The July 2000 presidential election turned a new page in Mexican history. Around the world people and governments alike watched in awe as Vicente Fox, an opposition candidate, defeated the almighty ruling party and won the presidency. A peaceful transfer of power occurred when Fox was sworn in on 1 December 2000 and received the presidential sash, beginning a new era in Mexico. After more than seventy years of single-party rule, the Mexican governing elite had become genuinely plural. In 2001, the erstwhile dominant Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI) retained a razor-thin majority in the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of Congress), with 210 seats. It was followed very closely by Fox's party, the Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party, PAN) on the right of the political spectrum, with 207 seats. The third major party, the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Democratic Revolution Party, PRD) on the left of the spectrum, held 52 seats (much reduced from its 1997 level). Because a two-thirds majority is needed to pass constitutional changes, and because no single party had an absolute majority of 251 seats, no party had a clear hold on the Chamber of Deputies, and therefore all parties needed to forge alliances with other parties. In the Senate, too, the PRI managed to retain a majority, with 60 seats out of the total 128. The PAN had 46 seats; the PRD, 16; and other parties occupied the remaining six. There have also been important "opposition" gains at the city and regional levels. Well over 50 percent of the country's population is now governed by parties other than the PRI at the state and local levels, and more significant, since 1997 the three largest and most important metropolitan areas have no longer been in the hands of the PRI: Guadalajara and Monterrey went to the PAN in 1994\-1995, and the Federal District (Mexico City proper) went to the PRD for the second time in July 2000 (the first was in July 1997, when Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas became the first opposition mayor ever to govern Mexico City and the PRD swept the board in all Federal District elections). In a country that until relatively recently was referred to as "A Perfect Dictatorship," a dizzying political transformation is underway.
How have the women fared in this dramatic process of political change? Official data look encouraging: women comprise 16 percent of the 2000-2003 Congress; that is, they hold 79 seats out of 500. By way of contrast, in the United States in mid-2001, women occupied 59 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, or 13.6 percent. In the Mexican Senate, women hold 22 of the 128 seats; in the United States, women made history in the 2000 election when 13 women, an unprecedented number, were elected to the Senate. And according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in 2001 women held 13.1 percent of legislative seats in Latin America and the Caribbean, trailing slightly behind the world average of 13.8 percent. Also in mid-2001, the six countries in the world with the highest representations of women in their legislatures were Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden, with levels ranging between 22 and 40 percent. The seventh highest was a Latin American nation--Argentina--which boosted its female representation with the passage of a gender quota law in 1993. Thus Mexico's 16 percent, while relatively impressive, still lags far behind the rate in many other countries. But if the numbers themselves are significant, more significant still is the trajectory Mexican women have followed to arrive at this level of formal representation and to position themselves as key actors in the country's transition to democracy.
Participation, Representation, and Democracy: A Framework for Analyzing Women and Gender?
Women have become recognized political actors in Latin America, transforming through their activism political systems throughout the region. Latin American women's organizations and women's political activities have been central to the region's process of democratic transition. Several studies have shown that the process of transition from authoritarian rule to democracy would not have been possible without women's involvement. Indeed, the period of transitions to democracy in Latin America coincided with a worldwide wave of political mobilization among women, sparked in no small measure by the United Nations Decade for Women, launched in Mexico City in 1975. The political mobilization of Latin American women had its own special character, inspiring both men and women the world over in their fight for human rights, their opposition to state repression, and their efforts to strengthen civil society. The Argentine Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo were emulated everywhere, and the rallying cry of women in Chile against the Pinochet dictatorship, "Democracy in the country and in the home," echoed around the world.
But in spite of the literature documenting women's activism in the region, and in spite of the significant contributions to theory that this empirical work has made, women continue to be invisible in the theory and discussions of democratization (see Waylen 1994; Schmitter 1998). As Jaquette concludes, in the current scholarship on democratic transitions and consolidations, "gender is simply absent from the researchers' minds" (1998: 226). Why is that so?
Representative Democracy, Participatory Democracy, Civil Society, and Women
Scholars claim that participation in civil society leads to more participation in formal politics and to deepening democracy, but that does not seem to apply to women. A paradox in Mexico--and in the rest of Latin America, for that matter--is that while women have been prominently active in civil society, they remain marginal players in formal politics. In emerging democracies such as Mexico, this is significant because a lack of fair representation of all social groups could undermine the legitimacy of the new democratic system. Time and again we see references to the fact that it is difficult to label a country as democratic if half the population--i.e., women--is in effect excluded from formal political participation. The exclusion of marginalized groups makes the state less responsive to the needs of its citizens, especially if a group--such as women--has special interests and needs. If the state structure remains largely monopolized by men, it is unlikely that state policies will emerge that are gender-fair or favorable to women. Women need to have other women in decision-making positions to voice their interests.
The key questions to ask thus revolve around women's participation and representation. Do women participate in formal politics in numbers that represent them fairly? The clear-cut answer, worldwide, is a resounding "no." But even if we already know the answer, it is a question worth asking in an attempt to change the answer, recognizing the larger implications the question has for ideals of participation and representation in democratic societies. In effect, classical political theory has grappled with these concepts for centuries, yet one would be hard pressed to find a theorist in the camp of either representative democracy or participatory democracy who fully explores the role of women. Indeed, scholars concerned with analyzing women's political participation and representation are forced to extrapolate from numerous theorists, or to make a special effort to squeeze women into analyses that meant to include only men.
In her pivotal theoretical work on representation, Hanna Pitkin (1967, 1969) traces the evolution of the concept from ancient Greece to the modern period and concludes that "there does not even seem to be any remotely satisfactory agreement on what representation is or means" (1969: 7). The theoretical literature is burdened with persistent and unresolved controversies: some scholars distinguish between representative government and other forms of government; others argue that every government is representative of the people; and yet others argue that no government can ever be truly representative. A further strand of controversy in the literature concerns the role and behavior of the representative: should the representative follow his or her own judgment when making a decision, or should he or she blindly follow the wishes of his or her constituency? These "seemingly irresoluble conflicts and controversies" (Pitkin 1967: 7) remain ever present in contemporary discussions of representation, and thus one of the more fundamental questions for political theorists continues to be how governmental institutions represent the interests of citizens. To explore the issue, it is necessary to look at two broad lines of inquiry: what a representative does, that is, what constitutes the activity of representing; and what a representative is, that is, what he or she must be like in order to represent.
