Friday, December 11, 2015

The Women in Brazil Make Me Sad

Yeah, I'm not winning any politically correct points with this blog. The women and the role they play in Brazilian society is appalling. For Christ's sake, the president is a woman! We haven't even accomplished that in the U.S.! Once again, disclaimer: this post is based on my experiences and does not characterize Brazil or Brazilians as a whole.

Actually, let me do some GO USA stuff right now. When I was in college I dated a guy who lived in a building in Philly that had a bunch of international students. We had a little going away get together for a woman from Sweden or Switzerland, I can't remember exactly. She was a great hairdresser and we were discussing what she was going to do when she returned home. I suggested she open her own salon and her response was, "That's such an American way of thinking!" She explained that entrepreneurship is so common in the U.S., as well as the "I can do it" attitude, and individual goals. My husband has always said that one of the things he loves about me is my independence and drive. I don't really think I'm much more independent or driven than the average American. My endurance is incredible, but otherwise I think I'm a pretty "typical American." And thank Cthulhu for that.

When I ask Brazilian women what they want to do for careers, I hear a lot of secretary, nurse, and administrative assistant. Mind you, these are adult women who aren't even doing those careers yet. Most of them work retail job after retail job. And I don't want to seem like an asshole, there's nothing wrong with being a secretary, nurse, or administrative assistant... but I never hear more than that. No one aspires to be a doctor, lawyer, business owner, politician, engineer. My sister-in-law said that she wants to attend college next year to become a nurse and I've offered to watch our nephew every single day she needs. (He practically lives with us now anyway). Education is so important to me - any way I can help one more Brasileira obtain a college degree, I'm going to do it. I get that this is a culture difference and doesn't specifically apply to women versus men here, but this post is about women. And while there are females in advanced education career fields, it doesn't seem to be a societal norm.

And now for the saddest tale of all. Last weekend my mother-in-law, daughter, husband, and I were eating lunch when my husband's cousin approached us. She mentioned how cute our daughter is and asked us to save her baby clothes for her. My husband asked if she was pregnant and she said she was not, but that she was trying. She looked young, so I asked how old she was. Seventeen. Seventeen. This is common here. Scary common. Women are moms - it's what they do. And without an education and career path, there aren't many reasons for them to wait to have children. I, for lack of a better term, flipped my shit. I went all scary mother hen on her. I asked the classic, "What do you want to do with your life?" She didn't know. Did you finish high school? No. And how the hell do you expect to finish high school and have any type of life with a baby in tow? I broke down the cost of formula and diapers. I broke down exactly how much work it is for me to get out of the house. I tried to break down how cute they are when they aren't yours and how much work it is when they are. I could tell that she was really uncomfortable, but I didn't care. I felt like this girl needed a dose of reality smacked in her direction.

I don't know. Maybe I'm full of American bullshit, but I hope that by asking women what they want to do with their lives it will make them think about it. Maybe no one has ever asked them. Maybe one person will be inspired and go to school or at least not have a baby at seventeen. Maybe I'm just a condescending American pushing an incongruent culture on people who don't want it.

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