WPTPN: From the Stove to the Frontlines? Gender and Populism in Latin American and Western Europe

This post originally appeared for the Duck of Minerva: http://duckofminerva.com/2017/01/wptpn-from-the-stove-to-the-frontlines-gender-and-populism-in-latin-american-and-western-europe.html 

Authors: Malliga Och and Jennifer Piscopo

his World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Malliga  Och and Jennifer M. Piscopo. Dr. Och (on Twitter @malligao) is an Assistant Professor in the Global Studies and Languages Department at Idaho State University. Her research focus on women’s political representation in conservative parties and she is the co-editor with Shauna Shames of The Right Women. Republican Activists, Candidates, and Legislators (forthcoming Praeger Press, 2017).  Dr. Piscopo (on Twitter@Jennpiscopo) is Assistant Professor of Politics at Occidental College and a 2016-2017 Visiting Scholar at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. Her research on women, representation, and gender quotas has appeared in numerous academic journals. 

Donald Trump swaggered along the U.S. campaign trail, a hyper-masculine figure whose braggadocio extended to celebrating sexual assault. In France, Marine le Pen clothes anti-Muslim rhetoric in language about protecting women’s equality, rights, and bodily freedom. The majority of white women and men voted for Trump, but with a notable gender gap of 53 and 63 percent respectively. By contrast, the gender gap for populist support is narrowing in France, with Le Pen gaining support among female voters (Mayer 2013, 172). Populist movements have differentially affected men and women in their roles as party leaders, parliamentary candidates, and voters, but these outcomes are not consistent across regions or cases (de Lange and Mügge 2015Kampwirth 2010). Yet understanding the gendered dimensions of the populist resurgence is critical for explaining why and how these parties cement their appeal.

Using examples from Latin America and Western Europe, we argue that today’s populist parties exhibit an interesting paradox between emphasizing traditional social values and tapping into women’s political ambitions to move from support roles and to the frontlines. Related, whom populist parties frame as the “other” shapes women’s opportunities as leaders and candidates, as well as the campaign rhetoric. As scholars long have noted, populism is characterized by the direct, unmediated relationship between a charismatic leader and “the people” (Kampwirth 2010), who are usually in opposition to an internal or external enemy. The framing of this enemy critically shapes the gendered effects of populist movements.

In Latin America in mid-century, right-wing leaders mobilized against the perceived communist threat. Contemporary left-wing populists and ethnopopulists—such as Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Boliva, respectively—mobilize against the traditional economic elites, who are largely of Hispanic-origin. Because these economic elites cooperated with international development agencies to implement neoliberal reforms, left-wing populism in Latin America commonly takes an anti-imperialist bent.

Mobilization against these two different enemies—communism in mid-century and imperialism today—has both benefited and restricted women’s rights. On the one hand, the pressure to appear politically and economically modern has led Latin America’s populist leaders to grant women certain benefits, such as labor and voting rights in the mid-century and access to day care crèches and family subsidies today (Kampwirth 2010Hall 2006). On the other hand, these benefits incorporate female citizens into the polity by relying on traditional gender norms. Both right- and left-wing populism in Latin America expresses hostility to or skepticism of feminism (Kampwirth 2010): anti-communists championed traditional family values as necessary for stabilizing the nation, and anti-imperialists argue that feminism reflects the concerns of upper-class, Hispanic-origin women, while overlooking the marginalization and struggles of poor or indigenous women. And because some indigenous traditions emphasize gender complementarity over gender equality (the notion that women and men are equal in their different social roles), indigenous women face uphill battles to participate in political parties that champion multiculturalism and inclusion while remaining highly patriarchal (Htun and Ossa 2013Rousseau 2011).

