Stop this disaster': Brazilian women mobilise against 'misogynist' far-right Bolsonaro
Jair Bolsonaro, who has called women idiots and issued taunts about rape, could be the next president. For the 2.5m women who joined a new Facebook group, something had to be done
by Tom Phillips, 21 Sep 2018
He has mocked women as idiots and as tramps, as unworthy of rape, let alone equal pay. Within weeks he could be crowned president of a country that is home to 108 million of them.
But with Brazil’s highly polarized 7 October election looming, huge numbers of Brazilian women are now mobilizing to derail the presidential bid of the far-right frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro, who is leading polls with about 26% of intended votes.
“We need everyone to pull together to stop this disaster happening to our country,” said Maíra Motta, a 40-year-old philosophy teacher from the city of Vitória da Conquista.
Jair Bolsonaro, who is recovering from a stabbing attack but leads in the polls.
Motta is one of more than 2.5 million women who have in recent days joined a Facebook campaign to stop Bolsonaro in his tracks. Ludimilla Teixeira, a 36-year-old advertising executive, said she had founded the group – Mulheres Unidas Contra Bolsonaro or Women United Against Bolsonaro – on 30 August as a platform to coordinate protests against politicians with “misogynist, prejudiced and truly fascist” ideas. Within 24 hours it had accumulated 600,000 members.
Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo falsely dismissed the group as “fake news” being peddled by the Guardian, and after suffering repeated attacks by hackers, the group’s administrators turned it into a secret group on Sunday.
Teixeira, from the north-eastern city of Salvador, called herself “a tiny spark” that had set off “a powder keg of indignation” across Brazil. “We thought it would grow but never that it would be so fast.”
Motta and Teixeira said members hailed from all corners of the country and all walks of life: elderly women, lawyers, housewives, trans women, doctors, authors and civil servants. They were united by a collective dread that a man with such toxic views on women and minorities might become their leader.
“It is terrifying to think we might have a president who doesn’t care about gender equality, who supports the idea that women should be paid less than men,” said Teixeira.
“We are not against Jair Bolsonaro the human being … We vehemently repudiate the attack he suffered,” she added. “But we cannot allow someone with such highly anti-democratic positions on women’s rights to reach the highest job in Brazil.”
Teixeira said she was particularly worried about Bolsonaro’s apparent desire to make abortion laws even more draconian, but warned the “poisonous” views of a politician notorious for making racist and homophobic statements were not just a menace to women. She said: “We are his main target but we are not the only ones. Many other communities are having their rights threatened.”
Although Bolsonaro, a former army officer, has been confined to hospital since he was stabbed during a rally earlier this month, polling suggests he is holding on to a firm lead over his nearest rivals, the Workers’ party’s Fernando Haddad and centre-leftist Ciro Gomes.
But Bolsonaro’s unpopularity among female voters presents a serious challenge to his presidential aspirations. Women represent 52% of Brazil’s 147 million-strong electorate and polls show 49% oppose his candidacy compared with just 37% of men.
“He’s the candidate who has the biggest discrepancy between his male vote and his female vote in the history of Brazil,” said José Roberto de Toledo, a political journalist from the magazine Piauí, who said that in some states Bolsonaro has 75% less support among women than among men.
Bolsonaro is not totally without female support: polls show 17% of female voters back him – less than the 32% of men, but a significant number nevertheless.
Female fans post photos on an Instagram account called Bolsolindas (B