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Rose Marie Muraro: the saga of an impossible woman


On June 21th, one of the most significant Brazilian women of the XX century: Rose Marie Muraro (1930-2014), ended her Earthly pilgrimage in Rio de Janeiro. She was born almost blind, but she turned this deficiency into the great challenge of her life. Soon she knew by intuition that only the impossible opens the doors to the new; only the impossible creates. That is what she says in her book, Memoirs of an Impossible Woman (Memorias de una mujer imposible, 1999, 35). With very limited vision, she studied physics and economics. But shortly thereafter she discovered her intellectual vocation as a student of the human condition, especially the female condition. In the late 1960s, she stirred up the polemical question of gender. She did not limit herself to the unequal power relationships between men and women, but also denounced the oppressive relationships in culture, the sciences, philosophical currents, institutions, the State and the economic system. Finally, she came to understand that the principal root of this system that dehumanizes both women and men resides in patriarchy.

She realized in herself an impressive process of liberation, narrated in her book, The Six Months when I was a Man, (Los seis meses en que fui hombre, 1990, 6th edition). But perhaps the most important work by Rose Marie Muraro was The Sexuality of the Brazilian Woman: body and social class in Brazil, (Sexualidad de la Mujer Brasilera: cuerpo y clase social en Brasil, 1996). It is about a field investigation in several States of the Brazilian federation, analyzing how sexuality is experienced, taking into account the class situation of women, something absent in the founding fathers of the psychoanalytic treatise. In this field, Rose innovated, creating a theoretical framework that helps us understand the experience of sexuality and the body, according to social class. What type of individuation can a starving woman realize, who in order that her little child not die, gives blood from her own body?

I worked with Rose for 17 years, as editors of Editorial Vozes: she was responsible for the scientific part and I for the religious. Even under the strict control of the military organs of repression, Rose had the courage to publish then banned authors, such as Darcy Ribeiro, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Paulo Freire, the CEBRAP Notebooks, and others. After years of long joint discussion and study, we gathered our conversations in a book that I consider seminal, Feminine and Masculine: a new consciousness for encountering the differences, (Femenino & Masculino: una nueva conciencia para el encuentro de las diferencias, 2010). I note just one her phrases: «to educate a man is to educate an individual, but to educate a woman is to educate a society».

Without ever setting aside the feminine question (in man and woman), she soon turned her attention to the challenges of science and modern technology. Already in 1969 she published Automation and the future of man, (Autonomación y el futuro del hombre), were she foretold the precariousness of the working world.

The economic-financial crisis of 2008 led her to pose the question of capital/money in the book, Reinventing capital/money, (Reinventando el capital/dinero, 2012), where she emphasizes the relevance, as opposed to the dominant capitalist economy, of the social and complementary currencies, and the solidarian networks of exchange, that enable the less fortunate to guarantee their sustenance.

Another important work, truly rich with knowledge, data, and cultural reflections, is titled Technological Advances and the future of humanity: wanting to be God?, (Los avances tecnológicos y el futuro de la humanidad: ¿queriendo ser Dios?, 2009). In this work she confronts the leading sciences; nano-technology, robotics, genetic engineering, and synthetic biology. She sees advantages on those fronts, because she is not backwards, but in the fact of living in a society that turns everything into merchandise, including life itself, she perceived a grave risk that scientists would assume divine powers and use their knowledge to redesign the human species. Hence the subtitle: wanting to be God? That is the sad illusion of the scientists. What will save us is not the new Technological Revolution, but, as Rose says, a «Revolution of Sustainability is the only one that can save the human species from destruction… for to continue as we are, we will not be in a win-lose game, but in a terrible game of lose-lose, resulting in the destruction of our species, in which we all will lose» (Reinventing capital/money, 238).

Rose possessed a very acute sense of the world: she suffered with the global dramas and celebrated the few advances. In later times she saw dark clouds over the whole planet, putting our future in danger. She died preoccupied with the search for saving alternatives. A woman of profound faith and spirituality, she would dream of the human capacity for transforming the coming tragedy into a purifying crisis that illuminates the path to reconciling society with nature and Mother Earth. She concludes her book Technological Advances with this wise phrase: «when we quit being gods we can be fully human; while we still do not know what that is, we have always intuited it» (p. 354).

Officially proclaimed Patroness of Brazilian Feminism by the President of Brazil on December 30, 2005, through the creation of the Cultural Foundation, Rose Marie Muraro, in 2009, she leaves a rich legacy of humanism for future generations. Rose Marie Muraro showed in her personal saga that the impossible is not a limitation, but a challenge. She inscribed her name in the lineage of great archetypical women who have helped humanity keep alive the small sacred lamp of caring for all that still exists and lives. In that endeavor, she became immortal.

Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia,

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