In Europe, the “other” are immigrants, largely of Muslim origin, whom populist right parties see as threatening traditional Western ways of life (de Lange and Mügge 2015). As a result, the gendered implications of populist mobilization in Western Europe have varied considerably from those in Latin America. In particularly, populist movements and parties across Europe have turned their attention to gender equality (at least insofar as it benefits white women), claiming that Muslim immigrants pose a threat to women’s equality and freedoms and citing forced marriage, child marriage, and honor killings as examples of anti-women and anti-Western values (De Lange and Mügge 2015Meeret and Siim 2013). Le Pen offered an illustrative example when she evokedfeminist writer Simone de Beauvoir in an op-ed, citing the sexual assaults of Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015 to argue that Muslim immigrants threaten the bodily integrity of European women.[1]

Yet this policy stance is Janus-faced (Akkerman 2015): populist parties stress gender equality in terms of anti-immigration policies and an anti-Muslim agenda, but often maintain a conservative stance emphasizing traditional family roles and rejecting pro-abortion policies (Spierings et al. 2015). Though right-wing populist parties might use liberal feminism and the language of gender equality instrumentally, this ideological reinvention could draw more female followers in the future, and it might even open the door to women’s presence as party leaders and elected representatives. Today, the Alternative für Deutschland and Le Front National are each led by women, Frauke Petry and Marine Le Pen, respectively. But though they are currently the highest-ranked female leaders, they are not the only ones: both vice-chairmen of the Swedish Democrats are female, and the AfD also has a female vice-chair. In the United Kingdom, the UKIP had a female leader in late 2016.

That European populist parties have been less skeptical of feminism—and even leveraged equal-rights claims in service of anti-immigrant agenda—perhaps explains why women have emerged to lead populist parties in Europe. No women formally head populist parties in Latin America. Here, populist leaders have cemented their leadership by relying on hyper-masculine tropes, describing their nations and their policy objectives in heavily militaristic and/or patriarchal terms (Kampwirth 2010).

The absence of women as formal party leaders does not, however, mean that women have played no role in the region’s populist movements. In mid-century, conservative women mobilized to defend the nation against communism and atheism, rallying (literally) behind Nicaragua’s Somoza dictatorship (González 2001). In the contemporary ethnopopulist movements in Ecuador and Bolivia, indigenous women—often in alliance with urban feminists—successfully fought to include gender parity in their nations’ constitutional reforms (Rousseau 2011). Framed in terms of equity in order to underscore complementarity rather than equality, parity requires that women hold 50 percent of executive, legislative, and judicial posts at all levels of government. Women currently occupy the majority of seats in Bolivia’s lower house and 41.6 percent of the seats in Ecuador’s unicameral assembly. Nonetheless, indigenous women face enormous hurdles to running for and holding political office, including high rates of physical and sexual assault, abductions, forced resignations, and even murder.

The complex gendered dimensions of populist parties are reflected in their support among male and female voters. European men generally vote for populist parties at greater rates than women (Hartefeldt et al. 2015Mayer 2013). Three factors seem to give right-wing populists an advantage with male voters: (1) men, who are the majority of unskilled workers, tend to be globalization losers; (2) women are more religious and churches so far have rejected the xenophobic message of populist parties; and (3) the support of traditional family values is less attractive to women raised in more gender-equal societies (Mayer 2013). While women seem still put off by the message of traditionalism, violence, and hatred embraced by Europe’s right-wing populists (Givens 2004), this trend might reverse if populist parties continue to advocate for progressive causes, especially (white) women’s equality. Recent economic changes, such as the increased importance of the service sector, means that European women will also start to experience the negative effects of globalization, including low-paying wages and competing with immigrants for unskilled jobs. Together – progressive causes plus women’s rise among unskilled (service) labor – might make women more receptive to the message of populist parties (Mayer 2013).

What, then, does this mean for the future of women’s political representation within populist parties?  In Latin America, support for populist parties is declining, rather than rising. Right-wing, neoconservative, and decidedly notpopulist governments are dethroning leftists throughout the region. The gender-equality gains of left-wing populist governments, especially in terms of women’s political representation, appear under threat. Indeed, one of the first actions of the new Brazilian president was eliminating the Ministry of Women, Racial Equality, and Human Rights.

