Mexico has had a female candidate in most recent presidential elections. Each time people ask whether the country is prepared for a woman in the role. The question stems from the belief that women are fundamentally different from men and thus cannot govern like men.
The people posing the question do not generally explain exactly what they mean, but I imagine they fear that a female president would allow her emotions to influence political leadership. This irrational fear may originate in the fact that women tend to care for their homes and families, and appear to be more peaceful than men.
But let us be reasonable, shall we? History shows that gender does not impede a thinking being from making pragmatic decisions. Angela Merkel of Germany, Michelle Bachelet of Chile and Cristina Fernandez of Argentina are examples that biology does not disrupt a woman's ability to guide a nation. In fact, some female leaders have shown an even higher propensity to rule like men, than men themselves. Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua and the UK's Margaret Thatcher (the Iron Lady) spring to mind.
In Mexico it seems that men and women continue to distrust female biology. There seems to be a common consensus that it diminishes women's faculties. The stereotype of women as emotional creatures entirely at the mercy of raging hormones remains strong in Mexico and it hurts women's prospects to advance politically. Perhaps this is the reason why our latest presidential candidate runs a sexist platform.
Josefina Vazquez Mota—currently in the run for president—has what it takes to lead the government as well as Mexico's current president, Felipe Calderon. Mota supports the economic, security and health policies currently in place. Like Calderon, she believes in marriage between only a man and a woman, and has no plans to support gay marriage. As a prolifer (against abortion), she believes that human life begins at conception. Mota maintains this position even in Mexico City, where abortion is legal.
Mota has promised that if she becomes president, people can count on her to “wear the pants”, a statement that reinforces the stereotype that women can only be strong when they behave like men. (In a political context the reasoning implies that typical women cannot exercise intellectual fortitude.) Swinging the sword of duality, Mota says that as president she would care for Mexico “as a mother cares for her children”. The latter promise, of course, accentuates the belief that motherhood makes women intrinsically nurturing.
Mota's declarations assert the conservative position of her party, the National Action Party. Her views do not reflect progressive feminism, and show that gender does not necessarily make a woman a feminist nor qualify her to defend women's rights.
Mota has been hailed as one of the most powerful women in the world because she is the ruling party candidate. I suggest that we read a bit more about her political past, before we adhere to her power. While I respect Mota's strength and determination, I worry that she could establish a sexist leadership that does not help women in Mexican society. Her female candidacy is such a contradiction for the feminist cause: On the one hand, her ambition catapults her among men; on the other, Mota achieves this status because she alludes that women are mentally weak and nurturing.
As people of Mexico (men and women included), we must ask ourselves: Do we want a president who claims strength because she will “wear the pants”, or do we want a president who can do the job without promulgating gender stereotypes?
In the end what really matters is that Mexico's next president improve the country's infrastructure, reduce violence—particularly toward women and children—and invest in a more comprehensive health system for all. Such president's gender should not be a running point of contention.
Yali Noriega prepared this text with assistance from e-feminist staff.