Mind the Gender Gap: Women v. Bolsonaro

. Oct 01, 2018
women bolsonaro gender gap Women marched against Bolsonaro

The big news in Brazil’s presidential election has been the women’s movement against far-right frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro. With a few days left until the first round of voting, the #EleNão (Not Him) demonstrations drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets on September 29 across all Brazilian states. This is the first time that the female vote has been so discrepant from the male vote, which is due to the high rejection rate against Mr. Bolsonaro among women.

And make no mistake: women will determine the result of the election.

Jair Bolsonaro’s gender gap

Women make up 52 percent of all Brazilian voters, and according to Ibope an astounding 50 percent of them say they would never vote for Mr. Bolsonaro. Among men, the rate is at 33 percent. Datafolha shows him with 35 percent of the male vote and just 18 percent among women. He is the only candidate with such a wide gender gap. But how did this happen?

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Bolsonaro has a long history of misogynist comments, such as stating that a female colleague in Congress &#8220;was too ugly to be raped,&#8221; or that after several sons he had a moment of &#8220;weakness&#8221; and conceived a daughter. In debates, he fails to acknowledge that there is a problem concerning different pay grades for men and women in Brazil, and once said that it is OK to pay women less, just because they can get pregnant.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s alpha male style, with lots of shouting, aggressive gesturing, and locker-room ranting, is also provoking strong reactions. He faced difficult moments in his campaigns when he confronted female journalists or rival candidate Marina Silva. In the last days of September, several outlets of the Brazilian press published stories about one of Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s ex-wives, Ana Cristina Valle, who in the past accused him of threatening her life, as well as robbery and concealing his wealth from the tax authorities. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Although she now denies that he ever did these things, many women saw in the charges a confirmation of their fears about the candidate. </span></p> <hr /> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-9216" src="" alt="Brazilian women march against the far-right" width="1024" height="683" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In this year elections, many candidates are trying to court the female vote by choosing women as their running mates. Mr. Bolsonaro attempted to do so, discussing the possibility with law professor Janaína Paschoal, who co-wrote the legal piece that formally kicked off the impeachment process against Dilma Rousseff in 2015. But he was unsuccessful. Instead, he chose former Army General Hamilton Mourão &#8211; apparently even worse than Mr. Bolsonaro when it comes to women&#8217;s issues.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Gen. Mourão provoked widespread anger with his remarks on how families without father figures produce degenerate children, wounding the most cherished image of Brazilian society – the courageous mother, who raises her sons and daughters against all the odds, often suffering from male abuse or absence.</span></p> <h2>The &#8220;Not Him&#8221; Movement</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Not Him movement was born on the Internet, in a decentralized way, following the model of many protests in Brazil since the 2013 demonstrations. It was one of the few initiatives able to transcend the ideological divide between right and left, reuniting women with a simple message: vote for any presidential candidate, except Mr. Bolsonaro. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It was inspired by the <a href="">Women&#8217;s March</a> against U.S. President Donald Trump and perhaps by the Me Too movement in the United States, in the sense that it demands respect for women and accountability for men. But if the American initiatives were in some way a reaction against the new president, in Brazil they are happening before the elections. The massive turnout of the demonstrations created the possibility that the movement may become an essential factor in defining the female vote in the second round. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Besides the immediate impact in this election, the Not Him movement may also be the starting point for a broader effort to boost female participation in Brazilian politics. Congress, for example, is marked by a huge gender gap, with less than 10 percent of seats occupied by women. By law, political parties should present at least 30 percent of female candidates, but they often only comply with this rule in writing, without adequately funding their campaigns. It is difficult to believe that this kind of situation will persist after the show of force that Brazilian women accomplished.</span></p> <hr /> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-9261" src="" alt="women bolsonaro gender gap" width="1024" height="659" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><span style="font-weight: 400;">

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Mauricio Santoro

Santoro holds a Ph.D. in Political Science. He is currently Assistant Professor and Head of the Department of International Relations at the State University of Rio de Janeiro

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