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Brazilian feminists use secret santa to call out aggressors

They started #meuamigosecreto, roughly translating to my secret santa or my secret friend, which calls out aggressions inflicted on women by men close to them

As of this Wednesday, thousands of Brazilian women have taken to social media by using the playful hashtag #meuamigosecreto (roughly translating to “my secret Santa” or “my secret friend”) to denounce aggressions and acts of daily misogyny committed against them by men close to them.

The hashtag wasn’t started by an organization or a particular political group, but by seven Rio-based women who met through the feminist movement. It uses the basic rules of the Christmas party game, describing someone just enough so people recognise them without having to actually say their name. It seeks to highlight contradictions in men’s actions as well as show the stark reality of everyday sexism that looms over all environments of women’s lives.

The posts, which flooded social media on the 25th of November, go from saying “my secret Santa wants to out-feminist women and constantly invalidates the arguments of those who live what he can only theorise” to speaking out for the first time about sexual harassment suffered in childhood and experiences with abusive relationships and gaslighting.

This movement is part of a larger rising popularity of feminism, which has been gaining force in Brazil. Earlier this year, the hashtag #meuprimeiroassedio got women to speak out about their first experiences of sexual harassment, after some men took to social media to make “jokes” of a sexual nature about a twelve year old Master Chef Junior contestant. This campaign reached over 82 thousand tweets.

More recently, women have been repeatedly mobilising against Eduardo Cunha, an extremely religious politician who has, this October, proposed to outlaw the morning after pill, which would make the use of this preventive contraception method to be as illegal as abortion, which at the moment, if carried out in Brazil, will land you in jail.

“I think the importance of the #meuamigosecreto hashtag is to make women feel like they aren’t alone. You can notice that there’s so many common narratives. It gives strength for women to share their stories, which as well as being a relief, can inform other women of possible abusers”, says Laura Emi Miyazaki, a law student who took part in the movement.

“For the first time in the holidays, it won’t only be women, POC and LGBTQ folk who will be feeling uncomfortable”

Of course that although women have been supporting each other widely, there have been negative responses, and a lot of attempts to co-opt the movement. Some men have even gone as far as suggesting women only talk about their experiences to their harassers and confront them face-to-face. The hopes of the campaign is that by highlighting that misogynistic behavior, no matter how veiled, isn’t normal or acceptable, men will start to pay more attention to their own actions instead of half-heartedly trying to support equality for brownie points.

Maria, one of the seven women who kickstarted the movement, told Brazilian news outlet O Globo that as a result of the campaign, she thinks that “for the first time in the holidays, it won’t only be women, POC and LGBTQ folk who will be feeling uncomfortable”.