Western Europe thus offers a more “optimistic” story about the leadership and policy gains for women under populism. These gains should not be idealized: they cement xenophobia and favor Eurocentric notions that privilege white women’s wellbeing over non-white women’s agency and inclusion. Nonetheless, they show that populists can supplement a traditional gender ideology with support for women’s rights. Whether these policy changes are enough to attract more female support and create greater roles for women within the party, however, remains to be seen. Women have made more inroads as candidates—but not leaders—of ethnopopulist parties in Latin America. Populist movements clearly use gender strategically, adapting over time: gender defines their enemies as well as shapes the leaders’ image, her proposals, and her rhetoric. Understanding these dimensions reminds comparative politics scholars that women and men will not experience the populist resurgence in the same way.

[1] The one exception to this trend is the AfD in Germany. While the AfD supports the European welfare model and formal gender equality, the party also emphasizes strong traditional and natalist family values, is anti-abortion, and opposes marriage equality, affirmative action, gender mainstreaming, gender identity politics, and gender studies.

Marine Le Pen didn’t win over women. Can anyone on the far right?

This post originally appeared for the Conversation. https://theconversation.com/marine-le-pen-didnt-win-over-women-can-anyone-on-the-far-right-78446

Authors: Malliga Och and Jennifer Piscopo

Marine Le Pen has gone from potentially being elected the first female president of France to barely keeping her party alive.

In early May, Le Pen was one of two candidates to advance to the second round of the presidential election. Two months later, her party – the Front National – lost badly in the French parliamentary elections. While Le Pen won her own first-ever parliamentary seat and the FN’s overall share of the 577-seat assembly climbed from to 2 to 8, these gains are still not enough to form an official parliamentary group.

This outcome is surprising given voter enthusiasm for the National Front earlier this year. Marine Le Pen cultivated this enthusiasm by attempting to shed the National Front’s anti-Semitic, masculine and staunchly conservative image. She used symbols and policy platforms to give her party’s anti-immigrant and eurosceptic positions a modern veneer. She softened the party’s image by replacing its traditional symbol of a red torch with a blue flower. She emphasized her role as a mother, one who could disrupt an all-male political terrain. This feminine touch transformed the party her father founded from a fringe movement to a credible contender for the French presidency.

As scholars of women and politics and especially of women on the right, we are interested in how the National Front and other radical right parties use gender to reach out to female voters. Like other right-wing parties trying to counter their out-of-touch image and broaden their popularity, the FN made two key changes: promoting a women as leader and considering policies that benefit women and other marginalized groups.

Making populism women- and gay-friendly

Right-wing parties feminize to attract new voters, particularly women, because doing so increases their chances of gaining political power. In many advanced industrialized countries, right-wing parties have fallen out of favor with female voters. These parties are often perceived as representing older, white, male votersFemale voters – especially younger and single women – more frequently gravitate toward the left politically.

Consider these examples of how mainstream conservative parties have tried to woo women. In Germany, conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel has endorsed feminist policies, adopting quotas for women on corporate boards and reforming parental leave to grant fathers more time off. The U.K.’s Prime Minister Theresa May, in her prior role of home secretary, wore a “this is what a feminist looks like” T-shirt and helped strengthen sexual violence laws. And in Japan, conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pushed “womenomics” – raising the number of women in the workforce by equalizing the pay gap and encouraging businesses to hire more women.

Yet Marine Le Pen stands out for leading the feminization of a radical right-wing party. Such parties are typically populist. They position themselves as bulwarks against social change, mobilizing voters who feel frustrated and abandoned. They oppose immigrants, primarily Muslims, whom they see as threatening Western ways of life. Defending a “pure” national identity – and opposing feminism and liberalism – are central to the right-wing populist project. The unlikelihood of a radical right party feminizing makes Le Pen’s efforts noteworthy.

Under Le Pen’s leadership, the National Front no longer proposes to restrict abortion and has softened its approach to LGBTQ issues. It still opposes same-sex marriage, but several LGBTQ individuals recently ascended to high-profile positions within the party.

