Lélia G. + Language Justice
Lélia Gonzalez (1935-1994) is one of the most important black feminist pioneers of Brazil. In a time where the feminist movement had not yet found the words for it, she was writing, giving speeches and contributing with an intersectional perspective on feminism. Beyond having great clarity about matters such as race, sexism and social-historical conditions, Lélia also gave great importance to language, departing from a psychoanalyst approach.
She would defend the concept of Pretuguês (a mix of preto, which means black, and português, which means Portuguese) to describe the African culture subtleties which are part of the Brazilian language. Pretuguês would then have a subversive role inside Brazil's social construction, as it served to blend cultures in a time where African culture was openly considered as inferior to European ones.
The propagation of Pretuguês inside Brazilian Portuguese is one of the most intelligent ways of decolonial resistance I can think of. Because it's somehow "quiet and peaceful" while extremely penetrating. Today we can say that all Brazilians speak Pretuguês in a way, even if they don’t realize it.
My name is Emily Bandeira, and for International Women’s Day 2023, I’ve decided to talk about women's struggle for a more fair and inclusive world, and how it can come in so many diverse ways. Sometimes we are out there marching on the streets, sometimes we are hacking the way we communicate, disrupting our own language. I've become an enthusiast of the concept of Language Justice, which I came in contact with due to feminist international institutions that work with transformative justice. Here is one of the ways to describe it:
“Language justice is about building and sustaining multilingual spaces in our organizations and social movements so that everyone’s voice can be heard both as an individual and as part of a diversity of communities and cultures. Valuing language justice means recognizing the social and political dimensions of language and language access, while working to dismantle language barriers, equalize power dynamics, and build strong communities for social and racial justice.”
- (Communities Creating Healthy Environments).
This reminded me of the subversive language practices which Lélia spoke of. In a different way, it's also about decolonizing our linguistic access and resisting the universal use of some dominant languages.
What captures my attention is that the front-row people who are actively trying to transform language patterns and linguistic accessibility are women, or non-binary, intersex, and trans people, many of them working in care. And this time, women in "the role of care" means those women recognising and leveraging the power of language for a more inclusive society.
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