that is, signed in the form of a bill. This is the discussion that arises from Bill 490 (PL 490, in Portuguese).

What do we know about Bill 490? We know that it comprises, essentially, the legalization of attacks against indigenous peoples in Brazil. However, before proceeding to the ‘understanding” of Bill 490, it is important to highlight what is the Constitution’s understanding of what indigenous peoples are. 

First, they hold full constitutional rights as native peoples, consequently, they hold native rights

Indigenous peoples were first in the territory before our so-called ‘civilizing process.’ They are not lancers in a quest for environmental degradation, instead, there are on the opposite way – and any anthropological analysis, reasonably consistent, shows indigenous people’s distinctive efforts to protect the environment.

This first remark corroborates the only possible constitutional interpretation, according to the constitutional comprehensiveness and, more specifically, to Article 225 of the Brazilian Constitution of 1998 (CF88), i.e., the constitutional unity. It means there is no reasonably fair Republic or society if indigenous peoples are evicted from their anthroposophy and anthropological collectivity (Article 213).

Second, and still, on the same track of constitutional investment, the Supreme Court became famous for its destructive vote against the indigenous peoples’ safeguard. The vote hereunder is long, however, vital. It highlights the major constitutional deficiency regarding the protection of native peoples:

“(…) a constitutional compensatory era for historically accumulated disadvantages, to be made viable by official mechanisms of affirmative action […] because the acculturation dealt with in the Constitution is not the loss of ethnic identity, but the sum of worldviews […] Constitutional realization of the value of community inclusion through ethnic identity […] the fundamental objective of section II of art. 3 of the Federal Constitution, ensuring a type of “national development” as ecologically balanced as it is humanized and culturally diversified, to incorporate the indigenous reality […] Indigenous land, in the collective aboriginal imagination, is not a simple object of law, but it takes on the dimension of a true being or being that sums up in itself all ancestry, all coetaneity and all posterity of an ethnic group […] The rights of Indians over the lands they traditionally occupy were constitutionally “recognized,” and not simply granted […] This is the reason why the Magna Carta has called them “originators,” translating a right older than any other […] to prevent the spirit from being decimated by the progressive elimination of the elements of a given culture (ethnocide).”

(Petition 3388, Rapporteur: Minister Carlos Britto, En banc session, 03/19/2009 – emphasis added)

There is no doubt that there must be an alignment between a legal common sense for defending the CF88 and its holders: the Brazilian people. In turn, however, the offenses against the constitutional logic continue, as we can see in the Bill 490 example.

Approval of the (un)constitutional

Discussions on the Bill 490 of 2007 were brought back into the spotlight fourteen years after its first proposal by Homero Pereira (PR/MT), already deceased and former member of the Chamber of Deputies. In 2021, Congressman Arthur Maia (DEM/BA), a member of the rural caucus and owner of cattle farms, proposed a new version of this bill. Another thirteen bills were attached to Bill 490. Approved on June 23 at the Constitution, Justice and Citizenship Committee (CCJ), the bill introduces several actions representing a setback to the indigenous peoples’ rights. One of them is the temporal landmark (marco temporal).

The temporal landmark defines that are only considered indigenous land (IL) the ones in indigenous peoples’ possession on October 05, 1988, when the Constitution was promulgated. 

According to this thesis, must the ownership be proven? 

What kind of proof? A deed? A document? Until 1988, the indigenous peoples were under the State’s guardianship. They were considered people with no full legal capacity. Back then, most of them had no contact with society at all. How were they supposed to prove the ownership? Land ownership of lands was occupied over decades and decades, and from when it was even harder to obtain a formal record of it.

The current legislation works like this: for the demarcation of land, a process must be filed at National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), an interdisciplinary team prepares a report, and the area is delimited. After the Bill 490 approval, all demarcated lands after 1988 or which are still under process will have to provide this proof of land ownership. And if there is no proof of it? They lose it. Simple: they are taking the indigenous lands already demarcated. The bill also comprises cases in which the Federal Government may take the indigenous lands from peoples who “lost their cultural traits” – whatever that means.

