Academic journal article Romance Notes

Navigating the Margins of Afro-Brazilian Masculinity in Francisco Maciel's "Entre Dois Mundos"

Academic journal article Romance Notes

Navigating the Margins of Afro-Brazilian Masculinity in Francisco Maciel's "Entre Dois Mundos"

Article excerpt

Francisco Maciel's 1997 award-winning short story "Entre dois mundos" manifests tensions in the social construction of masculinity in Brazil. In particular, Maciel's work addresses the negative racialized dimensions of hegemonic masculinity--namely, racism, machismo and misogyny. The story presents the struggles of a character, Aluisio Cesario, who is referred to merely by the initials AC and who is caught between two worlds: the white, middle-class world of privilege situated in and symbolized by Copacabana, and the black, economically impoverished world of a disenfranchised community in Sao Goncalo, a suburb located on the urban periphery of Rio de Janeiro. While the elite-periferia dynamics of the story will be readily recognizable to readers familiar with Brazilian culture, the story also explores the condition of a man caught between competing definitions of masculinity. In the introduction to his insightful book Female Masculinity, Jack Halberstam argues that "masculinity becomes legible as masculinity where and when it leaves the white male middle-class body" (2). Similarly, Gail Bederman encourages us to view masculinity as a "heuristic category, a conceptual placeholder which allows us to ask certain kinds of questions" (16). In these terms, Maciel's story provides a unique example of how Afro-Brazilian masculinity becomes legible in Brazil when confronted by the values of white middle-class masculinity. Accordingly, the story offers insight into the challenges surrounding non-normative, subaltern masculine identity.

While masculinity and male-normative values vary across cultures, sociologists and psychologists alike have noted the way in which hegemonic masculinity, regardless of cultural origin, requires men to constantly prove their manhood (see Connell and Messerschmidt; see also Kimmel). Gary Barker and Irene Loewenstein note, for example, "In nearly every known cultural group ... manhood is socially defined as something that is earned rather than automatically conferred on the basis of biological sex determination" (169). Normative heterosexual masculinity in Brazil is no different as boys and men are expected to earn or prove (and constantly re-prove) their masculinity through a variety of behaviors that have been coded with so-called masculine values. These values are often presented in positive terms as virility, strength, responsibility, commitment, and fatherhood. Negatively, these values find expression through sexism, racism, authoritarianism, patriarchal oppression, and domestic violence, which broadly and collectively constitute machismo in brazil (Gutmann and Vigoya 118).

Afro-Brazilian men face particular challenges in view of this cultural construction of gender, given that hegemonic masculinity in brazil is additionally constructed along racial lines as white. Although masculinity can be viewed as a collective experience, and certainly as a phenomenon that drives hegemonic masculinity and structures patriarchy, significant heterogeneity exists within the overarching category of masculinity. That is, men are privileged because of gender, but not all men experience that privilege in the same way. Rolf Malungo de Souza notes, for example, "that although men have social advantages with regard to their gender, they do not share power equally" (519). He furthermore observes that "one of the main characteristics of hegemonic masculinity is to disqualify other masculinities, creating and reproducing stereotypes that link poor, black, and homosexual men with failed or incomplete masculinities. In other words, these men are categorized as subordinate masculinities" (520). This corroborates one of the central tenets of intersectional studies, which reveals the way racism and sexism interact to substantiate hegemonic masculinity and exclude minorities from full participation in society. Henrique Restier da Costa Souza similarly states, "O racismo, com seus mecanismos e barreiras artificiais, impede que os homens negros possam desempenhar papeis de relevancia na sociedade brasileira" (2). …

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