Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has picked yet another fight with the country’s burgeoning feminist movement, saying it only started “two years ago” and bizarrely claiming it had been formed to oppose his administration.
Asked on Wednesday about a march in Mexico City for International Safe Abortion Day, the president spoke conspiratorially of the women’s movement, alleging it had become “conservative” – a term he uses to deride his critics.
“You have to see what’s behind it, because two years ago, when the feminist movement began, many women participated. But you started to realize they had become conservative feminists only to affect us, only for this purpose,” he said.
His remarks were the latest evidence of the populist leader’s hostility toward the feminist movement – which includes many people who previously supported him.
Mexican social media responded with ridicule and bewilderment.
“With this man, he believes everything revolves around him,” tweeted Martha Tagle, a former opposition senator.
“[López Obrador] doesn’t understand feminism and what little he does understand he considers it to be contrary to his political project,” said Bárbara González, a political analyst in Monterrey.
Some in the feminist movement expressed early hopes for López Obrador’s administration, which he promotes as the “fourth transformation” in Mexico’s history. He appointed a gender-balanced cabinet and named prominent former supreme court justice Olga Sánchez Cordero to the interior ministry.
But Sánchez Cordero was replaced in late August – and returned to the senate – after a low-profile period in what was traditionally Mexico’s most powerful cabinet position.
“The kind of woman that does politics acceptably for him is an ‘Adelita’,” González said, referring to the women who fought as foot soldiers in Mexico’s revolution of 1910. “It’s an archetype, the model of a woman that accompanies the transformation.”
The president’s comments come barely three weeks after the supreme court decriminalised abortion – a subject the president has barely mentioned.
The court decision followed waves of protests in Mexico and across Latin America as women took to the streets to demand action on issues such as sexual violence, abortion access and femicide.
A recent report from Amnesty International found that at least 10 women and girls are murdered in Mexico every day. Most of the cases go unpunished and families of the victims are often forced to carry out their own investigations.