Women for Bolsonaro

What Drives Female Support for Brazil’s Far Right

Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro in Rio de Janeiro, October 2018. Pilar Olivares/REUTERS

Jair Messias Bolsonaro, the far-right military officer turned politician who is likely to become Brazil’s next president, has said shocking things about women. He told a female member of congress that he wouldn’t rape her because “she wasn’t worthy of it,” explained that his sons would never love black women because they were “properly raised,” and claimed that a particular secretary of women’s issues shouldn’t have been appointed because “she was a dyke.” The reaction to such bomb-throwing in the era of #metoo has been, apparently, predictable: organizing via social media with the hashtag #EleNão (#NotHim), an estimated 150,000 people—of whom the majority were women—across Brazil took to the streets on September 19 (three weeks before the first round of presidential elections) to tell their fellow citizens, and the world, that Bolsonaro doesn’t represent them.

Some 44 percent of Brazilian women are expected to vote for Bolsonaro.  Less predictable, however, and less remarked upon, is the surge of women who feel differently. In fact, come October 28, a good 44 percent of Brazilian women are likely to vote the exact opposite: #EleSim (#YesHim). Facebook groups for women who support Bolsonaro have more than 300,000 members. These voters see Bolsonaro as the answer to at least one problem—criminal violence—that disproportionately affects women, and they follow in the footsteps of Brazil’s conservative women’s movement of a bygone time.

Women voters are moved by some of the same issues that have swayed the larger electorate, and which play well for Bolsonaro, such as corruption. Bolsonaro’s leading opponent, Fernando Haddad, is the hand-picked successor of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the Workers’ Party’s former president, known as Lula, who is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption and money laundering, specifically on account of having accepted a beachfront apartment as a bribe. The Car Wash probe, which began in 2014, revealed a system of kickbacks that linked Brazil’s majority-state-owned oil company, construction companies, and

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