Anti-Muslim rhetoric has helped the National Front appeal to both women and LGBTQ voters. During the presidential campaign, Le Pen positioned herself as the protector of French women, their defense against Muslim men who she claims threaten women’s rights and liberties. She evoked iconic French feminist Simone de Beauvoir in an op-ed piece, stating “I am scared that the migrant crisis signals the beginning of the end of women’s rights.” Likewise, the party alleges that Muslim immigrants hold anti-gay sentiments that endanger the well-being of the LGBTQ community.

A failed experiment

Yet feminization did little to improve the electoral fortunes of the Front National. Traditional conservative parties like Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and May’s Tories have benefited from softening their images. But the Front National’s new modern image did not convince French voters. The French instead handed a resounding victory to President Macron’s new centrist party, En Marche (On the Move). A record-high proportion of women were also elected, and women will comprise nearly 50 percent of the En Marche’s parliamentary delegation.

Radical or populist parties face difficulty persuading voters that their commitments to women’s rights and gay rights are sincere, no matter whether women are at the helm or not. The question remains whether populist right parties will double-down on this modernization strategy as the electoral tide turns against them.

Frauke Petry (left) and Alice Weidel of Germany’s anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany at the party congress on April 22, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Next up in the Western European electoral calendar is Germany, where the ultra-right Alternative for Germany expects to win 8 percent of the vote. Women lead this party as well. The top candidates are Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland, and the party leaders, Frauke Petry and Jorg Meuthen, also form a gender-balanced duo. Weidel has come out as a lesbian. And while she and other LGBTQ party supporters are more concerned about the euro crisis or immigration than sexual identity politics, the presence of women and gay leaders gives these parties an important veneer of modernity. Whether their presence will attract more voters remains to be seen.

Macron and Trudeau shouldn’t be so proud of appointing women to their Cabinets

This post originally appeared for the Conversation. https://theconversation.com/macron-and-trudeau-shouldnt-be-so-proud-of-appointing-women-to-their-cabinets-79990

Appointing a gender-parity Cabinet seems to be the thing to do if you are a rising, progressive and male political star.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did it in 2015. French President Emmanuel Macron followed this May.

The internet loves it. Trudeau has been the darling of feminists everywhere, and Macron clearly wants to follow in his footsteps. Being a male feminist politician is hip.

Yet my research shows that numerical representation of women is not the silver bullet it has long been considered. What’s more important for achieving meaningful equity is that women control key political resources. In the highest echelon of politics, that means occupying senior Cabinet positions with financial and staff resources.

When being present is not enough

But what about that famous rallying cry for bringing more women into politics? “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu” makes sense intuitively. And, in France and Canada, it is in cabinets where the major policy decisions are being made. Having 50 percent women in a Cabinet seems to signal that women’s concerns will be taken seriously: for example, by passing a gender sensitive budget or addressing implicit sex bias in tax codes.

French Sports Minister Laura
Flessel-Colovic.REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Unfortunately, research consistently has shown that women are relegated to lower-level or female-friendly Cabinet positions such as families, development or sports. Essentially, this means women might have a voice in Cabinet meetings but they cannot move the policy needlein important areas such as foreign affairs, finance or employment.

So how do the Cabinets of Trudeau and Macron measure up? Are they truly feminist – in other words, committed to sharing power equally between men and women? Or are these ostensibly equitable Cabinets mere window dressing? Unfortunately, under both Trudeau and Macron, men still occupy the majority of powerful positions.

In Canada, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould was the only woman holding what I would consider a key post in Trudeau’s initial cabinet. Other important portfolios, such as foreign affairs and finance, were headed by men. Many of the other women were appointed to so-called “pink” departments like families, development and sports.

In subsequent cabinet reshuffles, Canadian women made some inroads. In August 2016, Bardish Chagger became leader of the government in the House of Commons. In January,Chrystia Freeland took over Foreign Affairs.

