To Brazilians, Filipinos, Hungarians, Italians, and Poles, this should all sound strikingly familiar. Bolsonaro, who ran for Brazilian president in 2018 against a backdrop of economic collapse (in 2016, Brazil’s economy contracted by more than 3 percent), political scandals (the jailing of a former president followed by the impeachment and removal of his successor), and rampant crime (in 2017, Brazil suffered almost 64,000 murders, close to twice as many as the United States and Europe combined), promised to return his country to its supposedly glorious past. “We want a Brazil that is similar to the one we had 40, 50 years ago,” he declared—even though 40 and 50 years ago, Brazil was a military dictatorship.
Like Trump, Bolsonaro linked this counterrevolution to a counterrevolution against uppity women. When, as a legislator, he voted to impeach Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff—who had been tortured by Brazil’s military rulers in the early 1970s—he dedicated the vote to one of that regime’s most infamous torturers. In 2015, he told a Brazilian congresswoman, “I would not rape you, because you are not worthy of it.” Crowds at Bolsonaro rallies chanted that they would feed dog food to feminists. And, like Trump, Bolsonaro has intense support from his country’s growing population of evangelicals, who appreciate his fervent opposition to abortion and gay rights.
In the Philippines, Duterte didn’t have an economic or corruption crisis to help him delegitimize the political order. But he used fear of drugs to depict the Philippines, in Nicole Curato’s words, as “a nation on the brink of disaster.” Like Bolsonaro, Duterte promised to restore the law and order his country had supposedly enjoyed during its autocratic past. A few months after taking office, he buried the remains of the longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos, with military honors, in Manila’s Cemetery of Heroes.
Also like Bolsonaro, Duterte has threatened violence against women. In 2017, he informed Filipino soldiers that because he had declared martial law on the island of Mindanao, they could each rape up to three women with impunity. In 2018, he told soldiers to shoot female rebels “in the vagina,” because that would render them “useless.”
Duterte’s anti-feminist crusade—like Trump’s and Bolsonaro’s—has also featured the ritualized humiliation of powerful women. When Senator Leila de Lima demanded an investigation into Duterte’s drug war, he vowed to “make her cry.” The government then detained de Lima on drug-trafficking charges and leaked evidence supposedly proving, in Duterte’s words, that she was “screwing her driver” like she was “screwing the nation.” A congressman who would later become Duterte’s spokesman joked that de Lima wanted to be detained at an army base “because there are many men there.” Not even Duterte’s female vice president, Leni Robredo—a member of a rival political party—has escaped his taunts. At a public event in 2016, he noted gleefully that the skirts she wore to cabinet meetings were “shorter than usual.”