Contemporary analyses of representation and the relationships between state and society are guided by notions of accountability and responsiveness, but the questions of how to establish representative institutions and what functions representatives should have go back to Plato and ancient Greece. It was the seventeenth-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, however, who set the markers for our modern understanding of representation when he proposed in his Leviathan (1651) that a representative is someone who acts in the name of another and who has been given authority to act by that other, so that whatever the representative does is considered the act of the represented; thus, within the limits of his authority, the representative is totally free to do as he chooses. This widely used and accepted definition is not without problems, the most important being that in Hobbes's conception the constituency being represented is ignored, in the sense that the representative does not consult the people's wishes, does not seem to make protecting their interests a priority, and does not seem to be responsible to them. This has inevitably led many theorists to question Hobbes. In their view, Hobbes completely misses what a representative should be, that is, someone who can and should be held accountable to the constituency.
Jeremy Bentham and James Mill later argued for elite representation, in which representatives would govern on behalf of their constituents because ordinary people did not have the time, knowledge, or wisdom to make the best decisions. In short, consultation with the public was not required. Interestingly, it was within this concept of elite representation that Mill's son, John Stuart Mill, wrote one of the more radical pieces of his time on the desirability of women's participation. In The Subjection of Women (1869; see Mill 1963) he boldly argues that if women were free, they would double the number of minds available for higher service to humanity; women in public office would then double the talents and wisdom of public officials. Perhaps even more radical for his time (and even for ours) is Mill's argument in Considerations on Representative Government (1861; see Mill 1963) that every section of the population, including minorities, should be proportionally represented in government.
Theorists concerned with "mirror" representation argue that representatives should reflect the society they govern. In the founding era of the United States, for example, John Adams believed that in the young nation the newly created legislature "should be an exact portrait, in miniature, of the people at large, as it should think, feel, reason, and act like them" ("Letter to John Penn" in Adams 2000: 493). Yet we know that this portrait did not include women. We also know that Adams's wife, Abigail Adams, wrote him a letter in which she made this point clear:
I long to hear that you have declared an independency--and by the way, in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation. (Rossi 1973: 10-11)
The compromise reached in this country in 1776 between those arguing for "mirror" representation and those arguing for "delegate" representation involved the creation of a bicameral legislature in which both interests could be served. The Senate represented the interests of the elite; the House came closer to reflecting the general population. But women were left out of the compromise. Indeed, they were not granted the right to vote until 1920, almost 150 years later.
It was the demand for representativeness that led women to fight for suffrage in the first place. In virtually every country, women demanded the right to vote because they wished to have a voice in the process of governing. But earning the vote did not always guarantee them the right to run for office. Thus, the demand for suffrage evolved into a demand for also having women representatives. That demand remains unfulfilled after decades of struggle. Indeed, this was one of the principal areas of concern identified in the Platform for Action resulting from the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995:
Despite the widespread movement towards democratization in most countries, women are largely underrepresented at most levels of government, especially in ministerial and other executive bodies, and have made little progress in attaining political power in legislative bodies. . . . Globally, only 10 percent of the members of legislative bodies and a lower percentage of ministerial positions are now held by women. Indeed, some countries, including those that are undergoing fundamental political, economic and social changes, have seen a significant decrease in the number of women represented in legislative bodies. Although women make up at least half of the electorate in almost all countries and have attained the right to vote and hold office in almost all State Members of the United Nations, women continue to be seriously underrepresented as candidates for public office. (Document 127 1995: section G, par. 182)
This bleak picture is echoed in the theoretical literature and debates concerning the concept of representation. As Hanna Pitkin puts it, we are almost tempted to conclude that "representation has nothing to do with freedom, democracy, self-government, or the public interest. In short, one might conclude that our conventional democratic ideal of representation is a myth, a delusion, impossible of realization in practice. In practice, representation is tyranny" (1969: 9). However, the controversies and debates about the different types of representation (the independent representative versus the representative who has a mandate from the constituency) and what representatives should look like (representatives who "mirror" their constituencies versus "superior men and women" who are chosen for their "talent and wisdom") not only continue but have paved the way for more contemporary views of democracy and representation. Among these views, the ones that concern us here specifically are those that point out the lack of a woman's presence and perspective in government. Although feminist scholars do not agree on a particular form of representation, they do argue that legitimacy and justice require that women should not be excluded from representation nor have to face institutional discrimination if they choose to enter the world of politics.
Participatory democracy theorists argue that participation is the key to effective governance. Jean-Jacques Rousseau's view is that non-participatory systems make freedom impossible. In his discussion of the general will and the social contract, where "laws, not men, should rule," Rousseau makes two fundamental points: first, that participation is necessary for making good decisions and ensures good government; and second, that representative government protects private interests. John Stuart Mill expanded on the importance of representation and, like Rousseau, stressed the educative function of participation. One learns democracy through participation (especially at the local level), as he tells us: "We do not learn to read or write, to ride or swim, by being merely told how to do it, but by doing it, so it is only done by practicing popular government on a limited scale, that the people will ever learn how to exercise it on a larger" (1963: 168). In addition to stressing the importance of citizen participation for effective government, Mill's father, James Mill, emphasized the importance of educating the electorate into socially responsible voting.
Participation is often considered almost synonymous with voting, although the concept evokes different things for different people, from marching in a protest demonstration to writing a letter to a public official. Parry and Moyser (1994), for example, identify five principal modes of participation--voting, contacting, campaigning, group action, and protest--but the overall focus seems to be on elections and voting. In the wider literature on democracy, this form of participation occupies a prominent place. For example, Robert Dahl's modern form of democracy--polyarchy, or the rule of multiple minorities--is a political order with high levels of civic-mindedness in which citizens have the ability to oppose and remove the leaders of government. Of the seven characteristics Dahl sees as conditions for a polyarchy--elected officials, free and fair elections, inclusive suffrage, the right to run for office, freedom of expression, alternative information, and associational autonomy--four are directly related to elections and voting (see Dahl 1989: 221). Dahl proposes his polyarchy as an alternative to both "the mischiefs of faction" that plague Madisonian (minority rule) democracies and "the tyranny of the majority" associated with populist (majority rule) democracies. In the polyarchy, elections are central because they provide the mechanism through which citizens can exert control over their leaders. While minorities still rule, the competition among them for the votes of the people makes them responsive and accountable to the electorate.
