Feminist Debates over the Meaning of Violence against Women

  • Cecília MacDowell Santos


These statements clearly buttress Brazilian anthropologist Miriam Grossi’s argument that “[w]hat today is considered ‘violence against women’ in Brazil is the result of a historical construction by the feminist movement over the past 15 years” (Grossi 1994a, 482). Grossi made this same point in a paper that she presented in 1994 during a meeting in São Paulo organized by the State Council on the Feminine Condition (CECF) and the women’s movement in preparation for the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing (Grossi 1994b). Her paper addressed different forms of violence against women, as defined by the women’s movement since the 1970s. But in addition to conjugal violence, Grossi examined “new” forms of violence against women, such as sexual abuse of children, sexual harassment, and violence against women from nonwhite ethnic groups in Brazil. In other words, Grossi illuminated forms of violence defined on the basis not only of gender but also racial oppression (Grossi 1994b). As an attendee to this meeting, I observed the refusal of some feminist scholars and activists to accept expanding the definition of violence against women to include a racial perspective (see also Conselho Estadual da Condição Feminina 1994a). The meeting and the conflicts that arose over particular issues illustrate Grossi’s point that the definition of violence against women is socially and politically constructed.


Domestic Violence Black Woman Sexual Harassment Sexual Violence Racial Discrimination 
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© Cecίlia MacDowell Santos 2005

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  • Cecília MacDowell Santos

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