Encontros Femininos or women’s events have been popular for some years in capoeira. There are several formulas that exist, each has its up- and downsides but all of them share the same goal: put the female capoeiras in the picture and let them be the focus of the event. I’m not going to elaborate on the pros, cons and reasoning for women’s events since it’s the start of a rabbit hole down to topics of sexism, misogyny and a lot more.
So instead, I’ll just list the possible formulas for anyone who’s interested in attending or organizing an event focused on female players.
As far as I know, this is the least popular type of female event. During a women-only encounter, men are simply not allowed. Not to train, not to play in the roda, nor to play instruments.
One of the reasons is quite simple: attendance. Since capoeira is still dominated by male players, it’s hard to find a lot of capoeiras to attend your event. Since organizing an event is pretty expensive and you shut out let’s say 75% of a potential audience, it will be hard to break even. Unless you have a lot of connections and are well known.
Even though this type of event isn’t very interesting financially, it creates a completely different atmosphere. I myself organized 2 events following this formula and even though we didn’t get a lot of attendants, it were highly successful events where we got a lot of positive feedback.
Only female teachers
This is probably the most popular recipe: let everyone attend but only invite female teachers. You’ll get a higher attendance rate, but the focus will still be on the women.
Only women can teach the classes, will lead the bateria and get a fast pass in the roda. Men can join all classes, can play in the roda and can join the bateria as well but are second in line.
The biggest problem with this type of encounter is that men still have the chance to take over (certainly if they are high belts) and push the female players to the background.
I saw it happen multiple times during an Encontro Feminino I visited this month in France. The bateria starts out with just women, but after a while all male high belts take over and are leading the bateria. The same thing happened in the roda: often two men were playing together, instead of a woman-man pair, not even giving women the chance to buy the games.
In those moments, the event completely misses its goal. This can cause some serious frustrations with the female attendants (as I heard first hand from my students), since they come to these events specifically and in the end they get pushed back yet again.
What’s important here is a good manager or leading figure who will make sure the roda and bateria stays mostly female. Ideally that person is a woman in my opinion.
Separate classes for women and men
Another type of event I’ve co-organized years ago was an women’s encounter where men were also invited, but classes were separate. The rodas and bateria were mixed though (where the women took the lead). I haven’t seen other events taking this approach and I can’t really remember how the event was received.
Rodas only for women
A small variation on the two previous formulas is an event where only the rodas are exclusively for women. This gives men the chance to participate in the workshops, while the women can enjoy the rodas as well. I haven’t seen any events like this though.
What is your experience? I’m always interested in getting feedback from other capoeiras.