Indeed, the bulk of thinking on participation as a key element in a democracy is overly concerned with equating participation with the selection of rulers and the ability to vote them out of office. Following this line of reasoning, Carole Pateman succinctly summarizes what a democratic system entails:
In the theory, 'democracy' refers to a political method or set of institutional arrangements at national level. The characteristically democratic element in the method is the competition of leaders (élites) for the votes of the people at periodic, free elections. Elections are crucial to the democratic method for it is primarily through elections that the majority can exercise control over their leaders. Responsiveness of leaders to non-élite demands, or 'control' over leaders, is ensured primarily through the sanction of loss of office at elections; the decisions of leaders can also be influenced by active groups bringing pressure to bear during inter-election periods. 'Political equality' in the theory refers to universal suffrage and to the existence of equality of opportunity of access to channels of influence over leaders. Finally, 'participation', so far as the majority is concerned, is participation in the choice of decision makers. Therefore, the function of participation in the theory is solely a protective one; the protection of the individual from arbitrary decisions by elected leaders and the protection of his private interests. (1970: 14)
The protective feature of participation in a democracy from the individual citizen's perspective is seen in an entirely different light by those theorists concerned with protecting the stability of the system. In essence, their fear is that too much participation is dangerous to the state, and therefore mechanisms must be put in place to protect the state. This concern was particularly prevalent in the mid-twentieth century, as mass participation was manipulated into fascism and then into totalitarian regimes in the post-World War II period.
In the view of the theorists of the 1940s and 1950s, the only means of participation available to the citizenry is voting. Joseph Schumpeter, for example, in his very influential Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (1943) anchors his theory of democracy on the minority of leaders. The distinctive feature of his notion of democracy is the competition for leadership among the elite. The role assigned to the people is simply that enough of them vote to keep the political machinery running, but all governing decisions are made exclusively by the elite. After all, "the electoral mass," Schumpeter tells us, "is incapable of action other than a stampede" (1943: 283). In Democratic Theory (1962), Giovanni Sartori advances Schumpeter's theory by positing that not only must elites rule in a democracy, but there must be competition among them. Citizens must limit their participation to voting; indeed, he considers a high degree of political apathy among the people to be healthy for the system. The fear that active participation of the people in the political process leads straight to totalitarianism is almost palpable in Sartori's arguments. He openly states that once a democratic system has been established, the participatory ideal must be minimized (incidentally, Sartori's works were widely read and discussed in Mexico among PRI leaders in very recent years). Harry Eckstein further argues in A Theory of Stable Democracy (1966) that for a democracy to remain stable, it must count with a healthy dose of authoritarianism. Dahl, too, perceives the dangers inherent in the participation of the average man. He argues in A Preface to Democratic Theory (1956) that apathy is not necessarily bad because it is the lower socioeconomic groups that tend to be less active politically, and it is among these groups that authoritarian personalities tend to develop. Thus, increased levels of participation could threaten the stability of the system.
The classical theories of democracy tend to be overly normative, but contemporary theories are much more empirical. Indeed, while voting and elections are clearly an integral component of any type of democratic system and continue to play a critical role, more contemporary analyses have moved on to argue, based on empirical research, that democracy entails much more than elections (see, for example, Linz and Stepan 1996; Schmitter and Karl 1996; Huntington 1996). As we will see below, a whole corpus of literature has developed in the 1990s that deals with the issue of mass mobilization and its impact and value for a system moving from authoritarianism to democracy. This literature recognizes that organized participation is good; the danger is in nonorganized participation. It also supports the view that more participation is conducive to better public policies: quite simply, "the higher the level of participation, the greater the potential for generating policy choices that reflect the needs and interests of ordinary citizens" (Robinson 1998: 156-157).
But, apart from literature by feminist scholars and token recognition in the studies of democratic transitions, women are invisible in the participatory democracy literature, both theoretical and empirical. Although women's political participation and its impact on politics and society the world over are abundantly clear, it continues to be ignored. This participation, however, has been limited to alternative avenues to the formal channels of political power, such as grassroots mobilization and nongovernmental organizations. Only in very exceptional cases have women been able to open the doors of the overwhelmingly male elite decision-making world, and consequently they are left out of the dominant analyses of elite rule discussed above. The only role women play in these schemata is as citizen voters.
The theoretical pedigree of civil society can be traced back to Alexis de Tocqueville, who was struck by the propensity of Americans to participate voluntarily in all forms of associations, and to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who romanticized "the people." The strong images evoked in their works of a collective people actively participating in government has colored much of both the theoretical and the empirical work on the relationship between the state and civil society. As Larry Diamond (1996: 227) comments, "What could be more moving than the stories of brave bands of students, writers, artists, pastors, teachers, laborers, and mothers challenging the duplicity, corruption, and brutal domination of authoritarian states?"
Much of the classic democracy literature has not been terribly encouraging of an engaged civil society--as witnessed in the work of Schumpeter, Sartori, and Dahl discussed above--but the contemporary discussion on participatory democracy has redefined democracies to include a much stronger and more active civil society. In their much-cited work, Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan (1996), and others like Robert Putnam (1993, 2000), have led the charge in this discussion and the large body of literature that has followed. In Putnam's study of Italy, for example, he found that civic participation leads to stronger institutions and more effective governance; this, in turn, strengthens democracy. Without doubt, scholarly and popular discussions and debates have made "civil society" a fashionable term.
