Home Institution

Harvard University

Publication Date

Spring 2007

Program Name

Brazil: Amazon Resource Management and Human Ecology


The role of women in the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem-Terra is a unique discourse connected to agrarian reform movements and Brazilian machismo. Current literature on women in the MST reveals conflicting levels of participation. During occupations and the building of acampamentos women are remembered for their aggressive fighting and high levels of involvement. However, once acampamentos become established assentamentos history has shown levels of participation to dramatically drop, as women return to traditional roles. Sexism and machismo have both been identified historically as problems in the landless movement. The objective of this paper was to contribute to the debate on the participation of women in the Movimento Sem-Terra. Eight interviews were conducted with women in Palmares II, Pará and directors of the MST Regional Office to determine the reality of female participation in an MST settlement; questions focused on understanding obstacles, progress, objectives, and personal experiences with the MST. Between a literary review of the historic role of women in the MST, an examination of the politically enabling structure of the organization, and a study of the realities of femininity in an MST settlement, we found that rather than conflicting, these dual perceptions of female participation reveal the particular struggles taking place in the current debate on women’s place in society and activism. The intersection of these discourses revealed that within the walls of Brazilian machismo society, the landless movement has opened a space for the creation of a feminine consciousness: a consciousness that evolves the political ideologies of women and challenges the constructs from which it has been created.


Inequality and Stratification | Politics and Social Change


Article Location