March 2003

When Lover Is a Four-Letter Word

A hit new TV show in Brazil compares women to mares.
Meanwhile the mainstream press has become suddenly
bashful and has been using boyfriend and girlfriend
when the appropriate term would be lover or concubine.

Janer Cristaldo

Except for the occasional newscast, I don't watch Brazilian television. While reading the papers, I often find out what happens in the tele-world. One newspaper has just made me aware of a new fever, the so-called "egüinha pocotó" (little pocotó mare). If I understood it well, there is some kind of new show on TV targeted to young audiences which compares women to mares. And we already have parents crying out for censorship, instead of taking the salutary measure of removing their children from the front of the small screen.

"I'm a father and I have to sit, conscious of my impotence before the television set, and watch my 12-year-old daughter having fun, singing and dancing the pocotó. Luckily she does not understand the horribly poor and vulgar lyrics appealing to sex and treating women as mares and bitches."

Well, if television appeals to sex, treats women as mares and bitches and gains audiences by doing so, the problem is not the television, but the audience. Upset viewers seem not to have yet noticed that TV sets have buttons, which are for turning the machine on and off, and for changing channels. Another option, which is not forbidden to anyone, is to throw the machine in the thrash. But nobody would think of that. Televiewers, in their dictatorial spirit, want a television suited to their ethical standards. Which evidently are not the same standards of the huge majority who finds delight in watching women compared to mares and bitches.

Words are a curious thing. Their meaning depends on who speaks them, and when they speak them. In the Song of Songs, Salomon says: "I liken you, my darling, to a mare harnessed to one of the chariots of the Pharaoh". The text has been around us for way over two thousand years and to this day I have never heard of anyone complaining about the equine comparison. On the contrary, it is considered one of the moments of great poetry in the Book. It is the only occurrence of the word "mare" in the whole Bible. It only occurs when the wise king searches for an image to describe his beloved. That may be the reason why the dark girl, as lovely as the Kedar tents, decides to stay with her pastor instead of leaving to enjoy Salomon's pageantry. But this matters very little. In fact, I didn't want to talk about mares, but about another little word.

"She will chase after her lovers, but not catch them"—we read in Hosea—"she will look for them but not find them; then she will say, 'I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now'". If the word 'mare' only occurs one single time in the Bible, the word 'lover' appears much more frequently. It generally has a pejorative meaning, but not bad enough to embarrass hagiographers. Our press seems to be the one contaminated by modesty, since they try their best to avoid the little word.

Barbara Gancia, of Folha de S. Paulo, is astonished with the boldness of the media and those involved in the telephone tapping case in Bahia who referred to Ms. Adriana Barreto as an ex-girlfriend of ACM (Bahia's senator Antonio Carlos Magalhães). "Wait a minute: isn't the Senator a married man? So what is this about "ex-girlfriend"? Until proved otherwise, Adriana has been, or will again be (if it's up to her parents) ACM's mistress".

Roberto Pompeu de Toledo, a columnist with Veja magazine, takes ironic advantage of the opportunity and says that it has become unseemly to talk about "amante" (mistress) these days. "The word invokes shady lewdness and bad-taste trickery. Only "amásia" (concubine) could be worse. The alternative, then, is "namorada" (girlfriend), or "ex-namorada", to qualify the woman who incurred the fury of the powerful Senator.

According to present-day standards of good taste, language would probably offer no better alternative, anyway. But now we have a problem. "Namorar" (to "date") has always been understood, and generally still is, to be something practiced by people who are free and unimpeded. Well, the character in question is a married man, a parent and a grandfather. Can we, then, with all normalcy, say that he has, or had, a "namorada"? If we can, then it's because we are in the Islamic world and didn't even know it. One more taboo has fallen and polygamy is now allowed.

At first sight, we have two upright professionals of the written word denouncing the hypocrisy with which words are used. But only at first sight. It so happens that the baiano Senator, notwithstanding his support to the novel president, is not a souche leftist. He is a man of the right and a kind of symbol of evil. What he has, therefore, are mistresses. Just like any shabby Fernandinho Beira-Mar.

Who does not remember Zélia Cardoso de Mello, mistress of Bernardo Cabral? Or Suzana Marcolino, mistress of PC Farias? Sure, they are characters who belong in last century. But the last century is very recent. Zélia, for those who can no longer remember, was in Fernando Collor de Mello's cabinet. PC Farias was Collor's caixa dois (black cash). They didn't have boy-friends or girl-friends, but mistresses or lovers.

The PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores—Workers' Party) Mayor of São Paulo, madam Marta Suplicy, on the other hand, has a boy-friend. In the big press, no writer dares to talk about the mayor's lover. Everyone mentions the mayor and her boy-friend, as if madam Marta weren't a little too grown-up to have a boy-friend. Or they talk about the mayor and her companion. Or, still, the mayor and her partner. Or husband, although husband he is not.

For the daily Estado de S. Paulo, madam Marta is getting married. "Marta Suplicy (PT) has announced that she plans to make her relationship with Franco-Argentinian Luís Favre official as early as this year, as soon as the separation process between her and her ex, Senator Eduardo Suplicy, is concluded"—according to the story by Deborah Bresser. Folha de S. Paulo, on the other hand, always hesitant between the politically correct and the desire to provide good information, or maybe because it deems the namoro exceedingly long, has upgraded the mayor's compadrito from Buenos Aires to the status of husband. It is curious that Barbara Gancia, a co-worker of Mônica Bergamo, doesn't complain when the latter talks about Marta Suplicy and "her husband, Luis Favre".

In its desire to be elegant with the mayor, the newspaper ends up promoting dona Marta to bigamous. Officially, the mayor has not divorced from her ex yet. If Dona Flor and her two husbands belonged to the world of fiction, Folha offers its readers a slice of real life, Dona Marta and her two husbands. In order not to confuse the mayor with these vulgar lovers, typical of the reactionary right, it promoted her to wife.

In César Giobbi's column in the Estado de S. Paulo, we read that on the 18th of last February, a roundtable of women who meet on a weekly basis at Kosushi received a surprise visit from the mayor. "One of the topics was the telephone tapping in Bahia and the accusations made by attorney Adriana Barreto. Marta was incensed because until then no one had mentioned the moral issue, since ACM is a married man". It looks like the madam mayor, with the insistence by the press in talking about her husband Luis Favre, has convinced herself that she is a wife. She even forgot that, in order to get married again, she needs first to divorce her ex, which has not happened yet. May the mayor forgive me but, according to our legislation, if it has not happened yet, that means she is still married to Senator Suplicy.

According to dona Marta, "if the situation concerned herself or Governor Rosinha Matheus or Benedita da Silva, for example, then they would, yes, make much noise about this issue". Happy illusion, madam. You are an activist of the left and on your honor befalls all the benevolence of the press.

And hail the paulista press and its extraordinary independence! Our brave columnists seem to be assaulted, when we least expect, by reflexes of the Cold War. Because of their craft, they have to live with the mayor and her trajectory almost on a daily basis, but they go out looking for lovers in the biography of… the baiano. Because lovers are attributes of evil, the big classical right. The chaste left has husbands, instead.

Click here to listen to MC Serginho's "Egüinha Pocotó"  <BGSOUND SRC="pocoto.mp3">

This article was originally published in Mídia Sem Máscara 

Janer Cristaldo—he holds a PhD from University of Paris, Sorbonneis an author, translator, lawyer, philosopher and journalist and suffers São Paulo. His e-mail address is 

Translated by Tereza Braga, email:

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