Guest Post – An Open Letter to Ms. Dalton
by Linsey Laidlaw
Dear Ms. Dalton,
(The traditional title of “Sister” doesn’t feel apt at present.)
I am writing in response to the Desert News piece which cited a quote about your trip to New York during the Women’s March. My heart sank reading your words.
Your implication that the women who marched in NYC and elsewhere are not virtuous is deeply offensive, and I’m appalled by your lack of sensitivity. Even more though, I am surprised by the ignorance of such a statement from a woman who has been in a worldwide leadership position, overseeing young girls of many nations, including those who live in countries who have been abused by the new president’s rhetoric.
My husband, son, youngest daughter, sister, and nephew were among the protestors in NYC that day. I was marching in D.C. with my older daughter. Countless friends, many Mormon, many Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Christian, Hindu, or non-religious marched with us in these cities and more around the world. From the bottom of our hearts and souls and very tired feet, we absolutely did march for a return to virtue.
You and I seem to espouse different definitions of virtue. You: the septimal denotation of chastity (especially in women, as Merriam Webster clarifies, a qualification on which you appear to concur); I: the primary— “a conformity to a standard of right, a particular moral excellence.”
If you had been truly present at any of the marches, in NYC or elsewhere, instead of an unctuous onlooker, you would have been unable to deny the moral excellence that defined the day. Women, and men, of all ages, races, classes, and personalities came patiently and lovingly together to stand boldly against the harmful words and actions of the new administration. We hoisted the wheelchairs of disabled sisters, held and comforted babies for mothers, gave seats to the tired, invited people in lines ahead of us, shared snacks, medicines, supplies and words of comfort. We arrived as strangers, and united there as friends and allies. Harmony is a saccharine and somewhat dramatic word—but it is the only one that accurately captures the energy and outcome of the marches around the world.
Perhaps you were alarmed by the use of the word “pussy”, or other reference to female genitalia? Is this unladylike, to quote the man America elected to it’s highest office? What is it when a man says it? As I explained to my eight-year-old daughter as we navigated the sea of signs, many referencing these words—Our new president has spoken about women in extremely derogatory ways. His disrespect for women (and history of sexual assault, which I didn’t mention to my daughter, but I’ll throw in for your reference as you seem to have forgotten) is of great concern, and it’s very important for us to confront this directly and not gloss over what he has said with generalities or euphemisms.
There is power in strong words, which is why Donald Trump said the things he said—to project power and strength. Which is why many women are choosing to reclaim those words—recouping that power in a united show of strength. And which is why the words you speak as a leader in our faith must be better informed and considered.
Is it not virtuous to demand equal treatment as women? To denounce sexual violence and objectification of our bodies and spirits? Is it not virtuous to call for equal treatment for people of color, to affirm that their lives matter? Is it not virtuous to insist upon freedom for out Muslim brothers and sisters, and people of all religions? Is it not virtuous to cry out for taking in and protecting refugees—victims of war—a large percentage of whom are children? Is it not virtuous to stand up for our Latin American neighbors, and seek to protect their families from being ripped apart, or does the call to “responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society” not apply to families with brown skin? I’m pretty sure I know where you stand on our LGBT brothers and sisters, but what of defending the earth? Have we not been charged to be good stewards of this sacred inheritance? What about the poor and needy? Wasn’t their care paramount to Christ in his mortal ministry?
In the rankings of commandments, Jesus taught that loving God was the first and greatest. “And the second is like unto it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” The women’s march was among the very greatest displays of this mandate I have ever witnessed. What would happen if women in your capacity called for the Mormon world to understand this and start pulling their weight?
Linsey Laidlaw is a designer and art director who lives with her three kids and husband in Brooklyn, NY.