The bill also introduces some flexibility over the communication with uncontacted peoples[1]. One of the bill’s articles states: “Regarding the uncontacted peoples, the State and society shall fully respect their freedom and traditional ways of life, avoiding contact as much as possible, except when medical assistance or intermediation of state actions of public interest are needed.” What is state action of public interest? No one knows it because the project does not include a definition of it.  

Since 1988, respecting the uncontacted peoples has become a state policy; living uncontacted is their right. With Bill 490, this will end according to the public interest clause. We must remember that due to the isolated status, those peoples have no immunological memory, i.e., the flu can kill them. 

The text also comprises the permission to exploit indigenous lands. Yes. It mentions taking areas of indigenous peoples’ exclusive use when there is mining or state interest in them, e.g., building hydroelectric power plants or roads. However, it is still not permitted by the Constitution. Article 231 of the Constitution says: “The lands traditionally occupied by Indians are intended for their permanent possession and they shall have the exclusive usufruct of the riches of the soil, the rivers, and the lakes existing therein.” Exactly because of this, we see many gold miners attacking indigenous lands. They want to exploit them, but they cannot do it. However, Bill 490 is going to change that.

It is an unconstitutional and genocide bill. Indigenous peoples’ rights are an entrenched clause of the Federal Constitution. 

Nonetheless, the Bill is still pending before the National Congress. When one says, there is no neutrality of law. That is what we are talking about. The President of the Constitution, Justice and Citizenship Committee (CCJ, in Portuguese), Bia Kicks (PSL-DF), attempted several political maneuvers to carry out the voting and approve the bill.  

When movements against the bill started at the beginning of June 2021, several indigenous groups from different ethnicities and from all over the country occupied the center of Brasilia. At that time, one of the buses going to the Munduruku people’s camp was attacked by gold miners. The camp Rise for the Earth carried out several activities, chants, and dances. On June 22, 2021, they protested peacefully. But what was the response of the Brazilian Government to the peaceful protests of indigenous peoples? Police, rubber bullets, tear gas. Three indigenous were hurt. On that day, the CCJ activities were suspended. 

The next day, the bill was the only topic in the Committee’s legislative agenda. All the motions, points of order, requests for a public hearing were rejected by the committee’s president. They voted and the results were: 40 for and 21 against the bill. The CCJ passed the bill.

It was handed to the Chamber of Deputies on June 29. If approved, we will have the loss of indigenous peoples’ rights, constraints on land demarcation, reversion of demarcated land, and the possibility for mining exploitation. This means more deforestation, more environmental degradation. This is a destructive policy, a death policy, a genocide policy.

[1] Uncontacted peoples are those who keep no contact with or have a restricted relationship with white people and society.


Brasil. (2009, March 19). En banc session. Petition 3388, Rapporteur: Minister Carlos Britto,. Electronic Justice Gazette (Dje) 181, available on 09/24/2009, published on 09/25/2009, republished on DJe-120 available on 06/30/2009, published on 07/01/2010 Ement. Vol. 02408-02 PP-00229 RTJ VOL-00212-01 PP-00049).


* Dr. Tainá Reis: Ph.D. in Sociology from Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar); Deputy leader of the research group TRAMA; Producer of the Youtube channel Lamparina, focused on disseminating scientific material and debates rurality and related topics; and Member of BRaS’s Constitutional Studies RG.

** Prof. Dr. Vinício Carrilho Martinez: Associate Professor at Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar); Head of BRaS’s Constitutional Studies RG; Member of BRaS’s Academic Committee; Associate Editor of BRaS-J

July 26th, 2021|Categories: Vol. 2 Num. 2|Tags: , |

Interview: Prof. Dr. Renata Motta

Interviewee: Prof. Dr. Renata Motta
Interviewer: M.A. Monise Martinez*

Edited and reviewed by Anna Paula Bennech and Giovanna Imbernon


Renata’s Bio

Renata Motta is Assistant Professor in Sociology at the Institute for Latin American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin and Project Leader of the Research Group Food for Justice: Power, Politics and Food Inequalities in a Bioeconomy, funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). She was a Guest Associate Professor of Brazilian Studies and Global Studies at Aarhus University, Denmark (2017-2018). She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the Freie Universität Berlin in 2015. Her interests include social movements, social theories on modernity and globalization, social inequalities, gender and environment, and food studies. She has authored articles in these areas for Science as Culture, Latin American Perspectives, Journal of Agrarian Change, Social Movement Studies, Sociology Compass, Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais. She authored the book Social Mobilization, Global Capitalism and Struggles over Food (2016), and co-edited Global Entangled Inequalities: Conceptual Debates and Evidence from Latin America (2017).




