Quite by accident, I came across a year-old story told by a so-called journalist named Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, writing for National Public Radio. In this story she tried to draw comparisons to the status of women in the Muslim world and Latin American, as usual drawing on the accepted Western stereotypes. Garcia-Navarro is one of those Euro-elites who also happens to be quite attractive to her employers and to herself—both attributes which I consider with scorn because people like herself refuses to accept the fact that she is the beneficiary of the cultural superficiality in this country that she attacks in another just to make her gender politics point. Not only that, but that she is the beneficiary of a peculiar fact and does not acknowledge it makes plain her obsession with her own self, an egotism that requires a broad brush to white wash.
Brazil seems to be her principle point of contention, mainly because she doesn’t recognize that it is a party place where tourists like to congregate without the self-consciousness that she apparently possesses. Now, are Brazil’s bikini-clad beaches supposed to be demeaning and sexist? Maybe compared to the U.S.’ prudish standards (at least in the media), but Garcia-Navarro obviously hasn’t been around Mediterranean beaches in the summertime. So what about men’s attitudes about it. What about images of the scantily-clad on magazine racks she complains about? Is it really “worse” in Latin America than in Western countries, or at least in Europe? No, but because she can’t imagine “demeaning” herself wearing a bikini, she has to criticize the “patriarchal” culture that allows it, instead of asking women why they do it. Do many of them do so because they like to “show off”? Very likely.
This “culture” didn’t come out of nowhere. Was the semi-nude beach look in style in Brazil 50 years ago? Brazilian culture was likely as conservative as any place, and many of things that Garcia-Navarro complains about are likely a reaction to the exhibitionism that many women choose to display—especially in “Latin” culture. It is also likely that Europeans on “holiday” to the beaches of Brazil brought an element of this “culture” with them. Latinas do it for their own reasons. One evening right here in Seattle I saw a Latina walking with an Anglo man, obviously in the course of an evening date. Was I “surprised” to see that she was wearing a see-through top underneath her jacket, with her breasts plainly seen? Hell no. My own observation is that Hispanic men are attacked for essentially the same cultural traits that are found “attractive” in Hispanic women (at least for white men). Caucasian and mixed-race Latinas often seem obsessed with their looks, and more than a few times I find them trying to catch my attention, as if in an effort to draw the jealousy of their boyfriends or husbands, which is no good for me, but makes them feel “good” about their self-perceived attractions.
On the other hand, indigenous people (i.e. Full-Blooded Indians) who are often segregated from the prevailing society, and have difficult lives (which is why they immigrate here), so it is hypocritical for Euro-elites like Garcia-Navarro to stereotype their “culture.” Furthermore, Spanish-language television is clearly the preserve of Euro-elite life—which shouldn’t be too surprising, since in places like Mexico and Colombia where this programming originates only Euro-elites do anything “interesting,” given that they keep the political, social and economic power for themselves. Soap operas and prime time programming almost exclusively represents the lives of this unmistakably white upper crust. Oh sure, on game shows you might see the faces of darker-skinned “lower class” types, but that is because Euro-elites wouldn’t “shame” themselves to rub shoulders with “that kind.” There is no “Good Times” or “Sanford and Son” to speak to their lives; just like in this country, people don’t want to see the real reality anymore, just people in nice houses, wearing nice clothes, speaking “proper” English and basically making fools of themselves for a few tortured “laughs.”
Why is that Garcia-Navarro interpretations are the only valid ones, based on anecdotal evidence that just happens to supports her “thesis”? Individuals are only on this Earth for a short time; when they die, the vast majority leave nothing behind but memories for a generation or two of immediate family. Of course, Garcia--Navarro is in her line of business because she has a superstar-in-her-own-mind complex, while most people—men and women—have to face reality and hope that they earn enough money to support a minimum level of pleasure in their lives, whether this is eating something that tastes good, watching a good movie, taking in nature on a sunny afternoon, or just getting drunk with friends.
What makes Garcia-Navarro feel “good” is telling people that they should feel “bad” even when they are not. She does this while trying to justify globe-trotting around the world on someone else’s dime, which the vast majority of us are not privileged to do. Why is she allowed to do this? Is it because her employees see her fulfilling two roles—filling the role of both gender and “minority,” even though she is hardly the latter, being a Hispanic of the Euro-elite class—thus killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. But like Erik Lacitis of the Seattle Times, who Times columnist Danny Westneat hilariously told me was the paper’s Hispanic representative, she doesn’t at all, just “representing” her own obsession with self.
Garcia-Navarro rather amusingly claims further that women in Brazil are more “oppressed” than women in the Middle East. Frankly, I don’t think she understands anything about the Middle East; I worked around Muslim women (mainly from Somalia) at the airport who did not complain about wearing those long frocks. They didn’t talk about and didn’t seem unhappy about it. Not only that, they sassed with their men without any particular fear of retribution. I’m sure that Western-influenced Muslim women prefer to dress they want, but there are those who not only accept but like the way their culture defines proper attire; they might even find a woman in jeans or a man’s business suit unattractive and insulting to them. Why not ask them what they think, instead of forcing them to accept your own poor taste in clothes?
But in Brazil, it is more “insulting” to women to show “too much.” But that’s Garcia-Navarro personal issue, not the women who choose to “show off,” which is how I see it. It is not up to her to tell them what they can or cannot do; it’s odd how feminists like her can claim to be fighting for women’s “freedom,” when in fact they are trying to take it away by pigeon-holing them into their own paranoid world. Just because men “like” it doesn’t mean that they are “forcing” any one to do it.
Garcia-Navarro really goes on the deep end when she “bolstered” her argument by declaring that in Brazil (which has a female president; so much for “sexism” among male voters) is where women are murdered in “shocking” numbers, thus their lives are “devalued” more than anywhere else in the world. Again, she disposes of facts rather readily, or at least prefers to leave out context. One report I found claims that 41,000 women were victims of homicide in Brazil from 1997-2007; that’s 4,000 per year. That’s a lot, but how are we supposed to judge this statistic when compared to 64,000 total homicide victims in all of 2012?
Obviously the vast majority—in fact, by a much higher percentage than in the U.S.—of victims of homicide in Brazil are typically male. And not just that, by far the largest homicide victim demographic (not surprisingly) is black males, in 2009 by a rate of 51.1 per 100,000—compared to 16.3 percent for whites. This is 12 times the murder rate for all females (4.3 percent). These rates have something to do with relative social and economic standing, but more telling is the way gender activists like Garcia-Navarro freely ignore context and other more pertinent factors and issues to further their own personal political agenda.
Garcia-Navarro did receive some criticism for her over-broad and self-serving insinuations in her initial article on gender oppression in Latin America, but NPR allowed her a follow-up performance to “defend” herself with one or two additional bits of anecdotal evidence and comments from the similarly like-minded. The reality, of course, is that people like her are just as much oppressors as the “male” culture she attacks—maybe more so because she lives in an alternate reality that most people.