Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rose Marie Muraro: The Saga of an Impossible Woman

Leonardo Boff pays tribute here to Rose Marie Muraro, his late long-time colleague at the Brazilian Catholic publishing house Editora Vozes before both were fired in 1986 -- Boff for his embrace of liberation theology, and Muraro allegedly for publishing Sexualidade, libertação e fé: por uma erótica cristã. Muraro went on thinking and writing about gender issues (among other things), becoming one of Brazil's foremost feminist intellectuals. Her intellectual partnership with Boff continued, their last book together being Feminino & Masculino: uma nova consciência para o encontro das diferenças which was published in 2010.

By Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Leonardoboff.com (em português)
June 22, 2014

On June 21st in Rio de Janeiro, one of the most significant Brazilian women in the 20th century, Rose Marie Muraro (1930-2014) ended her earthly pilgrimage. She had the sense early on that only the impossible makes way for the new, so she did the impossible. That's what she says in her book Memórias de uma mulher impossível ("Memoirs of an impossible woman" -- 1999, 35). With a very frugal vision, she trained in physics and economics. But then she discovered her intellectual vocation -- to be a thinker about the human condition, particularly the condition of women. She was the one who in the late '60s raised the controversial issue of gender. She didn't limit herself to the issue of unequal power relationships between men and women, but denounced oppressive relationships in culture, science, philosophical movements, institutions, government and the economic system. She finally realized that the main root of this system that dehumanizes both women and men dwells in centuries-old patriarchy.

She went through an impressive process of liberation within herself, narrated in the book Os seis meses em que fui homem ("The six months I was a man" -- 1990, 6th edition). But perhaps the most important work by Rose Marie Muraro is Sexualidade da Mulher Brasileira: corpo e classe social no Brasil ("Sexuality of Brazilian Women: Body and Social Class in Brazil" -- 1996). It's a field study in various states in the country analyzing how sexuality is experienced, taking into account the class situation of the women, something that had been neglected by the fathers of psychoanalysis. In this field, Rose was an innovator, creating a theoretical framework that makes us understand the experience of sexuality and the body according to social class. What kind of individualization process can a famished woman achieve who, so as not to let her little son die, gives blood from her own bosom?

Rose and I worked together for 17 years as editors at Editora Vozes. She was responsible for the scientific part and I for the religious part. Even under strict control of the organs of military repression, Rose had the courage to publish then condemned authors like Darcy Ribeiro, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Paulo Freire, the CEBRAP books, and others. After long years of discussion and study, we gathered together our points of convergence in a book I consider seminal, Feminino & Masculino: uma nova consciência para o encontro das diferenças ("Female & Male: a new awareness for finding the differences" -- Record, 2010). I just want to highlight one phrase from it: "Educating a man is educating one individual, but educating a woman is educating a society."

Never leaving aside the question of the feminine (in men and in women), she soon turned to the challenges of modern science and technology. In 1969, she published Autonomação e o futuro do homem ("Automation and the future of man") and predicted the precariousness of the world of work.

The economic and financial crisis of 2008 led her to question capital/money with the book Reinventando o capital/dinheiro ("Reinventing capital/money" -- Idéias e Letras, 2012), where she emphasizes the relevance of complementary social currencies and solidarity exchange networks that allow the poorest to ensure their livelihood in absence of the dominant capitalist economy.

Another important work, really rich in cultural knowledge, facts and reflections is titled Os avanços tecnológicos e o futuro da humanidade: querendo ser Deus? ("Technological advances and the future of humanity: wanting to be God?" -- Vozes, 2009). In this text she addresses cutting-edge science such as nanotechnology, robotics, genetic engineering, and synthetic biology. She saw advantages on these fronts since she wasn't an obscurantist. But because we live in a society that makes everything into a commodity, even life, she perceived the serious risk of scientists assuming divine powers and using knowledge to redesign the human species. Hence the subtitle: "Wanting to be God?" This is a naive illusion of scientists. What will save us is not that new technological revolution but, as Rose says, the "Sustainability Revolution, the only thing that can save humankind from destruction ... because if we continue as is, we will not be in a win-lose game but in a terrible lose-lose game that will mean the destruction of our species, in which we will all lose." (Reinventando o Capital/dinheiro, 238)

Rose had very strong feelings for the world -- she suffered from global tragedies and celebrated the few advances. Recently, Rose had seen dark clouds over the planet, endangering our future. She died concerned with the search for life-saving alternatives. A woman of deep faith and spirituality, she dreamed of the human capacity to transform the predicted tragedy into a cleansing crisis towards a society that is reconciled with nature and Mother Earth. She concludes her book Os avanços tecnológicos with this wise saying: "When we give up being gods, we can be fully human. We still don't know what that is but we have sensed it forever." (p. 354).

Officially proclaimed Patron of Brazilian Feminism by the president on December 30, 2005, and with the creation of the Fundação Cultural Rose Marie Muraro ("Rose Marie Muraro Cultural Foundation") in 2009, she will leave a legacy of fruitful humanism for future generations. Rose Marie Muraro showed in her personal saga that the impossible is not a limit but a challenge. She is inscribed in the lineage of great archetypal women who have helped humanity keep alive the sacred lamp of caring for all that lives and breathes. Through this effort, she has become immortal.

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