You recently highlighted that the processes of building solidarity networks among social movements were considered a key point for coalition formation, as the empirical analysis of the Margaridas’ March (Marcha das Margaridas) demonstrated. From a feminist point of view, how do you understand and define solidarity, and to what extent do you believe it can contribute to the construction of horizontal alliances between the feminist strands and between these and other movements?

I have been collaborating with a team of feminist scholars on a book project about solidarity (Massson and Paulos, forthcoming), in which we have discussed the differences within feminist theory and research between conceptualizations of solidarity as a normative ideal and potential that must be constructed politically, and the praxis and processes that generate it, solidarity-building, which can be analytically described. In the introduction to the book, Masson and Paulos conceptualize that solidarity-building does not only involve bridging social differences but also places, organizations, and struggles. Moreover, it is a dynamic process that evolves over time and capable of generating transformations, new connections, and new political subjects. Finally, solidarity building is embedded in organizational strategies and goals, and permeated by relations of power. In my chapter with my colleague Marco Antonio Teixeira, we draw on important insights from postcolonial scholar Chandra Talpade Mohanty on solidarity. She points out that coalitional identities such as sisterhood or third-world women cannot be assumed a priori but result from common contexts of struggles. However, there is a need to analytically investigate how solidarity is transformed from an ideal or a possibility into a praxis and a practical reality. Thus, we trace the political work of actively constructing common diagnostics of such contexts and the joint definition of a coalitional identity. In another work, I rely on postcolonial feminists stressing the importance of identity politics for feminism and Butler’s work on coalitional politics criticizing that the insistence on the unity of identity and goals causes more fragmentation and prevents coalitions from forming. I follow Butler’s understanding of coalitions as processes in which solidarities are built and, therefore, cannot have solidarity as a prerequisite and involve dealing with contradictions, tensions, and splits. Political identities might thus emerge as a result of coalitions and include many that would not identify with the categories of “women” and “feminist.”

These discussions can contribute to the construction of horizontal alliances within feminisms today by calling attention to the hard political work involved in crafting solidarity. That means not assuming unity of goals, commonalities of identities but being able not only to agree to disagree but to recognize the different positions and identities within a broader coalitional project. This approach is by no means a politics of diversity, but a careful awareness of different contexts of struggles in which differently situated social subjects are situated and how such power asymmetries must be recognized. In other words, alliance-building processes with feminists and non-feminist others will have more chances to flourish when accepting difference and not reducing it to diversity but instead recognizing the power differentials between differently situated subjects.


In a study of feminist action fields in Latin America, Sonia Alvarez defines the plural feminisms’ ‘sidestreaming’ as a moment of great popularization of its several facets due to the different actions that have constituted it in the last two decades. How do you evaluate the use of the Internet as space and/or tool for the (de)construction of alliances between feminisms, as well as these and other movements in the region nowadays?

The construction of feminist alliances found new spheres to express solidarity, to nourish common goals, and to achieve visibility in the virtual spheres, recruiting so many new voices and, above all, but not only, a new generation of young feminists. Undoubtedly, the Internet created new spheres and tools for social mobilizations. Still, the initial enthusiasm about the positive effects of new democratic forms of alliances in and through the Internet showed its negative sides by reinforcing fragmentation, polarization, and dispute. There are also clear limitations in digital activism, which can be very consumerist, individualist, and sporadic. These challenges can be overcome if digital activism also articulates street protest, mobilizations offline, political formation, and organizational work. Feminist movements and organizations constantly need new activists who are also willing to work offline in a range of necessary activities to build broad and strong alliances, which can influence public debate and political events.

