New Year’s femicide in Brazil reminds us what feminism is fighting for

Isamara Filier
Image: Patrícia Teixeira/G1

A couple of minutes before the New Year, in the Brazilian town of Campinas, located in the northwest of Sao Paulo, Sidnei Ramis de Araújo parked his car outside a house where his ex-wife, Isamara Filier, was hosting a New Year’s Eve party. The 46-year-old man had two guns on him and 10 homemade bombs. He jumped the fence, entered the house, and proceeded to slaughter every woman he saw, starting with Isamara. Ramis de Araújo then killed their son, João, and committed suicide. Three people remain in the hospital while four managed to escape uninjured.

Though Ramis de Araújo targeted members of the same extended family, this mass murder impacted multiple families in tragic ways. Isamara Filier, 41, lost her mother, her son, her brother, and her own life. Liliane Ferreira Donato, 44, was killed, as was her sister — her husband is still in the hospital. Luzia Maia Ferreira, 85, was also killed. She lost three daughters and a granddaughter — her son is still in the hospital.

Ramis de Araújo began planning the attack before Christmas. He left voice recordings in his car that explained he wanted to murder “as many female relatives” as possible.

The couple had separated over five years ago, and the custody case closed over three years ago, but Ramis de Araújo kept fighting for custody nonetheless. Filier argued that he was not suited to be around their son and was concerned that he had molested the child. Two psychologists hired by Brazil’s Justice Department and a psychologist hired by Filier found that there had been inappropriate conduct from Ramis de Araújo towards his son. The Justice system restricted his visits so that he could only see their son when the mother (or a relative of hers) was present.

The recordings that Ramis de Araújo made before he committed the crime are a testament to male privilege and unbridled male anger, not only towards women, but feminism in general. He refused to address any woman by her name — instead he used the word “vadia,” meaning “bitch.” He conveyed respect towards the police, though, saying he was sorry “for the mess he would make.” In his recorded statement, he said he originally wanted to commit the crime on Christmas (when he had a visitation scheduled) “so that I could kill the most bitches in the family,” but waited because he felt he “lacked practice.”

Ramis de Araújo alleges that he felt persecuted and wanted to avenge what he called “an injustice” perpetrated against him both by Filer and the laws that protect women in the Brazilian justice system. In his recorded suicide “note” he says, “I die for justice, dignity, honour and my right to be a father! That bitch was cunning and inspired other bitches to do the same with their sons. Now fathers will be inspired to kill the families of those bitches.”

We don’t know much about Isamara Filier. Information about who she was is scarce — it is difficult to discern what she did for a living or what her personality was like. But after her death, Brazilian feminists uncovered that she was a woman who spent a decade fighting for her life and her son’s life. The Centro Feminista de Estudos e Assesoria, a feminist research non-profit, writes:

“Isamara Filier filed five complaints against her ex-partner for aggression and threats and also for sexual abuse against her son. Her death [has been foreseeable] since 2005. Eleven years later, with the State failing to prevent and protect her, the crime becomes a reality.”

These efforts on Filier’s part to fight for her life were seen by her eventual murderer as an affront to his male power. He said, “the more she tries to distance [my son] from me, the more I hate her and the less weight on my conscience I’ll have.”

Disgustingly, he speaks directly to his son — who he plans to murder — in these recordings saying, “Son, Dad loves you very much. I won’t let you suffer at the hands of that bitch, Son.” He continues his incoherent rant:

“Son, I am not machista and I don’t have any rage against women (the ones that are nice, I love them with all my heart). I have rage against the bitches that abound. I can’t say that all women are bitches! But all women know what bitches are capable of! Every woman is afraid of dying young, [Isamara] will die at my hands!”

The origin for Ramis de Araújo’s perceived troubles is clear: feminism. He says:

“I’ve already died… because I can’t enjoy life with you because of the feminist system and those crazy women. Son, be certain, we won’t be the only ones fucked, I’ll take as many people from that family with me to ensure this never happens again to another honest working man.”

It is baffling that someone could claim to love his son while simultaneously planning to murder that son. If Filier’s actions are any indication, she was fully aware of the dangers that her ex-husband posed for both her and her son. What she couldn’t fathom was that the scope of his misogynistic vengeance would be far greater than the two of them.

Unsurprisingly, news outlets did a terrible job covering the story and the role misogyny played in the tragedy. Multiple outlets presented the undeniably gendered massacre as a random mass shooting.

Reuters, for example, reported on the story as though it were mere coincidence that Ramis de Araújo went on a shooting spree at his ex-wife’s’ New Year’s Eve party. Paulo Prada reports: “A gunman stormed a house party and killed 11 people, including his former wife and eight-year-old son, before shooting himself in the head during a New Year’s party in the southeastern Brazilian city of Campinas late on Saturday.” There were no follow up stories on the misogyny component of the murder. This is significant as multiple news outlets worldwide rely on media agencies like Reuters. This report was translated word for word into Spanish for Latin Correspondent, and was also republished by The Japan Times and Global News, among others.

As a result, news outlets that rely on Reuters for accurate and thorough coverage neglected to provide any commentary on the blatant misogyny articulated explicitly by Ramis de Araújo or any context for the violence inflicted on his ex-wife and son, prior to the murders.

The Centro Feminista de Estudos e Assesoria, points out that this is not the first time that a femicide shook Brazil around this time of year. On December 30th, 1976, a woman named Ângela Diniz was murdered by her former partner, Doca Street.

The Center writes:

“In the eyes of aggressors like Sidnei, this week, or Doca Street, 40 years ago, all women who fight for liberty and autonomy are bitches. If in the 40 years that separate the crimes of Doca Street and Sidnei Ramis de Araújo, us Brazilian women advanced in rights, the structure of patriarchal domination- which is responsible for killing 13 women daily- has managed to create barriers so that we still can’t attain a plentiful life with human rights.”

I’ve written before about how the most pressing task of the feminist movement is to end violence against girls and women. Today I’d like to repeat my plea. I understand that it is tempting to get distracted by tactics that are meant to deliberately silence feminist debate and cloud our focus. While I think it is important to address these ongoing efforts, we mustn’t let ourselves be sidelined from the most urgent task in the women’s rights movement.

As feminists, we are here for Isamara and all the women and girls whose lives are made disposable under patriarchy. All the women at that New Year’s Eve party were targeted and murdered because they were women. Their mere existence as female in a society that, inconsistently but nevertheless increasingly, is working to recognize them as human was a threat to male power and male entitlement. It has always been a threat.

Natasha Chart writes:

“If you make the men angry, you can just disappear. That’s been true for a very long time. So many men still act in expectation of the instant obedience such fear can command, that the tragedy continues.”

Our struggle is against the oppression and subordination of women. We must not falter in our efforts to help end violence against women and girls.

Our lives depend on it.

Raquel Rosario Sanchez

Raquel Rosario Sanchez is a writer from the Dominican Republic. Her utmost priority in her work and as a feminist is to end violence against girls and women. Her work has appeared in several print and digital publications both in English and Spanish, including: Feminist Current, El Grillo, La Replica, Tribuna Feminista, El Caribe and La Marea. You can follow her @8rosariosanchez where she rambles about feminism, politics, and poetry.