Picture a presidential candidate who publicly harasses women, disseminates hate speech against racial and ethnic minorities and accuses reporters and journalists of “fake news.”
This may all sound familiar—but this is not Donald Trump. This is Jair Bolsonaro, a Brazilian military leader who is the front-runner presidential candidate for the upcoming national elections taking place on October 7.
Like Trump, Bolsonaro has been caught on camera harassing Congresswoman Maria do Rosário. (“I wouldn’t rape you,” he told her, “because you don’t deserve it.”) Like Trump, Bolsonaro stated that Venezuelan immigrants are bringing prostitution and crime to Brazil. Like Trump, Bolsonaro praises brutal and violent military dictatorships—in his case, the one that took over Brazil for 21 years between 1964 to 1985 and jailed and tortured the first female president, Dilma Rousseff.
Bolsonaro, who constantly claims that women should earn less than men because they get pregnant, has also done his best to invalidate the feminist movement in his country. Brazilian women have been working to raise awareness and spark outrage around femicides—an issue he dismissed as “myth.” In line with his machismo, Bolsonaro is an advocate for violence: He promises to be tough on crime, wants to legalize the ability of civilians to carry guns and has raised the idea of issuing the the death penalty for minor crimes such as property violations.
Upon being asked what he would do if one of his sons married a Black woman, Bolsonaro declared that it would never happen—because he provided his children with a good education. When he was asked what he would do if he had a gay son, he said that a present father would never let that happen. (The father of four sons, Bolsonaro declared that his fifth child—a daughter—was the result of a “moment of weakness.”)
Once again, just like the years leading up to Brazil’s dictatorship, Brazilian women are leading the resistance against a tyrannical military leader. Much like the millions who took to the streets to protest the Trump administration, women are sounding the alarm on the danger Bolsonaro poses to Brazil’s young and complicated democracy—and forming the front line in the fight to oppose his candidacy.
In August, Ludimilla Teixeira, a Black woman from Salvador, created a Facebook group called “Women United Against Bolsonaro” that grew to have over 2.8 million supporters. Last week, Bolsonaro’s supporters hacked the group, as well as the group administrators’ personal profiles and email accounts, and changed the group name to “Women United With Bolsonaro.” Bolsonaro himself posted on Twitter a screenshot of the group, emphasizing the number of participants, and thanked Brazilian women for their support. His son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, claimed on Facebook that the group was initially created by Bolsonaro’s supporters, and then hacked by their opposition. Ludimilla Teixeira has reported the occurrence to the police and started an investigation. The women have been able to recover the group, but not their personal profiles and email accounts.
Teixeira is determined to fight back, and she’s taking that fight offline in the wake of Bolsonaro’s attacks on her digital efforts. “I want to see if they can hack us on the streets!” she declared, referring to an international day of protest—stretching from Toronto, London, Paris, Lisbon, Barcelona, Berlin and Sydney to New York City, Boston, Miami and Atlanta—taking place this weekend to drive home one simple message: #EleNão (#NotHim). Brazilian women and their allies, including celebrities like Bruna Marquezine and Anitta, will come together on September 29, wearing purple to represent women’s fight against sexual and domestic violence, to further popularize the hashtag that has been mentioned over 250,000 times on Instagram and 200,000 times on Twitter. They are gathering to resist the growing influence and prominence of men like Bolsonaro—who, in countries around the world, are rising to power after stoking hatred, division and fear.
The Brazilian left doesn’t believe Bolsonaro can possibly win this race—but right now, he is ahead in the polls. Brazilians cannot stand by and let the largest Latin American country fall victim to a presidency that will dismantle the rights of women, ethnic minorities and LGBT people. As the global crises around us continue to mount, so does a global feminist movement intent on resisting, persisting and changing the course of history.