Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right populist who has a history of making disturbing comments about women, was elected Brazil’s newest president on Sunday.
A former army captain who has praised the country’s former military dictatorship and threatened his political opponents, Bolsonaro once told Brazilian Congresswoman Maria do Rosario that she was “ugly,” and also told her, “I wouldn’t rape you because you don’t deserve it.”
In 2016, according to the BBC, he said that he would not give a female employees “the same salary as a man” because women become pregnant. He later backtracked, saying he was simply expressing the rationale of employers, and noted that the law “already guarantees equal pay for men and women. If the law is not being observed, it is up to the courts to resolve [disputes].”
But in 2017, Bolsonaro found himself in trouble once again when he took a crack at his own daughter. “I have five children,” he said, according to the BBC. “I had four boys, and in the fifth, I weakened and a girl came.”
In the lead-up to the election, women who opposed Bolsonaro voiced their dissent on social media under the hashtag #EleNao (#NotHim). They were concerned not only about Bolsonaro’s comments about women, but also his professed dedication to disturbing platforms. He has promised to liberalize gun laws and give police more leeway to kill suspected criminals. He said that he will appoint military leaders to top positions in his cabinet, and give his political opponents the choice between “extermination” and exile. He vowed to “beat up” any men that he saw kissing in the street. He advocated reducing legal protections for Afro-Brazilians. All of this has resulted in him being dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics.”
“Bolsonaro is very worrying, because he is not alone,” one Luzia Costa told Al Jazeera during an anti-Bolsonaro rally in Rio in September. “Many people think like him … [and] he is a man who hates everything: men, women, gays and black people.” But as outrageous and incendiary as his rhetoric was throughout the campaign — he was stabbed at a rally at one point — women actually supported Bolsonaro in great numbers.
Why the apparent polarization among women? According to a video by The New York Times that explored this vexing phenomenon, Bolsonaro’s appeal to a large swathe of women can be traced back to 1964 when women took to the streets en masse to protest communist reforms. That huge demonstration gave way to a military coup and swept a dictatorship into power for the next 21 years. Bolsonaro has openly admired the dictatorship, a point that has resonated with women who have been nostalgic for the role women had in bringing about the coup. Combine that with an ever-worsening violent crime problem, and the ingredients were all there for a Bolsonaro victory — one that seems to defy logic given some of the things he’s said about women.
The Times spoke with a woman named Sarah Winter, who describes herself as “a cured feminist,” to get some insight into the phenomenon. At a meeting she organized for other women who supported Bolsonaro, Winter said women “would feel more secure if Bolsonaro runs the country.” Another woman at the meeting pointed out Bolsonar’s explosive rhetoric on how he would punished those convicted of sex crimes. “He protects women so much,” the woman said, “that he wants chemical castration of pedophiles and rapists, because that is perverted. It’s evil.”
The Times even found some women who voted for liberal candidates in the last election and this year said they were planning to vote for Bolsonaro — yet another similar effect to what was seen in the U.S. with Trump in the 2016 election. Watch the full video below.