Our sexist opposition

None of these things is unlike the other ...

The other day, Carlos Ocariz, candidate for governor of Miranda, endorsed a group of 21 people who are vying for mayor in his state.

Their names? Juan Carlos, David, Ramón, José Manuel, Guillermo, Raimundo, Richard, Julio Cesar, Luis Manuel, José, Iván, Enrique, Maximino, Roger, Oswaldo, Pedro, Ovidio, José Luis, Roberto, Orlando, and David.

Leopoldo López, not to be outdone, presented his own endorsements for Caracas’ five municipalities.

Their names? Antonio, Emilio, Freddy, Eduardo, and Gerardo.

In whimsical fashion, Ocariz named his team El Trabuco.

He should have gone for Los Bomberos, because in the group of twenty-one – just like in Leopoldo’s group of five – there is not a single woman.

Venezuela is a deeply sexist country. We might not want to admit it, but it’s true.

Ours is a country where beauty queens are treated simultaneously like cattle and royalty, where 23-year old girls die on rickety operating tables while searching for unattainable beauty, where women earn 80% of what men do, and where rape is used as a weapon in our undeclared civil war.

It’s no surprise that our politicians reflect those values. They are human, y la cabra tira pa’l monte and all that. Heck, I’ve been scolded several times on this blog for insensitive comments I’ve made.

But there is no excuse for this. Leadership is about overcoming our worst tendencies.

If you were asked to name five prominent female opposition leaders, you would be hard-pressed to come up with names. Aside from Maria Corina Machado – not coincidentally, the only presidential candidate who has been shot at during this primary season – and Maracaibo Mayor Evelyng de Rosales, there really are none.

Aside from Machado, the opposition does not have a single prominent legislator. There are no female opposition governors. And the MUD spokesman? A man too. It pains me to write it, but in terms of promoting the leadership of women, our side has a lot to learn from Hugo Chávez.

You might think this is a non-issue in Venezuela. There may come a time where gender issues are important, but now is not the time, you might say.

I disagree. Time and again, I have heard from female activists who feel ignored, who resent being shunned when decisions on candidacies are made.

So while there are more pressing issues in Venezuela at the moment, let’s pause to reflect on our politicians’ mistreatment of women, who are 50% of the voters and some of our most fervent, most honest activists.

We ignore and demean them at our own peril.

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