Yet even with this development, the women remain absent from the literature. The analysis of civil society and governance is gender-free, as is the notion of civic participation. Women are mentioned only as part of a long list of other participants in civil society. Linz and Stepan (1996: 7) state that "civil society can include manifold social movements (women's groups, neighborhood associations, religious groupings, and intellectual organizations) and civic associations from all social strata (such as trade unions, entrepreneurial groups, journalists, or lawyers)"; and Diamond (1996: 228) points out that citizens have pressed and challenged the state "not merely as individuals, but as members of student movements, churches, professional associations, women's groups, trade unions, human rights organizations, producer groups, the press, civic associations, and the like" (my emphasis in both cases). While clearly it is important that women are recognized as active members of civil society along with other groups, one has to question whether women's engagement in civil society is different. Do women participate differently? The empirical literature shows us conclusively that they do, but the theoretical literature chooses not to acknowledge this.
A survey of recent literature shows a shift in the interpretation of the role played by civil society, from a destructive force to a constructive force. During the Cold War, civil society was seen strictly as opposition to authoritarian or totalitarian regimes. It functioned as a destructive force in the sense that it sought to overthrow these regimes. A large body of literature developed around the concept of civil society as the nemesis of the state--and it is somewhat ironic that this is the only branch of democracy literature in which women are included, with a focus on women's roles in opposition and revolutionary movements. As Jaquette points out, "it is striking to recall how narrow the empirical base was to study women's democratic participation in the mid 1970s. . . . The global standard for women's participation was set by the highly visible leadership roles and radical agendas by and for women in revolutionary regimes and guerrilla movements" (1998: 225).
The second interpretation, civil society as a constructive force, centers on the function of civil society in monitoring and restraining the exercise of power by the state, and in democratizing authoritarian states (Diamond 1996: 230). Civil society plays a direct role in the process of governing, and therefore citizens can monitor and limit the exercise of power by the state through participation in civil organizations and in formal politics. The theoretical literature on this second focus completely ignores issues of gender; it claims to be gender-free because it refers to participants in the political process as citizens, ignoring their sex, as evidenced in the passages by Linz and Stepan and Diamond cited above. Moreover, it seems to disregard the abundant empirical literature that has demonstrated the centrality of woman as auditor and watchdog of the state.
In the last decade, the fraction of the world's population living in democracies has risen from one-third to two-thirds (Jaquette and Wolchik 1998: 1), generating an ever growing literature on democratic transitions and consolidations. Yet there is no question that women have been systematically excluded from these studies, and the literature focusing on Latin America is no exception. As Georgina Waylen notes, the participation of women is rarely, if ever, examined:
Gender relations are rendered invisible and indeed, marginal and irrelevant in the democratization literature. . . . The narrow definitions of democracy, politics, and citizenship, the concentration on the public sphere and the use of simplistic notions of civil society mean that these works are of little use for understanding the place of gender in the processes and outcomes of democratization. . . . A new approach is therefore needed to address the questions of the role of women in the transition and the way gender relations have changed as a result of the process. This would illuminate notions of citizenship, democracy, and civil society and the interaction of gender relations and the state. (Waylen 1994: 334-335)
Waylen insists on the need to create "a framework for analyzing the interplay between gender relations and democratization" (1994: 327). She is criticizing those who argue that women are incorporated in the larger discussions of civil society where there are few if any gender distinctions, or that gender should be subsumed under larger considerations of race and class. A good example is provided by Linz and Stepan, who are fundamentally concerned with analyzing what is necessary for a country to move from transition to consolidation. They posit five critical elements: a free and lively civil society; a relatively autonomous and valued political society; a rule of law to guarantee citizens' freedom and associations; a state bureaucracy; and an institutionalized economic society (1996: 7). While Linz and Stepan would surely acknowledge that women play important roles in and make important contributions to each of these arenas--they do mention women's social movements in Brazil--they still do not engender their analysis.
The exclusion of women from this literature is worrying because the comparative literature on democratization has grown rapidly and shifted its attention from issues of democratic transition to the challenges of democratic consolidation, even developing a full typology of consolidation. Indeed, the literature is expanding so quickly that Andreas Schedler, somewhat facetiously, refers to it as "the aspiring subdiscipline of 'consolidology'" (1998: 92). As the literature has grown, however, it has failed to incorporate women, ignoring therefore that the challenges women face in those countries where democracies are closer to consolidation are different than those encountered during the process of transition.
These are the challenges faced by women in contemporary Mexico. Analysts of the Mexican political system continue to debate whether Mexico has reached the phase of consolidation or remains in the transition period--the minimal criteria for consolidation are two sets of elections, power changing hands, and lack of any threat of a democratic breakdown (Schedler 1998). Until the July 2000 election, Mexico's case was ambiguous, but now many see a decisive change. Still, in my view the transition in Mexico is not yet complete. Far from it. While some scholars have been quick to point out that the PRI's loss of the presidency provides conclusive evidence that the country has become a democracy, I feel this is too superficial a basis on which to make such an assertion. One important point in Linz and Stepan's analysis is that a transition to democracy and the shape this new democracy will take are heavily conditioned by existing political structures. That is, what a regime transitions to will be determined to a large extent by what the regime is transitioning from. In the Mexican case, after more than seventy years of one-party rule, one can hardly expect that the rules and customs of the political game will change overnight as a result of one presidential election. All the traditions of presidencialismo and clientelism cannot vanish at the snap of a finger, despite a widespread desire to see them disappear. I believe that it will take a full generation before anyone will be able to state with certainty that Mexico has a consolidated democracy.
Yet what constitutes consolidation in Mexico is very relevant to my analysis. Linz and Stepan suggest that
A democratic transition is complete when sufficient agreement has been reached about political procedures to produce an elected government, when a government comes to power that is the direct result of a free and popular vote, when this government de facto has the authority to generate new policies, and when the executive, legislative, and judicial power generated by the new democracy does not have to share power with other bodies de jure. (1996: 3)
On the face of it, this definition fits post-2000 Mexico like a glove. Anyone can see that rapid and dramatic change is occurring in Mexico. However, as Linz and Stepan remind us, there is a difference between liberalization and consolidation. Some transitions just plateau at the transition stage and never reach consolidation.
