As of Sunday, Mexico has about 10 million cracks in the glass ceiling. The cracks that Mexican Presidential candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, got in were nowhere near Hillary Clinton’s 18 million, but the mere opportunity at having a whack at that ceiling is impressive. Women’s political rights in Mexico have risen meteorically if you consider that women in Mexico could not vote until 1953. However, like in the United States, the big prize, the ability to serve as president, or as la presidenta, is still elusive and will be until voters figure out what is they want from female executives.
In the 2008 primary election Hillary Clinton was viewed as too tough and played down the significance of being a woman. Clinton strived to show that she was no different than a man. Ironically, it was when she started to come to tears that she won the kindest words of the campaign. A glimpse at her emotional, or “female” side, triggered a cascade of commentary about how as the first major female presidential contender she should not run from one of the traits that makes her unique. Ultimately the emotional, touchy-feeliness went to the Obama camp. As soon as Clinton was able to compose herself after her tearful moment she continued with her tough-as-nails approach.
In the Mexican presidential race Josefina Vázquez Mota employed the opposite strategy as Clinton. Though Vázquez Mota, is an economist, a business woman, a politician, and gal who can hang with the machoist of Mexican men she chose to distance herself from the Clintonesque model and embrace her femininity. In one of her major campaign ad spots, “Ser mujer en Mexico” she not only highlighted her role as a woman but pledged to form a pact with other women—un pacto de mujer a mujer—that life in Mexico for women will be very different from the first moment she is president. This strategy did not catch fire. What did start a five-alarm campaign fire, however, where comments she made in jest at a campaign rally where she suggested that woman withhold cuchi-cuchi from their spouses if they did not vote in the election.
In the end, there were a number of reasons aside from gender why Josefina Vázquez Mota did not emerge victorious from the election. To begin, she was a part of the PAN establishment which had been in power for the past 12 years and which in the last six has overseen historic levels of violence. She was not only swimming upstream against the general political current, but also against her own party. The internal divisions have been harsh to the point were former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who had recruited Vázquez Mota into his government, broke rank and publically voiced his support for her PRI rival, president-elect Enrique Peña-Nieto.
While there are at least half a dozen reasons why Vázquez Mota lost, the fact that she is a woman is inescapable. Vázquez Mota and Hillary Clinton, like all of us women, are multi-dimensional individuals that are both feminine and masculine, tough and sweet. The Mexican electorate similar to the American electorate could not decide what combination of toughness and softness it wanted from a potential woman executive. Both of these presidential contenders struggled in determining what dimensions to play up and play down. Regrettably, the issue is not with the candidates it’s with us, the electorates that struggle to break old conceptual molds of what being in charge requires.
Victoria Defranceso Soto
Posted: Monday, 2 July 2012