Still, a study showed that female Canadian ministers answered fewer questions than their male colleagues when the parliamentary opposition questioned the government. And Oxfam recently came out with a damning report claiming Trudeau’s government was more talk than action. This begs the question whether the women appointed do not prioritize women’s issues or whether they do not have a sufficient voice in the cabinet to push their legislative agenda.

In France, the picture is similar. For the initial cabinet appointments, men headed all senior Cabinet positions: interior, environment, justice, economy, foreign minister and defense. Macron had originally appointed Sylvie Goulard for defense minister, but she had to resign due to a political scandal. As in Canada, women are relegated to the “female ministries” of culture, labor or sports. And while Trudeau’s Cabinet is highly diverse in terms of ethnicity and age, Macron’s Cabinet is mostly old and white – if not male. With few women in key Cabinet positions, it is likely that Macron will follow Trudeau’s lead in a less admirable way – by not doing much in terms of policies that help women like equal pay rules or corporate board quotas.

If Macron and Trudeau truly want to address women’s political needs, they need to share power by appointing women to powerful Cabinet posts such as Budget, Finance, or Labor and include women in the inner circles of power within cabinets. Only when women control political resources and are part of these inner networks, there will be a real chance of women’s concerns being included in the top echelons of politics.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that the analysis is focused on initial cabinet appointments.

Marching Beyond Red vs. Blue

This post originally appeared for the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/marching-beyond-red-vs-blue_us_588fa487e4b04c35d583507f 

by Malliga Och, Idaho State University, and Shauna Shames, Rutgers University-Camden

 

It is too easy to dismiss the Women’s Marches as a new “Occupy,” an uproar by city-based liberals against Trump’s “heartland” voters. After all, record-breaking numbersturned out across the big and Democratic cities like DC, NYC, and LA. And it is on the big metropolitan areas that media attention has been focused: seas of pink pussy hats, captured in aerial shots and widely shared on social media. But when we dig deeper, there is a more interesting story to tell.

 

If the Women’s Marches indeed represent a liberal movement, we should expect greater turnout in blue states than red states. After all, we have witnessed the rise of the urban/rural divide in US politics where the Democratic Party increasingly is the party of choice in urban centers while the Republican Party dominates rural America. Indeed, it was in large metropolitan areas where we saw a massive turnout for the women’s march: these cities are major Democratic strongholds while smaller cities and more rural areas are more conservative. Confirming this trend, Clinton decisively won in cities with a population of over 1 million people and won in eight of the ten largest metro areas. But in cities with a population between 500,000 and 1 million people, Clinton lost the vote by 2 percent and Trump swept the vote in small cities (fewer than 500k people).

 

But utilizing data collected by Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman on turnout for each women march across the country (and averaging the high and low estimates for turnout), we find that the story is not that simple. Instead of this being just a liberal movement, the Women’s Marches last week transcended the partisan characteristics of the urban/rural divide or the blue versus red state dichotomy of the electoral college.

Getting to this more interesting story takes cautious analysis, however. Just comparing march turnout per 1,000 citizens in red versus blue states (defined simply by their 2016 presidential vote), the simple-story assumption is correct: on average, far more citizens per capita turned out in blue states than in red states. However, if we control for the influence of major cities (500,000+ people), including the national march in D.C., the results look different. Excluding major cities, the turnout per 1,000 people in the state is the same in red and blue states (.52 in blue states versus .53 in red states). The same pattern holds true when we exclude midsize cities (100,000+ people). Looking only at marches in small cities and towns, we found that the average turnout per 1,000 in the state was .31 for blue states and .28 for red states. In a regression looking only at cities and towns with fewer than 100,000, there is no significance to a variable coding for red versus blue states.

 

What this means is that the Women’s Marches are not just a blue-state or major-city phenomenon. Take for example Stanley, ID – population 63 – where 30 people turned out to march. This may not seem much, especially when compared with Los Angeles or New York marches, but it represents half the town’s population. To have the same turnout as Stanley, the LA march should have garnered 2 million people. And in Custer county, where Stanley is located, 74% of voters chose Donald Trump. To identify themselves in opposition in a small town (where anonymity is impossible) is a bold political act. Idaho itself is a deeply red state that has voted for the Republican candidate in the last sevenpresidential elections. Yet Stanley is not an exception – similar turnouts (while small in actual numbers) occurred all over red states. Alaska, for instance, even in the dead of winter, had 24 separate marches.