In Mexico, the challenges for achieving consolidation are simply too great to be quickly overcome. People voted Vicente Fox into the presidency in part because they were tired of the PRI and wanted something different. But will he deliver? At times it seems unlikely, mostly for two reasons: one, expectations are so high that no matter what he does, it seems insufficient; and two, he simply promised too much during his campaign (such as solving the Chiapas problem in fifteen minutes). Additionally, his party, the PAN, does not have a majority in Congress, which makes it difficult for Fox to pass any legislation. To complicate matters further, an important group within the PAN is not in the Fox camp. Moreover, the legislative branch has become genuinely autonomous, a far cry from the rubber-stamping body of yesteryear that blindly supported all presidential initiatives. Now Fox must deal with arguing, bargaining, and alliance building.
This leads us to the question of where women fit in. What do women expect from the state, and what is the state willing to offer? As Philippe Schmitter eloquently asks:
What can be done, once a process of democratization is under way, to ensure that its outcome will not systematically discriminate against the interests of women--and maybe even provide them with benefits that had previously been denied them? What specific rules, arrangements, or practices are most likely to provide women with access to significant positions of authority in the emerging polity? What type of democracy is best suited for dealing with the issues about which women collectively are concerned? In other words, what can be done to make neodemocracies "female-friendly"? (1998: 223)
These questions have been asked many times before in other contexts, but not in contemporary Mexico. Indeed, it was the search for answers to these questions that led me to this research project in the first place. Women in Mexico are now faced with challenges that are very different from those they faced in the period of transition. Whereas during a transition period women and other social movements operate outside the conventional political arena, once the transition is complete, they must learn to operate in the formal political arena, where demands are met in a democracy. As Mexico moves closer to the consolidation phase, these questions become particularly salient. In this volume I argue that women have made a place for themselves in the contemporary Mexican state as it has embarked on its road to democracy. However, it seems uncertain whether women can forge and maintain the alliances necessary to take full advantage of the political space they gained during the transition. That will be the acid test for women in contemporary Mexico.
The Women in This Study
Although the personal stories of a handful of women in Mexican politics have appeared over the years in popular publications and the news media, there are no systematic scholarly studies of who these women are--their backgrounds, their frustrations and aspirations, their plans for the future. In this section I look into the personal and public lives of the women who inform the analysis presented in this book, and I offer a composite portrait.
Place of Origin
The vast majority of the women in this study were born in Mexican urban centers. This may reflect a bias in the sample, which was primarily derived from urban areas including Mexico City, Monterrey, Guanajuato, Oaxaca, and Chihuahua. The largest percentage of the women interviewed were born in Mexico City; other birthplaces included Aguascalientes, Chihuahua, Guadalajara, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Sonora, Tlaxcala, Toluca, and Veracruz.
Half of the wives of politicians did not live in the geographic region in which they were born because of the mobility associated with their husbands' political careers. Women in political parties and government were least geographically mobile, while NGO women had the highest degree of geographic mobility. A variety of factors explain the lack of mobility among the government and political-party groups. These women were predominantly from Mexico City and therefore did not need to move to access political power. For example, Cecilia Romero was born and spent her entire life in Mexico City and climbed through the ranks of the PAN in the capital city. Ifigenia Martínez, a perredista (member of the PRD), was also born and raised in Mexico City; she first established her political career in the PRI and governmental bureaucracy and later founded the PRD with Porfirio Muñoz Ledo and Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas. María de los Angeles Moreno, who has one of the most distinguished female careers within the PRI, was also born in Mexico City and became involved with the PRI at an early age, during her years at the National Autonomous University (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM). The pattern of women in government shows a mixed trend. While some were also born and raised in Mexico City, several of them were born, spent their youths, and began their careers in other places throughout provincial Mexico. Amalia García remains very close to her native Zacatecas, as does Beatriz Paredes to Tlaxcala, her home state.
The women interviewed in provincial Mexico showed considerably less mobility. Emilia Guzmán from Oaxaca, for example, was a CNC (Confederación Nacional Campesina, the PRI's peasant sector) representative and head of the PRI in her region who specifically became involved in politics to represent the interests of her region in the state congress. One reason women from the provinces were less likely to move or to commute was family obligations, particularly child-rearing. Although in the past it has been considered a career weakness to be away from Mexico City, things may change somewhat in the future, as local and regional politics become more relevant in the post-Fox era. My expectation is that this will affect women positively.
Age and Generational Differences
The women in our sample were overwhelmingly between the ages of 35 and 50. Even though this age range is not very broad, there appears to be a generational difference between political women around fifty years of age, those aged thirty to fifty, and those aged thirty and younger. In Mexico, as elsewhere, the initial entry of pioneering women into the realm of politics has been successful in encouraging increasing numbers from the next generation to follow their lead. Whereas in the 1950s a woman in high political office was a rare occurrence, women in the 1990s were much better represented in the same positions. Most of the women interviewed began their political careers in the late 1960s and 1970s, and by the 1980s they had reached leadership positions. Once the ground was broken, more and more young women have come to realize that this occupation is also open to them. Both the older and the younger generations of political women recognize this difference in their situations.
In the 1995 Austin conference, for example, Patricia Ruiz Anchondo, who is in the younger cohort, commented on the extreme differences she saw between herself and her mother, while her brothers, for the most part, still thought and acted like their father. Others noted that the younger generation of Mexican men seem to be more accepting of women in power, and that this is important because changing society's perception of women in power will be a key element of their success in the political arena. In chapter 4 we will see that Mexican women do not always seem prepared to eagerly cooperate across generations while they are in office, although some of the women do take their responsibilities as mentors and role models very seriously. The point to underscore, however, is that their mere presence in the public arena is clearly setting an example for future generations.
Most of the women in this study came from middle- to upper-class backgrounds, and from families with high status in their communities. Many of the women in political parties and in government came from prominent Mexican political families. This tended to be especially the case with women of the PAN, many of whom--such as Blanca Alvarez, María Elena Alvarez, and María Teresa Gómez Mont, to name a few--came from families with impressive political pedigrees.
As far as women in NGOs are concerned, our findings coincided closely with those of María Luisa Tarrés (1996, 1998). In her work, Tarrés suggests that NGOs are better understood through an examination of the composition of the groups' leaders, who often come from the middle and upper classes and have high levels of education. These women also have a history of political activism and overwhelmingly tend to be critical of the Mexican political system and the socioeconomic disparities present in society. For example, Patricia Mercado and Cecilia Loría, two prominent NGO leaders, were at one time members of leftist parties and admired the ideals of liberation theology as young women. As a result of such interests, many NGO women identify strongly with the less privileged sectors of society; most of the NGO women in the sample focused their efforts on issues affecting the lower-income groups.
