In Mexico And Poland, Women Candidates Defy National Cultures Of Misogyny — And Win
Mexico is on the cusp of getting its first woman president. And in Poland, the upcoming elections will see the highest-ever number of women running for office. Two landmarks for nations where the patriarchy has long reigned supreme.
This election cycle has been a historic one for women in Poland and Mexico. Though the latter recently welcomed a landmark decision on abortion rights, both countries have had a grim past when it comes to women’s rights — including high levels of femicide in the case of Mexico and strict abortion restrictions in Poland.
Still, both countries are on track to hold elections that could prove historic for women, with Mexico expected to inaugurate its first woman President, and Poland nominating a record number of female candidates to parliamentary positions.
In the face of controversy and political challenges, women in these countries are determined to have their voices heard.
History made in Mexico
With two female candidates at the head of its leading parties, Mexico seems poised to elect its first woman president.
Mexico’s left-wing ruling party, Morena, announced on September 6 that former Mexico City mayor Claudia Scheinbaum will be its nominee for the elections, which will take place in 2024. This followed a decision only a few days earlier by the opposition coalition, Broad Front For Mexico (Frente Amplio Por Mexico), to nominate Senator Xóchitl Gálvez from the conservative National Action Party.
"There will be no going back on the rights won by both the LGBTQ community and women."
The historic nomination of these female candidates comes at the same time as the country’s landmark Supreme Court decision to federally decriminalize abortion, requiring federal public health services and health institutions to make the service available to patients. Both Scheinbaum and are Gálvez support decriminalizing abortion.
Though neither candidate has yet made explicit feminist statements a part of their campaign, the gravitas of a future female president in a country plagued by gender-based violence and femicide is striking. Both Shienbaum and Gálvez have spoken about breaking the glass ceiling in a culture still breaking free from machista culture. They have also both defended the rights of women and the LGBT+ community.
"With me, there will be no going back on the rights won by both the LGBTQ community and women," Senator Gálvez told AFP.
Polish candidate Aleksandra Gajewska on a leaflet walk
Polish women fight back en masse
Poland, a country known for some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, will have its parliamentary elections on Sunday. The share of women running for office this year, at 44%, is the highest it has ever been. Many of the candidates are first on their party’s ballots.
Women’s rights have been central to the campaign, with the ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), maintaining its position on abortion. In 2020, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal struck down an exception which stated that women could legally receive an abortion if their fetus was suffering from severe or lethal deformities. Though the ruling provoked the largest protest movement in Polish history since the Solidarity movement of the 1980s, the law remained unchanged and the restriction stands to this day.
The opposition, Civic Coalition, has long been divided on the issue of abortion, and has tried to toe the line between its liberal and conservative party members. In 2021, the party declared that it supported abortions for women undergoing an “extremely difficult personal situation”. However, last year, opposition leader Donald Tusk declared that if his party comes to power, he will introduce a bill allowing abortion up to 12 weeks, and that the decision is to be taken by women and their doctors.
The highest percentage of women running for parliamentary office in Poland this year belong to the Left (Lewica), with 49.6% of female candidates. The centrist-liberal Civic Platform, with 47.8% of female candidates, ranks next. Even PiS, which has been criticized for its views on women, has 40.04% female candidates running for office. No party vying for parliament in Poland this year has fewer than 39.9% female candidates on its list.
Not without misogyny
The landmark moment in Mexico and Poland has been marred by stereotypes and sexist remarks aimed at woman candidates. During a debate on women’s rights on TVN 24, representative Aleksandra Gajewska from the Civic Platform asked far-right candidate Ewa Zajączkowska-Hernik about her stance on abortion. Her response? “This is what it's like to talk to blondes”.
Mexico’s Presidential candidates have also been subjected to smear campaigns. For example, Claudia Shienbaum, who, if elected, would also be Mexico’s first Jewish President, has faced rumors that she was really born in Bulgaria, which she has dismissed as anti-semetic.
While patriarchy is alive and well in both countries, many women entering or reentering the political scene believe that they are in a place to make a difference.
“We live in a country with patriarchal beliefs”, Agata Kobylińska, an opposition candidate for the Polish Sejm, told Polish weekly Wysokie Obcasy. “This must finally end”.
- Sławomir Mentzen: The Tiktok Star Leading Poland’s Rising Far-Right Party ›
- Gendercide: Aborting Female Fetuses Occurs In Europe Too ›
- Roe v Wade To Mexican Supreme Court: What's Driving Abortion Rights Around The World ›
- Will Poland Leave The EU? Historic Election Sparks “Polexit” Fears - Worldcrunch ›
- Women Were Key To The Opposition's Victory In Poland — Don't Forget Us Now - Worldcrunch ›
- Is Poland Ready To End Its Notorious Anti-Abortion Regime? - Worldcrunch ›