Next week Mexico goes to the polls to choose its next president. Both in and outside Mexico, one of the most reported aspects of the race has been the fact that one of the mainstream parties—the National Action Party—fielded a women as their candidate. As Yali Noriega noted in a recent article, much of the media discussion has focused on questioning a woman's ability to fulfill adequately the role of president, instead of taking account of Vazquez Mota's previous career.
Happily as the campaign progressed people abandoned this type of argument. Many thought that Vazquez Mota performed well in the televised presidential debates and the discussion of her candidacy has continued mostly in terms of her political proposals.
It is a shame, therefore, that the election campaign followed by Vazquez Mota, in contrast, has been almost exclusively based around the fact the she is a woman. Her slogans are simple and to the point: “Josefina, different” and “Josefina, a woman speaks”. During her campaign she has made a point of seeking the female vote; her argument is always the same, I am a woman too, I share your experiences and thus know what you need. In a recent television debate she pointedly asked her female audience who—of the four candidates currently running—would they put in charge of their family and for whom would they choose their vote accordingly. She was sure, she said, they would choose her as she was the only one with experience in that area.
However, for Vazquez Mota this use of identity politics is merely a superficial effort to disguise the fact that she is no different from the male presidential candidates that proceeded her. She is not a feminist, nor does she want to identify as such. “There is more to being a woman than being a feminist,” she said in a recent interview with the BBC. She reassures voters about her ability to govern by saying that she might be a woman but she has male attributes. She likes to say that she is "a woman who wears the trousers."
Moreover, her policies and pronouncements demonstrate that for her, women are a homogenous mass, whose needs and votes one can define by the single theme of motherhood. In the aforementioned television debate, Vazquez Mota outlined her policies for women in these lines: “I will support them by introducing more nursery schools, more full-time schools and by introducing a law that calls for responsible paternity."
At the same time Vazquez Mota refused to give her support for elective abortion and declared herself only to support the decriminalization for those found to have interrupted a pregnancy. The National Action Party of Mexico is a conservative Catholic party that opposes abortion in most, if not all cases. It has been instrumental in introducing legislation that declares human life to begin at conception in numerous Mexican states. Thus, this kind of comment was extremely disingenuous since she must be aware that recent reforms make simple decriminalization impossible.
Thus Josefina Vazquez Mota trades on the fact she is a woman, yet cannot conceive of women as anything other than mothers. She says she represents the best option for Mexican voters because of her sex, yet argues she acts like a man. It is little wonder then that her campaign has been spectacularly unsuccessful. She is currently in third place according to most recent opinion polls. Mexican women seem perfectly capable of seeing through her slogans. Mexico would benefit from a female president, but only one who has a better understanding of the complexities of women's experiences and needs. Otherwise it is just more of the same.
Cath Andrews is a professor of Mexican history.