Spouses and Children
A few of the women in this study were married, but the majority either were divorced or had never married. The incidence of divorce has grown since the mid-1950s in Mexico, but women in the sample showed a higher divorce rate than the general population; indeed, of the women who spoke about their marital status, approximately half were divorced. In our interviews, several of the women spoke candidly about how their careers imposed strains on their marriages, leading often to separation or divorce. Many women chose not to wed because they entered their political careers at early ages and soon became aware of the constraints on their time. Beatriz Paredes and María de los Angeles Moreno, for example, have never been married.
Among those who were married, some women explicitly mentioned in the course of the interviews that their husbands were very supportive of their careers. For instance, Dulce María Sauri related that her husband had taken over as a "househusband" and had been a constant source of support. An interesting (albeit not entirely surprising) finding that emerged among the wives of politicians was that although they supported their husbands' political endeavors, their husbands were not always supportive of their own professional goals.
The majority of the women in the study had children. The number of children varied from one to six, although most tended to have two children. Most stated that their children were supportive of their endeavors, but the women invariably felt that they had sacrificed time with their families and children in order to pursue their political careers. The guilt often found among working mothers the world over came across very strongly from these Mexican women, showing that it is also culturally specific.
Education and Career Paths
Without exception, all the women in the study had post-secondary educations, separating them rather dramatically from the majority of Mexican women. In 1970, 233,000 students, or about 5 percent of the eligible population, were enrolled in preparatory programs (Camp 1978). Given that the majority of the women in this study had finished or were enrolled in preparatory programs by 1970, we can assume that they belonged to this privileged group. In 1978, 80 percent of Mexican government officials had received a university or professional degree, primarily in the field of law. Most received their university training at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and those without formal education achieved success as political leaders through work in unions or the bureaucracy (Camp 1978). The data of this time period are important because it was at this time that women were beginning to enter political life in greater numbers, following patterns similar to those followed by men.
The university educations that the women in this study pursued were primarily in the social sciences, with sociology and economics ranking among the most common areas of study, followed by law. However, the number who chose law was smaller among these women than among the male politicians of an earlier era. As has been well documented in the scholarly literature analyzing career paths and patterns among Mexico's political elite, studying law at UNAM was for many years the first step toward a political career (see Smith 1979; Camp 1978, 1995; Centeno 1994). In the 1990s, that pattern changed. The preferred discipline is now economics, and it is now much more common for top politicians to have obtained their degrees at private universities. Presidents Salinas and Zedillo both had degrees in economics, and both their cabinets included as many economists as lawyers (Camp 1999: 120).
Thus, our women fit in well with the general trend followed since the 1980s among the Mexican political elite, male or female, toward economics and the social sciences. As Centeno (1994) writes, law has lost ground in importance, with only a quarter of the elite in his sample (consisting of younger, lower-level technocrats) having studied law. Among the women in the current study, law comes in well under the 25 percent mark. Perhaps the emphasis these women place on social policy issues such as health, family, and the economy is a reflection of their areas of expertise.
The institutions chosen for higher education are also important in the formation of women as political actors. UNAM has been the center of political recruitment in Mexico since the early 1900s, when professors began to steer their best students toward public life and had a major impact on their ideologies (Smith 1979; Camp 1978, 1995; Centeno 1994). That pattern is now beginning to change, as private institutions grow in favor with Mexico's elite. Currently, the more influential institutions in Mexico are ITAM (Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, Mexican Autonomous Institute of Technology) and the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, and the ITESM (Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Studies) in Monterrey. At a national level, 20 percent of the women in higher education attend private universities, compared with 16 percent of men (Camp 1998: 171).
The influence of UNAM is not universal among the women of this study, since only 46 percent attended UNAM--about half the percentage for the previous generation of female politicians. Silva (1989), for example, found that 81 percent of her sample (dated from 1954 to 1984) had studied at UNAM. By contrast, many of the women politicians in this study went to private universities, and some attended provincial public or private universities located in their regions of origin. In general, the study shows that the women in the sample preferred to study near their homes.
Yet another trend that has become common among Mexico's political elite is having a graduate degree from abroad. The country of preference is the United States, and the most sought-after universities are Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. A large number of politicians now hold graduate degrees from prestigious U.S. institutions: former president Salinas has a Ph.D. from Harvard, and Zedillo has a Ph.D. from Yale. Although women in politics also tend to follow the trend of studying abroad, they choose the United States less often. Many women in the sample studied abroad but preferred countries such as the Netherlands, Great Britain, and France.
Not surprisingly, our data confirm that a strong educational background is a prerequisite for success in political life for both men and women in contemporary Mexico. The general population, also, is gaining greater access to higher education, with a 15 percent matriculation rate compared to only 2 percent in 1960. Nationally, women accounted for 42 percent of the students enrolled in and graduating from college in 1990. Ten years later, that figure has climbed to 48 percent. In the same decade, the percentage of women in the prestigious Sistema Nacional de Investigadores (National System of Researchers, SNI) grew from 21 to 28 (Reforma, 27 October 2000). The high level of education among the women included in this study--the quality of the universities they attended and the disciplines they pursued--suggests that as women gain increased access to higher education, they should also experience better recruitment opportunities and increased participation in the political system.
In addition to their educational credentials, it is important to note the wide variety of paths women have taken toward political success. Not unlike their male counterparts, women develop their careers by moving around in various positions within the bureaucracy; climbing their party's hierarchy; occupying numerous elected positions; and, altogether, alternating between elected and appointed positions. Many of the women in this study had at different times been members of Congress, senators, and members of the executive committees of their political parties. This was the case with Beatriz Paredes, María de los Angeles Moreno, and Dulce María Sauri in the PRI; Amalia García, Rosalbina Garavito, and Ifigenia Martínez in the PRD; and María Elena Alvarez, Cecilia Romero, and Ana Rosa Payán in the PAN, just to name a few examples.
