What’s Wrong with Women-Only Capoeira Events?

16 02 2008

You may have noticed that a while ago I put up an events listing on my blog sidebar, featuring capoeira women’s events.  The truth is, I was a bit iffy about the whole idea, but in the end decided to go ahead with it anyway.  In this post I explain why, and thanks to Cenoura for the prompt!

When it comes to all-women (meaning women-only) capoeira events, I’m not completely against them (obviously, seeing as they’re being publicized on my blog), but I don’t think they’re the greatest idea in the world, either.  For one thing, their existence, more specifically the focus on women-only rodas, is yet another phenomenon rooted in the idea that women and men don’t or can’t play on the same level.  It’s just like when you were in gym class at school, and the teacher separated the boys from the girls to play football, or soccer, because they thought the girls wouldn’t be able to handle playing with the boys, or wouldn’t be given a chance to play by the boys.  On the other hand, there is probably something to be said for the atmosphere of support and comaradery found at these events (well, I’m assuming that’s what the atmosphere would be like; I’ve never actually been to one), where women can share stories about training, past experiences, what it’s like for them in their respective grupos, etc. 

Should there be women-only rodas or events in capoeira?

Before continuing though, we need to make an important distinction here.  I’m all for capoeira events that are about women, such as FICA’s 2008 Women’s Conference.  Events like this bring up and address important issues, and they are for men as well as women, and they work towards resolving matters such as, I’d imagine, sexism and discrimination in capoeira.  Women-only events or rodas that are held purely for the sake of having something women-only, however, in my opinion, only serve to highlight “the divide” (a phrase I’m starting to despise, so please take no notice of it beyond what’s necessary for this sentence to make sense) without providing a channel for discussing, deconstructing, or resolving it.  And if they do provide a channel, then that’s even more reason for the event to be for men as well as women.

Now that I think about it, even the pros mentioned above aren’t very good arguments for women-only events, once you consider that support and comeradery are found at most capoeira events in general, and that women can always share stories there, as well.  I read somewhere that another reason for all-women events was so female capoeira students could meet and be inspired by women who had reached high levels in capoeira.  My response to that, though, would be to invite more of these women to normal capoeira events (thereby, moreover, balancing out the gender ratio of high-level belts at these events and killing two birds with one stone)!

At the same time, I still don’t feel I can just outright condemn or want to call for a stop to all women-only events.  I figure while they’re still going on, you may as well go and get what you can out of them, which I’m sure can be a lot.  I know, also, that they are supposed to be empowering rather than alienating or belittling in terms of women in capoeira.  (Although, just to be Devil’s advocate, let’s not forget what the road to Hell is paved with…!  Good intentions are what fuel my self-christened “Chauvinist Theory“, as well.)

In the end, I think a lot of it depends on each individual event, what it includes, and how it’s pulled off.  Most of what I’ve said just applies to all-women events, however; all-women rodas alone, I would say, are unnecessary.  And they certainly should not be held, as I read happened somewhere, at co-ed/”normal” capoeira events!  (I don’t know about you, but my grupo finds it more useful to split up participants by corda level, not gender…)

Picture source: http://www.capoeirabrasileira.com/pics/mulheres.jpg