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The Portuguese Carnation Revolution and the female body in protest

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On the 25th April 1974, the streets of Lisbon enabled the Carnation Revolution, not only physically, but also symbolically, lending iconicity to Lisbon as the city of political idealism. This fostered a collective memory of the street as a “miraculous” public space: open to all, and supposedly unblemished by violence, blood, or physical conflict. We will address this brand of “street lyricism,” interrogating it in the context of a feminist public demonstration planned to take place in Parque Eduardo VII in central Lisbon almost a year following the revolution. Organised by the Movimento de Libertação das Mulheres (MLM), the demonstration was intended to signal International Women’s Year as declared by the United Nations, and to call attention to the fact that, despite the occurrence of the revolution in April of the previous year, Salazar’s laws continued unaltered, since the Constitution had not yet been changed. However, the feminist protest never took place, as approximately 2000 men appeared in the park to fight the women, hitting them, grabbing their bodies, and attempting to undress them. In this talk, we will look at the public appearance of the women’s bodies in the park, as they claimed, and reacted to, the public sphere in the time of the interval between 1974 and the codification of democracy into laws. I will suggest that the feminist protest did not obey the kind of “street lyricism” structuring revolutionary public appearance, and that this may have confirmed perceptions of Portuguese feminism as being unreal.

This talk is part of the CUPORTSS series.

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