In 1984 the Primeiro Encontro Nacional da Arte Caopeira (First National Meeting of the Art of Capoeira) was held. Nestor Capoeira has written about it in the revised edition of The Little Book of Capoeira.
One of the topics that came up at the meeting was "Women in capoeira". There is a long tradition of women in capoeira - from the tales of women warriors in the Quilombo dos Palmeres in the 18th century, to Mestre Bimba teaching his daughters and the first capoeira academy he set up in the 1930s. Despite this, the speakers at the time recounted their experiences of prejudice against women in capoeira. As Nestor Capoeira concludes about the talk/discussion (which was followed with a capoeira performance):
"Some old, stereotyped ideas crumbled. The first was that capoeira is only for men. Another was the fear that capoeira practice might "masculinize" women. All who saw that dream-team doing their performance were mesmerized.
It was clear that prejudice against women in capoeira exists and is very strong in society as well as in certain academies. On the other hand, in other academies (some of the best known for their high level) there is no problem accepting women among the students and players."
Today is International Women's Day, and the theme is #PledgeForParity.
One of the things that drew me to capoeira is its welcoming and accepting nature - there's a saying "Capoeira is for everyone, but not everyone is for capoeira". Capoeira is very inclusive - it really is for everyone, though some who try it find that it is not for them.
I am fortunate to know many female capoeiristas, not just from Oficina da Capoeira, but beyond, and it has certainly never seemed to me that capoeira is just for men, but that is easier for me to say, as a man.
This International Women's Day I pledge to challenge conscious and unconcious bias.
The meeting in 1984 highlighted that prejudice against women existed in capoeira in 1984. I hope that over 30 years on this is no longer the case, and certainly it is something that I have never seen or experienced. However, the prejudice did exist, and prejudice can sometimes take a long time to die. So today is a chance to reflect on how things were and be conscious that, for some people, things may not have changed. If that is the case, it should be challenged.
If you would like to join me in a #PledgeForParity you can do so here:
To finish, let's celebrate women in capoeira: