Portuguese rapper causes controversy for portraying domestic violence in music video

The Portuguese rapper Valete. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Valete, a Portuguese rapper of Santomean origin currently living in Lisbon, has faced many criticisms after releasing a video that shows a scene of domestic violence.

The music video for “B.F.F”, released on August 30, shows an armed man violently threatening his partner and her lover. On Valete's YouTube channel, the video has over a million views.

Dozens of women's rights associations in Portugal signed an open letter to Valete criticising what they said was a trivialisation of domestic violence. The letter says:

A violência contra as mulheres não é arte nem cultura. A reprodução clara de misoginia e a banalização da violência contra as mulheres não podem ser cronicamente escudadas na criação artística.

Violence against women is not art or culture. The clear reproduction of misogyny and the trivialization of violence against women cannot be routinely hidden behind artistic creation.

According to the Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV), which provides support to families of victims of violence in Portugal, of 28 cases of attempted murder in 2018, 11 were committed by the victim's partner or former partner.

Facing criticism, Valete published a video reply rebuffing his critics, who he calls “bourgeois feminists who do not go to Lisbon’s suburbs to get to know the lives of the women who live there.”

To the newspaper Público, Valete called the controversy “empty,” created by “a small group of popstar feminists,” and claims his artistic freedom as a creator. “If I showed the same thing in a book or a film, there would be no problem.”

Valete is the artistic name of Keidje Torres Lima, 37 years old. He started his musical career in 1997, having released two albums and made several appearances in albums of other lusophone hip-hop artists.

The controversy provoked reactions from women on social media. On her Facebook page, the Portuguese activist Marta Sousa e Silva criticized the video, and also showed support for the musician’s artistic freedom:

Tive dois pensamentos quando vi o vídeoclipe. O primeiro foi “está mesmo bem executado e representado”. O segundo foi “não me apetece ouvir isto duas vezes”.

Fiquei desiludida. Reparem: Entendo o exercício artístico. Entendo que esta música é a representação de uma narrativa, não um apoio à situação descrita.

Mas a verdade é que foi um exercício que por si só trouxe ZERO à discussão da violência de género em Portugal. Isto porque essa narrativa já nós conhecemos bem. Não é nada de novo. É a narrativa dominante. É a narrativa que traduz o que já foi até lei, há menos do que 50 anos atrás. Do valete esperaria a narrativa anti-sistema e não a vigente.

Posto isto, faz sentido censurar a música? Não, porra. Claro que não faz. Faz tanto sentido quanto dizer que quem com ela se ofende é porque é feminista burguês, parvo, da aldeia, ou quer ganhar dinheiro.

É que no final, e ao contrário do que achava, o exercício artístico até abriu possibilidade de discussão. Gerou fricção, conflito, e é na resolução das fricções e conflitos que desconstruimos estruturas falsas e construímos bases mais sólidas. Infelizmente, não é isso que se está a passar.

I had two thoughts when I saw the video. The first was “it's really well made and performed”. The second was “I don't feel like hearing this twice”.

I was disappointed. Look: I understand the artistic exercise. I understand that this song is the representation of a narrative, not an endorsement of the situation described.

But the truth is that it was an exercise that in itself brought ZERO to the discussion of gender violence in Portugal. This is because we already know this narrative well. It's nothing new. It's the dominant narrative. It's the narrative that reflects what was once the law, less than 50 years ago. From Valete I would expect an anti-system narrative and not the current one.

Having said that, does it make sense to censor the music? No, dammit. Of course it doesn't. It makes as much sense as saying that whoever is offended by it is because they're a bourgeois, foolish, village feminist, or wants to make money.

In the end, and contrary to what I had thought, the artistic exercise even opened up the possibility of discussion. It generated friction, conflict, and it is in the resolution of frictions and conflicts that we deconstruct false structures and build more solid foundations. Unfortunately, that is not what is happening.

Other reactions came from Mozambique, one of them from Capito Semente, who said he did not see anything controversial in the video:

Assisti o vídeo BFF de Valete várias vezes. Não entendo o porque de tanta agitação das feministas com a suposta incitação a violência contra as Mulheres!

Cenas fortes como as que aparecem no vídeo são muito comum em filmes que retratam a violência doméstica. Curiosamente, as mesmas feministas que criticam o vídeo apoiam-se em cenas idênticas de outros vídeos para conscientizar as pessoas a não optar por actos de violência nos seus lares. O que acharam de tão grave no vídeo da música do Valete?

I watched Valete’s BFF video several times. I don't understand the reason why the feminists are so agitated about the supposed incitement to violence against women!

Striking scenes such as those that appear in the video are very common in films that portray domestic violence. Interestingly, the same feminists who criticize the video rely on identical scenes from other videos to raise awareness about not committing acts of violence in their homes. What do they think is so bad about Valete’s music video?

The Mozambican researcher Boa Monjane, who says he supports feminism, says he is in solidarity with Valete because although he was shocked by the video, he thinks that there is a racist exploitation of the case:

Eu sou dos que se decepcionou com a música e vídeo BFF de Valete.
Agora, daí a aproveitar-se da situação para exalar ódio, preconceito e ataques (de todos os tipos) faz-me solidarizar-me com ele, enquanto sujeito negro.
Assumo as consequências!!!

I'm one of those who was disappointed with Valete’s song BFF and the video.
Now, from the point the situation was taken advantage of to spread hatred, prejudice and attacks (of all kinds) it makes me sympathize with him, as a black man.
I assume the consequences!!

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