Portuguese social media is filled with images of men and women wearing red lipstick, after the leader of populist far-right party Chega insulted Marisa Matias for her “very red lips.” Matias is the Left Bloc candidate in Portugal’s 21 January presidential election, and a current MEP.
Chega’s presidential candidate, André Ventura, who opposes the Portuguese lockdown and organised demonstrations supported by neo-Nazi groups, went on to accuse Matias of “not doing very well in terms of image, performance”, adding that she painted her lips “as if it were a joke.”
Matias responded to the sexist provocation, posting a photograph of herself with red lips, using the hashtag #vermelhoembelem (“#redinbelem”):
“The insult that man made to women says nothing about women but says everything about that man,” commented Matias.
Several politicians, artists and other well-known figures posted images of themselves wearing red lipstick using the hashtag #vermelhoembelem, including Socialist candidate Ana Gomes, who posted a video of herself applying red lipstick, inside a car, on Twitter.
Current President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, from the centre-right Social Democratic Party (PSD), who took office in 2016, is expected to win a second term on 21 January. Portugal, like neighbouring Spain, has recently seen electoral growth for the populist far-right. According to opinion polls, Ventura, who got a parliamentary seat in 2019, could get up to 11% of the vote. The electoral gains have emboldened the far right.
In January 2020, a black woman and her daughter were assaulted because they didn’t have a bus ticket. In February, two Brazilian women were attacked by the police outside a Cape-Verdean club, and in the same month, the Porto football player Moussa Marega, born in Mali, abandoned a game after fans shouted racial slurs. In July, black actor, Bruno Candé, was murdered after a man shot him four times in what European Network Against Racism has described as “an explicitly racially motivated crime”.
The crisis could fuel a further growth of reactionary politics. Opposing the far right is a priority for the left.