Image cannot be everything

Freedom of expression should not serve as a shield for empty opinions to pollute readers' eyes.

When I read the chronicle of the former journalist and director of the newspaper Record Alexandre Pais making comments about the image of Maria Botelho Moniz, presenter of the TVI program «Two at 10», and Cristina Ferreira, I thought it was an April 1st lie, a fake text — it didn't seem credible to me that lines with such imponderables about women's bodies could be written, let alone published.

Freedom of expression should not serve as a shield for empty opinions to pollute readers' eyes.

Alexandre Pais is a columnist for Correio da Manhã and could take advantage of his space to talk about an abyss of subjects, but no. He decided to intertwine words about the weight of Maria Botelho Moniz, the sagging of Cristina Ferreira's arms, going even further, giving, as examples of «care and intelligence», Catarina Furtado and Sónia Araujo «who, after 50, always emerge from perfect silhouette and well-produced, as a sign of respect for themselves and the public, and preventing winter from coming sooner».

In a few paragraphs, all the existential scrutiny that a woman suffers throughout her life, just because she was born a woman, is mirrored, with more brutality, if she is a public figure: weight, physical shape, the need to be «always perfect» and the “problem” of aging.

These furtive and slanderous looks don't just happen to those who have spotlights – and therein lies one of the big problems. Cristina Ferreira will be able to sue the CM columnist, demonstrate her repudiation in public. Maria Botelho Moniz has an audience that supports and cherishes her.

But what about so many anonymous women who are vilified in the silence of everyday life? Who suffer from misogynistic comments and behaviors that affect their self-esteem, their mental health and even their professional progression?

The pain is the same, the damage internally as well, but there is something liberating about the power to respond publicly (or to remain silent but feel the support of many).

In another phase of my life, when I was working in Tourism, one day, I was refused an opportunity for career advancement because I was of “childbearing age”.

Comment said like this, directly, by a man who looked the same age as me. A director, for whom this question of being a father will never be an obstacle. Even today, at the gym, I was told about a guy in his fifties who refuses to take orders from women.

This issue of the importance of the image of a Woman (or, simply, of Being a Woman) is unfortunately far from being outdated.

A man's weight, figure, age are "non-issues". It is unlikely that a television presenter will be told to lose weight, define abs, in order to respect the public, or disguise wrinkles, sagging so that winter does not knock on his door.

A woman, in addition to resume, professionalism, skills and abilities, it is almost required that you solve problems, find solutions, enchant the world with Babyliss hair, a diamond smile and legs that do not neglect the elliptical, preferably in high heels, but beware, if they are those with bright red leather soles.

As for Alexandre Pais, the date he chose to share these insults could not be the most appropriate. April 1st, April Fools' Day.

We cannot remain indifferent to these realities. We cannot be silent. Men or women.

Chimamanda Ngozi once said: «the problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be instead of recognizing who we are».


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