Posted in English

It’s Illegal, But You Can Do It

Discussing yesterday’s post with a friend, she pointed me to a sketch from a satirical show called Gato Fedorento (literally “Stinky Cat”) from 2007 which had a similar phrase in it. It’s actually not the same as the usage I’d heard, but it lives on as a meme, so I am definitely interested, and I spent some time understanding it anyway! The phrase is “É proibido mas pode-se fazer”.

The background is that in that year there was a referendum about reforming the abortion laws, which was quite a big deal in a largely catholic country. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa had initially supported a referendum in 1997 but when it had finally come to the crunch ten years later he campaigned against it and set up a website critical of the plan called “Assim Não” (“Not like this”). Cynical political move or principled stand? Well, if I understand it, his reasoning was that in the ten years that had elapsed, he was out of power the Partido Socialista had launched the referendum, backed by a law they had written. The wording on the referendum remained “despenalização” (decriminalisation) but the law they were intending to pass was actually advocating “liberalização” (liberalisation), which he argued was slightly different. On top of that, there was an indication that women would be able to have abortions by their own choice, with no need to justify it on psychological, medical or other grounds, which he did not support. And he even goes on to paint a picture of a world where women are choosing abortions more-or-less at a whim. He is pretty ridiculous about it, actually. The bottom line was that he didn’t want to liberalise the conditions under which women could get abortions, he just wanted to take away the criminal penalty.

Here’s the original video.

(By the way, what’s the camera guy playing at? There are some really odd zoom shots and then, at about 2:00, he starts filming the guy through a glass on the table. That’s a pretty cool shot if you’re making an edgy police drama, but it’s weird AF in this context)

Anyway Gato Fedorento mocked him by having Ricardo Araújo Pereira repeat his speech (without the avant garde camera work) but spelling out the absurdity of how he wants it to work: “É proibido, mas pode-se fazer”. Or “It’s illegal but you can do it”.

Marcelo is the president now. Make of that what you will.