Women Mobilizing Women: Candidates’ Strategies for Winning the Presidency

Catherine Reyes-Housholder


Latin America has elected more female presidents than any other region in the world, yet dominant theories on campaigning tend to ignore gender. In addressing this lacuna, this article argues that the widespread belief that women are better at mobilizing women means that female candidates tend to invest more significant effort into cultivating a core constituency of women on the basis of gender identity. In contrast, male candidates tend to delegate women-mobilization tasks to female surrogates. An analysis of approximately 1,000 newspaper articles reveals that the “most different” female candidates in Chile and Brazil consistently met with female voters early in their campaigns, evoked gender identities and promised pro-women change. The “most different” male candidates enlisted their wives and female politicians to target women, defend their pro-women promises, and deflect accusations of sexism. The theory illuminates multiple ways in which viable female candidates’ entry into the political arena can improve women’s representation.

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