 

The data shows that the women’s march is more than just a blue state movement. The similar turnout rates across Democratic and Republican states as well as across smaller urban centers and rural areas show that the issue of gender equality and concern for women’s rights ring true beyond Democratic strongholds and are present in Republican districts and states as well. Maybe a new women’s movement has awoken supported by a new national consensus that women’s rights are human rights once and for all.

 

We need conservative women if we want to elect more women in 2018.

More Than 4,500 Women Have Signed Up to Run For Office Since the Election” proclaimed Time Magazine and a New York Magazien headline reads “First They Marched, Now More Than 13,000 Women Are Planning to Run for Office” — From Marie Claire to the Washington Post, news sites have been overflowing with pieces calling on women to run for office or celebrating women for stepping up to run for office. It seems that women have finally woken up and found their political ambition. If we follow Jennifer Lawless and her co-authors, we have fewer women elected in politics because women lack political ambition: if women don’t run, women cannot win. But now that so many women are stepping up, surely we are due for another Year of the Women in 2018!

Not so fast. Getting more women into elected office is about more than political ambition. Getting more women to run is the first step, indeed, and requires them to see some major rewards to running that would outweigh the overall high costs as Shauna Shames points out in her new book on the political ambitions of millennials. But beyond running, actually getting women elected really depends on the availability of open seats in the 2018 midterm election. In American politics, incumbency is the most reliable factor for predicting election outcomes: 98 percent of incumbents have been reelected between 1996 and 2016 in the House, with similar rates for the Senate.

To increase the number of women in office, we need to encourage women to run for open seats. As of now, there are no open seats in the Senate and only five (out of 435) in the House. Of these five seats, four are solidly Republican while one is solidly Democratic. If we want to have another year of the women in 2018, first of all, we need far more open seats, and also several women need to run in these open districts. If the current race in California 34th house district to replace Rep. Xavier Becerra is any indication, women are stepping up to run: half of the candidates are women. While no guarantee, this increases the chances of a woman being elected and is a promising sign for things to come.

Of course, the competitiveness of seats matters too. According to the Cook Report, as of February 2017, three of the House districts are competitive (but not open seats) and none in the Senate (five seats lean democratic and two lean Republican). We might add more competitive seats over the next two years but even then, competitive districts are not a sure bet: in CO house district 6 Rep. Coffman (R) has been considered vulnerable and the district has been considered to lean democrat since 2012. However, Rep. Coffman has withstood any attempts at replacing him so far. As of now, the Cook Report judges the district to lean Republican.

Further, and often overlooked in media accounts, if we are truly committed to increasing the number of women in Congress, we need women from both sides of the aisle to run. There are encouraging signs that women of all ideological stripes are gearing up to run signing up for non-partisan women’s recruitment programs such as She Should Run in record numbers. Yet it is more likely that the great number of women running for office will be Democratic women as Republican women historically run at lower numbers and Democratic groups such as EMILY’s List have announced its ‘most aggressive female recruitment effort’ yet. Comparable recruitment efforts both in resources and money on the Republican side do not exist.

If we focus only on progressive women, the number of open or competitive seats comes down to just one open seat in the House. Instead, if both Republican and Democratic women win their general elections across all open and competitive seats, we could add eight women to the House. This would not be another “Year of the Woman,” but it would be progress. Further, it shows that the United States cannot reach political parity without conservative women running for office and winning elections.

The sudden increase in women’s political ambition and their newfound willingness to throw their hats into the electoral arena are rightfully being celebrated, but achieving equal representation is never as easy as just running for office. If we want more women in politics, we need to be strategic about where and when we have women run — and most importantly we need to channel our financial resources to female candidates in both Democratic and Republican districts where they have a real chance of winning. Only then we will translate numbers into success.