Updated: Mar 2
We find ourselves in the year 2022.
Angela Merkel. Joana D'arc. Margaret Thatcher. Dilma Rousseff. My mother. Your mother. What do these women have in common? They were strong and fearless women in an unequal world. Whether they are a housewife or the next president of Brazil, they woke up everyday to face conditions of harassment and prejudice to get to where they are.
Being recognised as a mother or as a professional is still not common in many parts of the world. There are numerous religions and cultures that even today repress the role of women in society. Places where women cannot greet other men, where they cannot leave the house without permission. Sometimes, against their will, they have their body and mind covered with the cloak of prejudice that makes them normalize this type of situation. And the worst is that these actions often come from the husband, the father, or even the whole family.
As a man, I believe it's not my place to write about prejudice against the female world. But without a doubt, it is my role to recognize that this, in addition to obviously existing, oppresses and kills many women every day. It's my role to join the fight and not tolerate this kind of behavior from people around me. And to respect, regardless of the situation, the woman in her position, whatever it may be.
It is without a doubt a privilege to be among women. Respect and be respected by women. Working and living with strong women who know what they want, who know that they can do anything and achieve whatever goal is set, whether in their personal or professional life. Daily life at MHCIH is easygoing, healthy, and there’s tolerance among the team. Debates and dialogues are always guided by ideas and conversations. And I believe that this text is the first moment in which the topic of gender has come forward during my journey within the Mental Health Clinic Isabel Henriques. Which I'm very proud of.
I am the end result of 3 women: my grandma, my mother, and my aunt. Three women with completely different worldviews made me what I am today.
My grandmother was in the first class of the physical education course at UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), a male-dominated course. She founded a gym in her hometown, which is still in operation today. She has told me several times in our many long conversations that I am a reflection of the adventures she wanted to embark on and could not. The act of throwing oneself in the world, traveling, looking inside oneself, and looking for what really makes us happy and live chasing it. This is my first example in life.
My mother is a warrior. She teaches me every day that we should always keep going, no matter what. That life is like a train without breaks and that we always need to enjoy the journey. She is the example of a woman who always remains the same person, no matter the environment she steps in – she wears high heels every day, even if it's to visit a construction site, and she will never be less respectable for that. She is an exemplary leader, respected by men and women of different social classes. This for me is an example of wisdom and humility.
My aunt taught me what caring for others and for family is, and what complicity looks like. We always talked for hours, thinking and finding ways to solve our family's issues. She taught me how to make popcorn and noodles (which happen to be my favorite things to eat in the world to this day). She is comfort when I need it and stiff when things go off the rails.
The three of them have always been my strength for the challenges of the world and life.
I've lived in 3 different cities, traveled a lot, met good and bad people, and had wonderful and not-so-wonderful moments along my journey. All in all, what I learned the most and try to take with me is the duty to respect everyone. Judging someone by their appearance, gender, color, race, political opinion, religion, or football team, isn't only a crime but a stupid and ignorant act. And finally, I've learned that we must always listen not only to others but also to ourselves.
We often reproduce prejudices without knowing. And if one day someone tells us that they were hurt by something that was said, apologise, acknowledge it, and don't reproduce it anymore. After all, prejudice is most of the times veiled and expressed as a “joke”, and it only hurts those who feel it.
I'm a man working among extremely competent people, and they all happen to be women. Another privilege, isn't it?
We find ourselves in the year 2022 - How long will it take for you to stop thinking you're better than the other?
By João Marcelo Abreu