Parental Influence and Political Involvement
The majority of the women interviewed had parents with the financial or educational means to provide an environment conducive to the pursuit of professional success, and most respondents noted that their parents supported their educations. Unlike the women active in NGOs, women in political parties, government, and feminist groups came from politically active families. Some of the women had forefathers who had held prominent political positions. Amalia García's grandfather was active in the Mexican Revolution, and her father, a priísta (member of the PRI), served as a governor and an ambassador. Griselda Alvarez, the first female governor in Mexico, came from a long line of politicians. Her great-grandfather was the first governor of Colima; her father, also governor of the state from 1919 to 1923, was active in the Revolution and was a friend of Venustiano Carranza. During her interview, showing the palm of her hand and the veins running up her arm, Alvarez described how politics was in her blood and in her lifeline, and how she had known even as a child that either she or her sister would one day become governor of the state of Colima.
Most of the women interviewed for the project came from politically engaged families, following political socialization studies that have repeatedly shown a direct correlation between a young person's interest in politics and a family environment where politics are a frequent topic of conversation. In Mexico, Camp's research has demonstrated that among the Mexican political elite, initial interest in politics is often stimulated by a family member (Camp 1984, 1998, 1999). As far as women are concerned, Camp reports that "when the father or mother of successful female politicians is compared to those of men, women compare favorably in the percentages whose parent or parents were themselves active in political life, typically one out of ten" (1998: 173). The women in this study are similar to Camp's sample in this regard.
In speaking about their parents, many of the women interviewed mentioned their fathers more often than their mothers, primarily because they saw their fathers as politically active figures as well as the primary breadwinners, while the mothers were homemakers--valid work, but not politically relevant. Other studies have found different trends. For example, Silva (1989) mentions that the mothers of the women politicians in her study tended to work outside the home. She attributes this to their middle- and upper-middle-class backgrounds, which gave them more freedom to work. Patricia Galeana, former director of the Archivo General de la Nación (National Archive) and president of the Federación Mexicana de Mujeres Universitarias (Mexican Federation of University Women), commented when interviewed that several studies have stressed the importance of the mother's influence in women's political success. Among our group, María de los Angeles Moreno was one of the few women who mentioned that her mother's professional life had had a profound influence on her.
In one of his studies of Mexican political elites, Camp (1984) also found that fathers were very influential in the political formation of their sons because the fathers were the ones who participated in politics. Interestingly, however, even when this was the case, one out of four elites in his sample who said that family was the most important influence in their formation chose their mothers, not their fathers as the more influential figure. In part, Camp explains, this is so because many of the fathers of the political generation he studied died at a young age, and many of his respondents had politically and intellectually engaging mothers. Even for those whose fathers were important influences, it was the mother who played a key intellectual role. One of Camp's respondents says:
My mother had a much greater role in the development of my ideas in spite of the fact that my father was a federal deputy under Díaz and was the first Federal Inspector of Petroleum. But he did not have the political complexion of my mother. She was part of the oligarchy, but she understood the problems of the Mexican people and was a Maderista. When I became a Marxist in the 1930s, she began to read many of the classic Marxist works. (Camp 1984: 31)
Almost all the women in this study in political parties and government had a family member who had been involved in politics previously, making their own involvement a natural progression. Because connections were readily available to them, they often used the same channels as their predecessors. In some cases, they switched to different political parties from those of their families. By contrast, women in NGOs and feminists expressed that their families were generally not close to the political environment. Indeed, women in NGOs, who often came from traditional families, sometimes reacted against family traditions and their upbringings; in one case, at least, an activist ran away from home to escape conservative constraints. Part of our sample consisted of wives who became involved in politics through their husbands' careers; in these cases the formative role of the natal family was far less pronounced.
We asked the women if there had been some "critical event" in their lives that had triggered their interest in politics. The events that brought the women into politics varied, but one that stood out was the student movement of 1968. In the PRI, Dulce María Sauri participated in the student movement (her husband was imprisoned because of his involvement with the teachers' union), and both María de los Angeles Moreno and Beatriz Paredes mentioned the influence of the 1968 student movement in defining their political engagement. For them, as for others, the desire to work for the underrepresented had its roots in the student movement. Some PRD women also mentioned the student movement as the principal critical event, coupled with the influence of a family member. Although Amalia García's father and grandfather were active priístas and senior public officials, she moved to the left at a very early age and has been active in her opposition to the PRI since her involvement in the student movement during the 1960s. Rosario Robles also initiated her participation through the student movement as a member of the university's union and has been a key member of the opposition ever since. Marta Lamas, as well as a score of other feminists, also became active through the student movement.
In addition to the student movement, priístas and perredistas alike mentioned other events that led to their participation in their respective parties, ranging from involvement in popular sector organizations, to holding appointed positions in the bureaucracy, to involvement in academia. In her native Aguascalientes and in Mexico City, Lorena Martínez worked her way up the party ranks through the popular sector of the PRI to become a federal deputy. Before taking a position in the PRD administration of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas in the Federal District, Clara Jusidman, a former priísta, held a variety of positions in the bureaucracy for many years. She is also a distinguished academic. Both Rosario Robles and Marta Lamas have combined their academic work with political activism.
The panistas (PAN members) tended to become involved through volunteer work for the party, by holding internal party positions, or by being simpatizantes and actively working in support of the PAN's platform. Cecilia Romero and Teresa Gómez Mont came from panista families and began volunteering for the party at very early ages. Blanca Alvarez developed a career of her own parallel to that of her husband, holding a variety of positions within the party and serving as a recognized force during elections. Regardless of their party affiliations, most of the women mentioned their social concern and a desire to help others as the principal incentive for their involvement.
Women in NGOs and feminists provide another perspective, citing different catalysts for their political involvement. Some of them were shocked by a traumatic event: the 1968 student massacre, in which friends were killed or arrested, in some cases before their very eyes; the 1985 earthquake and its aftermath in Mexico City; or the disappearance of a loved one. Rosario Ibarra de Piedra's political involvement, for example, was spurred by the disappearance of her son, which prompted her to found an NGO to locate the disappeared. A few were involved in the fight for the freedom of political prisoners, a seemingly natural consequence of arrests during the student protests. Others referred to their participation in grassroots and popular organizations, student government, leftist groups, or Catholic youth organizations as the principal catalysts. Berta Luján and Particia Mercado, for example, were active in Catholic youth organizations as young women, and although they no longer consider themselves Catholic, they agree with the philosophy of liberation theology because of its emphasis on helping the disadvantaged.
