Enough with Catcalling: Exposing Brazil’s Sexual Harassment Problem

An exclusive screening of the Brazilian documentary Enough with Catcalling, or Chega De Fiu Fiu in its native Portuguese, took place on Oct. 10, co-sponsored by Boston University’s Initiative on Cities, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program and the BU Center for Latin American Studies. The directors Amanda Kamancheck and Fernanda Frazão created the documentary for the Brazilian campaign, also called Chega De Fiu Fiu, started by the non-profit Think Olga initiative in an effort to stop the rampant harassment and objectification Brazilian women face on a day-to-day basis.

Enough with Catcalling follows the stories of three different women across three major Brazilian cities: Rosa Luz, a transgender woman and student living in Brasilia; Raquel Carvahlo, a woman of color and stylist living in Salvador; and Teresa Chaves, a Caucasian woman and professor living in São Paulo.

This approach is the most effective way the filmmakers could have taken to expose the problem of harassment. Not only does it serve as a counter to potential arguments that the issue is confined to a single city, but it also gives audiences the viewpoint of multiple diverse communities of women instead of merely one community’s experience. Rosa’s experience as a transgender woman offers a very unique perspective of suddenly finding herself confronted with offensive and sexually charged remarks from men on sidewalks, trains and buses. This contrasts with the Raquel’s experience, who tells the filmmakers that she encountered sexual harassment from men on the street since she was just 12 years old.

The use of hidden cameras implanted in glasses worn by the three subjects of the documentary is an interesting technique. The glasses cams captured the day-to-day experiences of Rosa, Raquel and Teresa as they walked down the city-streets, including footage showing male strangers making sexually charged remarks, inviting the women into their cars, giving unsolicited compliments on the women’s looks and, in some cases, defending their rude actions.

The filmmakers turn to multiple experts on women’s rights and history to give audiences some background and history on how and why the cities in the film have become such hotbeds for sexual harassment against women. A common refrain throughout the documentary is that the cities were not “designed for women.” One expert explains by looking at the history of Brazil: the growth in city construction, community and work centers occurred at a time when women were told their place was in the home. As a result, cities were designed by men for men. Many areas that women frequent to get to and from their jobs are poorly lit, leaving them vulnerable to assault by unseen assailants.

Representing the men in the stories rounds out the documentary’s message. Informing audiences of the thinking men employ when they participate in catcalling or other forms of harassment and the role of toxic masculinity lines up with the documentary’s main goal of educating audiences on the issue of harassment and catcalling in Brazil.

A complaint that some film-watchers may have with the documentary is that while it does a thorough job of explaining the issue of harassment, it neglects to offer potential solutions to the problem. Marianna, one of the film crew representatives who attended the screening, said the documentary is meant to introduce and educate audiences about the issue, which is just one step in the Chega De Fiu Fiu campaign’s plan to fight sexual harassment in Brazil. The next steps will be to get laws passed to protect women from sexual harassment and to enact law enforcement that effectively enforces those laws because one of the biggest hurdles women face in combating sexual harassment is the lack of enforcement of laws designed to protect women.

Enough with Catcalling is an excellent look into the daily lives of women living in cities, the harassment they face on an everyday basis and the ways that such harassment affects their minds, routines, self-image and sense of personal safety. The documentary does a great job of illuminating the issue through personal stories, factual looks throughout history and through the lens of toxic masculinity that is ever present in male-dominated cultures. Although the film does not offer any potential solutions to the pervasive problem of sexual harassment, it succeeds in its goal of educating audiences and sparking conversations that actively invite audiences to brainstorm as a community the best approaches to combat the issue.

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