An example of the mobilizing power of the Internet is the hashtag #Elenão (#Nothim) which went viral on social media, calling for action on the streets on 29 September against the presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro and all he stands for. Instagram, YouTube, and WhatsApp groups provided the platforms to share hashtags, videos, images. One of the most circulated videos was uploaded by Mídia Ninja and brought together self-made videos of influencers, artists, and public personalities representing diverse embodiments that felt directly threatened by the rise of Bolsonaro, such as women*, black, LGBTQ*, and disabled bodies. They declared that Bolsonaro was misogynist, racist, homophobic and that they were in favor of all forms of love and difference.

The protest march #Elenão on 29 September 2018 became the largest women’s mobilization in Brazilian history, bringing 125,000 women to the streets in São Paulo, as well as many thousands to other cities in Brazil and throughout the world. #Elenão brought together diverse Brafeminisms and built on previous experimentations, such as Slut Walks (Marcha das Vadias), NiUnaMenos, and the performative use of body and language in public interventions. In the act of #Elenão, all those bodies targeted by Bolsonaro’s hate speech and political program, all otherness to the mainstream white, male, cisgender, heterosexual, middle-class, joined in an alliance. Beyond mere numbers, the mobilization was innovative in creating an atmosphere in which various strands of feminism, competing political forces, and parties peacefully shared the streets to defend a common goal: to prevent Bolsonaro’s election. During the entire electoral campaign in 2018, left-wing parties and movements were unable to join their efforts in a political coalition, a situation that extends to the present moment.

However, the digital spheres are not free of power relations. Rather, they are constantly disputed. In the case of #Elenão, the mainstream media failed to provide an appropriate media coverage that did justice to the historical political achievement of Brazilian feminisms and to give resonance to their agenda, their claims, their numbers, and collective strength. On the Internet, not only were there strong anti-feminist pro-Bolsonaro mobilizations, like under the hashtag #EleSim (#YesHim), but also an intense campaign of fake news, defamation, and sexist violence by right-wing groups. In short, on the one hand, the Internet contributes to new forms of visibility and alliance building. On the other hand, it does not guarantee broad and enduring coalitions that also depend on an organizational basis and political work offline.


In Latin America, the neo-liberalization process of feminisms, propelled by the IV World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, impacted feminist actions in several ways, generating what many authors understood as a movements’ institutionalization moment. In the last decade, marked by hypervisibility reached by different feminist expressions, the process intensified and acquired new contours. In this context, what challenges has neo-liberalization imposed on the feminist movements in the region?

Latin American gendered struggles against neoliberal reforms and dictatorships in the 1980s and 1990s have been conceptualized as popular feminisms. These struggles articulated gender and class inequalities and called attention to the role of feminism in transforming women’s movements into more emancipatory possibilities (Conway 2021). Since the 1990s, popular feminisms have receded due to a constellation of factors. Nevertheless, gendered class struggles characteristic of popular feminism were certainly not absent during the 1990s; perhaps they were less visible in terms of collective action, by which social struggles are usually recognized (Teixeira 2018). But within trade unions, urban and rural, the 1990s was a period of strong feminist organizing and important victories, such as quotas and the creation of political space, which would form the conditions for a new wave of social-oriented popular feminism in the 21st century. Thus, in the first decades of the 21st century, while Brazilian mainstream and historical feminism occupied spaces of participative democracy, constituting what scholars called state feminism (Matos and Alvarez, 2018), new expressions of popular feminism flourished.

In parallel to institutional feminists that have become mainstreamed in multilateral organizations and other spaces of power, popular feminisms have emerged in other activism networks, among them the popular peasant feminism within the Via Campesina and the popular feminism of the World March of Women. The Marcha das Margaridas, a movement with which I collaborate in my research, is not only “popular”- or working-class based, but also rural. While the analysis of popular feminism had historically focused on urban struggles, the Marcha draws attention to rural history and contemporary expression of popular feminism that decenters the urban political subject of popular feminism. This rural popular feminism has been challenging the effects of neoliberal agrarian change in the conformation of contemporary Brazilian agribusiness, which forms a key economic and political actor in the country today. They have been denouncing the negative social and environmental impacts of the large-scale, technology-intensive, export-oriented agrarian model that has undergone processes of more concentration and been accompanied by high rates of violence and conflicts. Therefore, popular feminists have been actively challenging neoliberalization rather than challenged by it.


