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The Mexican paradox: a very sexist country that says it’s ready for a woman president

A total of 53% of men and 69% of women favor a female candidate to win the elections

Carmen Morán Breña

Mexicans know themselves. In a survey about sexism in the country, 75% believe that Mexico is somewhat or very sexist. Moving on to the next question: Do you prefer a man or a woman to be the next president? Only 53% of the men prefer a woman, while women show more support at 69%, a difference of 16 points. Mexico is set to elect its first female president, since the two major coalitions have nominated female candidates. And that’s OK for an overwhelming 87% of those surveyed by Enkoll for EL PAÍS and W Radio. The survey data was gathered from 814 home visits carried out from February 24 to 28.

There are few past experiences to draw upon in Mexico or elsewhere, so people based their opinions on gender perceptions. Mexicans are generally optimistic about having a female leader, and think she’ll do a better job in addressing economic issues (71%), along with public security and anti-corruption efforts. However, there’s a notable gender gap on these issues. Women perceive themselves as more capable in public security by 15 points and in fighting corruption by eight points. Two-thirds of the women trust female leaders to be more honest. Enkoll Director Heidi Osuna believes that these responses are shaped more by traditional gender expectations than by past experiences with women in power.

In 2012, López Obrador ran against Peña Nieto and lost. The conservative National Action Party (PAN) nominated Josefina Vázquez Mota, but the country wasn’t ready then for a female leader. Osuna remembers surveys from that time, indicating that gender might have influenced brand perceptions of Vázquez more than her political views. “Nowadays, women are seen as just as competitive as men, if not more so.” Things have changed in Mexico. Today, 63% believe the country is ready for a female leader, with a few slight variations in responses. Self-perceptions and views about others play a big role, with 87% of survey respondents predicting a female president will be elected on June 2. Some believe the country is not ready for that, mostly because they think other Mexicans are sexist.

The major political parties have nominated their candidates, leaving the public with the task of choosing one to support. The impact of female voters in this election is uncertain. Osuna says if one of the major coalitions had nominated a man, the story would be different. Citizen Movement candidate Jorge Alvarez Máynez is an alternative for those opposed to female leaders, while others find him lacking in traditional masculinity. Osuna faults the Citizen Movement party for not nominating a more stereotypically masculine candidate. In a deeply sexist society, having a strong, male candidate could have boosted the party’s chances significantly. “Samuel García had that more macho, conservative profile, with a wife, children, church...” said Osuna. Maybe the video of Álvarez watching a soccer game and hoisting beers with his buddies was intended to sway those conservative, male voters. But maybe not, since overtly sexist gestures like that don’t fly any more.

Regardless of sexism, it’s likely that a woman will lead Mexico after these elections. What’s next? An 87% majority of Mexican women expect positive changes or at least to maintain the status quo. And 89% of men believe women will benefit. If asked who gained from a century of male-led governments, Mexicans would likely say: men.

Claudia Sheinbaum is the ruling party candidate and Xóchitl Gálvez is the main opposition candidate. In three months, Mexicans will go to the polls to choose one based on their policies, not their gender. Regardless of who is saying, “It’s a woman’s turn,” the nation’s focus should be on challenging ideologies and programs.

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