Professionals, Rivals and Survivors: Intersections of Gender and Violence in the Narratives of Brazilian Girls Who Committed Violent Offenses

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Natalia OTTO, University of Toronto, Canada
This paper analyzes 8 biographical narratives of female juvenile offenders incarcerated for violent offenses (homicide, attempted homicide, robbery murder, and kidnapping) at the Center for Social and Educational Services for Teenage Women, in Porto Alegre, Brazil. I aim at understanding how these girls’ representations of gender and physical violence (both suffered and committed) intersect in their narratives. Thus, I investigate the connections they establish between their violent practices and the positions they occupy as young women in their social space. I focus on how gender practices that seem contrary to emphasized femininity (such as the practice of violence) are regulated and negotiated in these girls’ social context. I ask under which conditions the practice of physical violence is regarded as coherent with the girls’ femininity, and under which conditions it is not. I have found that the girls perceive their violent acts as coherent to their femininity in some contexts. Thus, some violent practices do not put them in conflict with their feminine identity and are not perceived as a form of resistance to gender expectations. In these girls’ understanding, legitimate and intelligible reasons and social positions to commit violence and maintain their status as women are: (i) as “professionals”, when they are in charge of the drug trade; (ii) as “rivals” or spouses, when they commit violence against other girls who threat their heterosexual relationships; and (iii) as “survivors”, when they feel they have no choice other than to commit violence to protect themselves or others. I argue that these girls do not deny emphasized femininity, but rather that the conditions under which this femininity is socially accepted and reproduced are transformed and negotiated in these girls’ social context to accommodate violent practices.