In Brazil, the 2018 presidential elections sealed the populist and extreme-right Jair M. Bolsonaro’s victory. Moreover, they were marked, among other strategies, by using anti-feminism as an electoral tool, mobilized mainly around the gender ideology rhetoric. Thinking of the Latin American context, how has the meta-political use of the gender category served to mobilize public opinion in favor of the conservative right?

In Brazil, violence against women and femicide have continuously increased in the past decade, affecting even more black women and trans bodies. The electoral victory of Bolsonaro has normalized and encouraged even more violence. He deployed the term “gender ideology” to fight intersectional feminisms and employed a rhetoric of war on crime, which again will mostly affect black peripherical bodies. Also, he promised to arm rural landlords to shoot agrarian and environmental activists while lifting sanctions to environmental crimes, suspending the demarcation of indigenous lands, and legalizing land grabbing. His agenda is not only conservative. It is actively anti-feminist. The gender category has not been only mobilized in discursive wars –  it is not only rhetoric but also an area of state intervention and pro-action in a government characterized by a destructive programmatic agenda. Bolsonaro has appointed anti-feminists, such as the Minister of Human Rights, Family, and Women, Damares Alves. She intervened to cut any reference to the expression “gender violence” in a decree to curb sexist violence in December 2019, which became known as transphobic necropolitics. Although her ministry has a very low budget execution, failing to implement public policies under its sphere of competence, the idea of “unsexual bodies drives her policies.” For instance, by promoting sexual abstinence as the only way to prevent teenage pregnancy or equating women’s bodies to reproductive bodies without any autonomy, restricting even more possibilities of legal abortion.

Thinking about the broader context of the rising of anti-progressive forces, one can argue, following interesting insights from Kimberly Creenshaw about the USA context,  that contemporary right-wing politicians criticize identity politics and blame intersectionality, but themselves mobilize anti-intersectional intersectionality: that of the white, middle class, heterosexual, cis man. Right-wing politicians provide a narrative with culprits for their fading position: the Other, who in each context assumes specific racial, cultural, religious, ethnic, class, and gender ascriptions. They strive to re-imagine nations that are post-feminist, post-racial, post-ethnical by denying the very existence of racism and sexism. By doing so, they keep the privileges of the powerful.

I argue that feminist solidarities take the lead against this conservative backlash because they were crafted against the mounting existential threats experienced by marked bodies and alternative forms of relating to nature and territories, in a context of a renewed homogenizing discourse of a body politic that aims to erase all differences in favor of a dominant embodied partiality of the male citizen.


In July 2020, the Brazilian Federal Government launched the campaign Mulheres Rurais, Mulheres com Direitos (5th edition). At the event, the current Minister of Women, Family and Human Rights used the memory of Margarida Maria Alves, a labor unionist murdered by landowners in 1983, to attack the emblematic March that carries her name. On that occasion, following the tendency to appropriate and subvert the memory and agendas of social movements historically aligned with the left, the Minister stated that the Bolsonaro’s government works to “guarantee the rights of all women in the countryside.” What challenges have the policies developed by the current Brazilian government represented for these women, and to what extent the establishment of alliances and solidarity networks, as in the Margaridas’ March (Marcha das Margaridas), can strengthen popular responses?