Most of the wives of politicians we interviewed have participated in politics because of their interest in helping their husbands' careers. In addition to the traditional (and expected) functions they have performed at the DIF (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia, Integrated Family Development), either as volunteers or, more likely, as presidents and in executive positions, the wives interviewed participated actively in a variety of other ways--but as extensions of their husbands' political duties. These women think of themselves as the social arm of the husband's policies: they represent the husband's home district when he is in Congress, entertain visiting dignitaries, and campaign for female votes to support the husband. These activities, as well as the career paths that some rather unusual first ladies have followed, are discussed in more detail in chapter 5.
Heroes and Mentors
When the women in the study were asked who they considered their heroes, sharp differences emerged among the groups of women that revealed their ideological orientations. Priístas mentioned prominent historical figures like Morelos, Benito Juárez, Francisco I. Madero, Venustiano Carranza, Plutarco Elías Calles, and some recent ex-presidents such as Luis Echeverría and Miguel de la Madrid. Some mentioned Althusser and other European philosophers, which is suggestive of their academic training in the 1960s and 1970s. The older PRD women cited Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Emiliano Zapata, Lázaro Cárdenas, and Che Guevara, while younger perredistas mentioned Ifigenia Martínez, Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, and Amalia García as exemplary politicians. The panistas mentioned the founders of the PAN as their heroes. Some women in the political group named international leaders such as Mother Theresa, Golda Meir, and Indira Gandhi.
Feminists and the women in NGOs showed a preference for figures of the left or Mexican historical figures. Feminists often chose other feminists as their heroes, citing Rossana Rosanda, an Italian feminist; American feminists Michelle Rosaldo and bell hooks; and Marta Cepeda, an early Mexican feminist. NGO women mentioned mainly male revolutionaries or leaders, such as Emiliano Zapata, Lázaro Cárdenas, Leon Trotsky, and Fidel Castro, among others. They also mentioned the women who fought in the Revolution (Adelitas) and Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez. Father David Fernández, a human rights activist, and leading proponents of liberation theology were named as important influences for many NGO women.
Mentors were less commonly mentioned, possibly either because the women did not recognize the help of outsiders at the beginnings of their careers, or simply because they did not have them. Those with mentors often cited their professors. None of the women interviewed made direct reference to having a political mentor. Although the question was not asked directly, the fact that women did not mention political mentors contrasts dramatically with what Camp has found in his studies of mentoring and elites. His 1970\-2000 study suggests that 90 percent of all elites had mentors, and that nearly two-thirds of the mentors were themselves elites. This is a critical point that may explain why women are not well represented in the Mexican political elite. As Camp argues, it is difficult if not impossible to rise to the top of the Mexican political system without a mentor, and that mentor would typically be an elite male.
We asked the women what obstacles they had faced during their professional careers, and the problems they mentioned were very similar to the structural and personal barriers experienced by women worldwide. According to Nelson and Chowdhury (1994), women everywhere focus their political efforts on breaking down the barriers they themselves have encountered by improving access to education, employment, healthcare, credit, and other resource opportunities, and by making these resources more responsive to women's needs.
The main obstacles faced by women in the sample fall into two different categories: the personal and the societal. In the view of the women interviewed, the means for overcoming gender-related obstacles are family support and professional success. Sexism, family opposition, and the "double work shift" (doble jornada) were some of the personal obstacles named. Among these women, like women elsewhere, the double shift remains an issue not only for single mothers, but also for many married women who still view themselves as the primary care-providers in their homes. Also, like women elsewhere, Mexican women said that it was difficult to be a mother and a professional at the same time and that they had to work twice as hard as any man to attain recognition. A handful of the women, however, did mention as crucial the help they received from their husbands in sharing household chores and child-rearing responsibilities. But some noted that their families were often opposed to their political participation because of the corruption entrenched in the system and the dangers involved in speaking out.
In regard to sexism and gender issues, the women often mentioned various instances when they had been passed over for political nominations or positions strictly because of their gender (although, naturally, this was not the reason officially provided to the public or to them). The women interviewed suggested that attitudes towards women in the workplace were societal obstacles because men were viewed as better professionals and workers, reinforcing wage differentials. They felt that men were often chosen for positions simply because they were men. Conversely, as I will discuss in more detail in chapter 5, some stated that from the electoral perspective, being a woman had its advantages because people perceived women as more honest and responsible candidates. Like men, women must deal with the negative views of politicians common among the Mexican public.
Low self-esteem also surfaced as an obstacle. Some felt that low self-esteem marginalized women further, and thus, improving self-esteem was perceived as central to women's increased participation in public life. Interestingly, however, the women we spoke with stated categorically that they personally did not suffer from low self-esteem. It is also interesting that sexual harassment was not mentioned as an obstacle. In general, the women we interviewed mentioned the difficulties associated with being a woman, but noted that they, personally, had been very lucky. Indeed, in talking about obstacles both in terms of self-esteem and sexual harassment, they often referred to the experiences of other women, not their own.
Finally, some women mentioned the lack of support from the educational system as another societal obstacle, feeling that women's ambitions were not encouraged in the educational structure and that this in turn led to low self-esteem among women in general. Clearly this pattern is not unique to Mexico but occurs in many other countries where evidence and statistical data show that boys have greater access to education than girls.
Having outlined in this chapter the theoretical and methodological context for the analysis of women in contemporary Mexican politics, and having provided a snapshot of who these women are, I will now delve into the substantive analysis of the findings of this study. As a starting point, I make three fundamental assumptions: that the number of women in public office matters; that the representatives of a democratic government should be reflective of the population; and that gender equity in political and policy decision-making processes contributes to strengthened democratic values.
A critical issue to analyze in the following chapters is why, if women participate to the same degree as men in civil society organizations, and therefore may be assumed to be politically inclined, they do not participate in larger numbers in formal politics. Although a number of explanations have been put forward--structural barriers, family responsibilities, lack of funding and training, and so on--this study allows a closer empirical look.