Spanish conservatives forgive sexist remarks by their European contender

Women at Popular Party rally play down Arias Cañete’s views about male “intellectual superiority”

Miguel Arias Cañete talks with PP secretary general Maria Dolores de Cospedal during an event in Toledo.
Miguel Arias Cañete talks with PP secretary general Maria Dolores de Cospedal during an event in Toledo.ISMAEL HERRERO (EFE)

It was just a minor “slip.” Popular Party (PP) voters are writing off as unimportant statements about the intellectual superiority of men made last week by the party’s top European candidate, Miguel Arias Cañete, despite leaders’ fears they might have jeopardized his chances of winning.

Several women who attended a Sunday rally by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and PP secretary general María Dolores de Cospedal in Cuenca sought to play down the controversy over the sexist remarks.

During a televised debate with Elena Valenciano, his Socialist rival in next Sunday’s European elections, Arias Cañete claimed that he had held back from serious intellectual confrontation because “if you abuse your intellectual superiority, you end up looking like a sexist intimidating a defenseless woman.”

“They’re silly things that were taken out of context. Miguel Arias Cañete has nothing against women,” said María Caridad Pedraza, a resident of Villas de la Ventosa, a hamlet of under 1,000 residents in Cuenca province.

They’re silly things taken out of context. Arias Cañete has nothing against women”

Still, there were those who were prepared to express some criticism, mirroring the mayor of Valencia, Rita Barberá, also of the PP, who called Arias Cañete’s comments “unfortunate.”

“That was very wrong,” said Estefanía, a 19-year-old from the town of Minglanilla who attended the rally on Sunday. But she did admit that she was willing to forgive the candidate. “I see him on TV, I find him likeable.”

“He was not at his best the other day, but anyone can slip up,” added Esperanza Casalengua, of Buendía, describing Arias Cañete as “a brilliant” candidate.

Meanwhile, the former agriculture minister, who once said that “field irrigation must be handled the way you handle a woman,” made a point of posing for photo ops with women and young people and avoided making any further statements in connection with last week’s debate.

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