Ouvi Dizer [Heard Said]: Abortion Rumors and Male Power in Turn-of-the-Century Rio de Janeiro
This paper fills this gap by looking at male gossip and rumor in abortion cases in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I argue that women were not the only ones who had to “defend their honor” in response to reproductive-related gossip. Men employed denunciation and the police to defend their own social honor, threatened by female sexual independence evidenced through the clandestine practice of fertility control. Fathers denounced deflowerers who took their daughter’s virginity and husbands denounced midwives who performed abortions on their wives. At a time when women’s honor was moving from the control of the family to that of the state, fertility control threatened men’s eroding patriarchal authority. Men denouncing the people who facilitated women’s access to fertility control was an attempt to reassert their patriarchal clout. In the end, male denunciations relating to female sexual honor worked to uphold the bourgeois family, facilitating the transition of patriarchal authority from the family to the state.
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