Guerreiras: The Female Warriors of Brazilian Futebol

Adrienne Grunwald
Adrienne Grunwald
Santos player, Fran, heads the ball towards the opposing team's goal during a Campeonato Paulista de Futebol Feminino tournament match in São José dos Campos, Brazil. (November 20, 2010)

The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off today in Germany.  In September 2010, photographer Adrienne Grunwald, along with gender researcher and former Santos F.C. player Caitlin Fisher, began documenting the lives of forty female futebol players in Brazil who play professionally for Santos FC—one of the most renowned male futebol clubs of all time. Several members of the Santos team are representing their country on the Brazilian National team at this year’s World Cup. Guerreiras (Female Warriors) explores changing gender norms among Brazil’s professional female futebol players.

Futebol has long been considered Brazil’s most popular sport and around the world, Brazil is regarded as “football country.” These labels tend to refer solely to the men’s game.  The same machismo responsible for the prohibition of women’s football during the country’s military dictatorship from 1964-1981 carried over into the 21st century, creating social stigmas and cultural resistance to the women’s game.  Because of this legacy, female futebol players have continuously struggled to gain acceptance.  These players have not only represented a threat to Brazilian masculinity, but have also been perceived as encroaching in a disgraceful manner on one of the nation’s primary sources of pride and collective identity.

Recently, a shift has begun to unfold allowing the women’s game to begin occupying a much more valued position within the culture—a shift that appears to be occurring hand-in-hand with Brazil’s emergence in the global economy.  Female players are stepping onto the field, carving a space for themselves and enjoying increased media attention, improved facilities, higher salaries—and for some female players, their individual struggles have been eased.  Although there is still a long way to go towards equality in Brazilian women’s futebol, this movement is arguably loosening the grips of machismo, contributing to the deconstruction of traditional gender roles, and serving as a strong source of empowerment.

— Caitlin Fisher and Adrienne Grunwald

Adrienne Grunwald is a freelance photographer based in New York City. To see more of Adrienne’s work, visit her website.

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