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Berkeley’s Judith Butler gets tangled in Brazil’s culture wars

Judith Butler, the University of California at Berkeley professor, philosopher and gender theory trailblazer, is in São Paulo for “Os Fins da Democracia” (“The Ends of Democracy”), a joint UC Berkeley/University of São Paulo conference focused on the challenges the rise of populist movements pose for liberal democracy and its institutions.

So it’s fitting and not at all surprising that the populist, right-wing element that’ been targeting Brazil’s cultural institutions would come out to protest Butler. Heverton Sodario, a 24-year-old lawyer who was one of the 70 or so protesters in front of the SESC Pompéia cultural center during the opening of the conference, told ABr:

“We are not here because of the theme of the conference, we are here because Judith Butler is one of the proponents of gender theory, one of the originators and one of the main proponents of this thing. [Our presence] is not against homosexuals, or against a man who wants to dress up as woman. It’s against an ideology that is being preached to children, trying to say that even though you are born a man or a woman, you can have a different gender. It’s absurd.”

Judith Butler’s dream is to “Destroy your children’s sexual identity,” says this sign

Evangelicals have been a driving force behind Brazil’s right-wing surge, and today’s protesters burned Butler in effigy — as a bra-wearing witch.

Other standard conservative tropes were on display, including signs supporting a hypothetical military coup and bashing former President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, according to ABr.

Counter-protesters were there to show support for the LGBT+ community. Anthropologist Heloíse Fruchi said Buler’s visit should be welcomed as “a channel for thought about how gender issues should not be dealt with as an affront, but as an acknowledgement of our existence.”

“Respect existence or expect resistance,” says the sign on the right
“Gender freedom,” says the sign on the left

Photos cc by Rovena Rosa/ABr