In a recent representative national survey that my research group, Food for Justice, conducted, we found out that 6 out of 10 households in Brazil were food insecure in December 2020, with these figures rising to three quarters of households situated in the rural areas or lead by women and black people. In addition, there has been an increase in deforestation rates, land conflicts, violence, and criminalization against activists. The women from Marcha das Margaridas will not be fooled by such attempts to co-opt their symbols and discourses to be a part of a government that they know is clearly against their interests. In the Marcha das Margaridas in 2019, the organizing committee decided for the first time not to handle a list of political demands directly to the national executive power, refusing to recognize this government as a viable partner. They protested against the democratic backlash. This context only stresses the importance of building alliances and solidarity networks as the Marcha das Margaridas and beyond. Also, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemics, we have been witnessing how, in the face of a governmental politics of not curbing the sanitary crisis and its detrimental effects in all spheres of life, popular responses, such as the solidarity networks for food donations, in particular, from agrarian movements such as the MST, have increased and occupied a space left bare by the state.


To what extent can the idea of solidarity and networking among social movements be conceived as a strategic response to Brazil’s challenges in the institutional policy context and in the various layers of narrative battles fought in the Brazilian media landscape today?

Brazilian democracy is severely under attack by Bolsonaro’s government, which is actively promoting the destruction of major political and institutional achievements that took decades of social mobilization to be transformed into public policies. The rise of Bolsonaro in the election pools and his first years in office have been very mildly tolerated by the media and institutions. Any stronger response to defend democracy ultimately depends on stronger pressure from the streets and the public opinion. Here, social movements have a key role to play: women and feminist leaderships have been upfront of such resistance for three reasons. First, feminist resistances in Brazil have meant fighting for the rights of certain bodies to exist and not to be erased for a renewed homogenizing discourse of an abstract citizen, as well as a dominant model of economy and ecology. Second, feminist organizing has excelled in its politics of alliances. Aware of their weaker and minority position within left-wing politics, they have historically depended on forging alliances. As the rank-and-file grassroots of many popular movements, women are more used to the hardships of accepting contradictions and living with them without reaching consensus. Finally, far from restricting their agenda to “women*’s” struggles, they have led the defense of democratic politics, universal social policies, and alternative development models. Feminist organizing aims to redefine the contours of modern politics and subjectivities of modern economies and ecologies.

However, it is not women’s responsibility alone or social movements to reverse the conservative backlash. Online activism and assembling bodies on the streets will not suffice in forging a viable coalition for an electoral alternative that will democratically challenge Bolsonaro’s government in the next elections. It will be necessary that political parties and leaderships are able to build broad coalitions and the media to assume a more responsible coverage of political events and social protest, not polarizing, even more, the landscape. Media coverage on the protests against Bolsonaro focused on isolated events with violence far from relevant in relation to the broader picture and might have been instrumentalized by infiltrated actors. It is necessary to have a more critical investigative journalism of protests too.


* Monise Martinez is a Ph.D. Student in Feminist Studies (CES/UC) and holds a scholarship from FCT. Her thesis is centered on the intertwining of antifeminism, the mediatization of the Brazilian religious field, and the Brazilian neo-Pentecostal female leaderships. She holds an M.A. in Publishing Studies (UA), with a thesis related to postcolonial feminism, and a B.A. in Modern Languages and Spanish and Portuguese Language Literatures (USP). She is currently co-organizer of the Gender Workshop Series (CES) and member of the Gender and Sexuality Workgroup (SOPCOM). Throughout her career, she also worked as editor and as a content producer of book collections approved in several of the National Textbook Program (PNLD) editions in Brazil. E-mail:

July 22nd, 2021|Categories: Vol. 2 Num. 2|Tags: |

BRaS Blog ISSN 2701-4924



The Brazilian Research and Studies Blog (BRaS Blog) provides a space for researchers and students with a focus on Brazil to publish their research and opinions to a broader audience. We have an interdisciplinary outlook integrating human, social, and applied social sciences. We welcome opinion articles, essays, research excerpts, or summaries with a research focus on Brazil. The BRaS Blog’s purpose is to open room for debate about academic thematic with a more accessible approach. The aim is to present scientific discussions about Brazil favoring the democratization of knowledge access. Our blog publishes contributions around 1000 to 1300 words, besides the references, and in English (in extraordinary cases, texts in Portuguese will also be accepted). BRaS Academic Committee will evaluate the submissions, which will be freely available on the BRaS website.


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