Guest Post — The Benevolent Patriarchy: A Letter to my Mormon dad, who voted for Donald Trump

Sad Woman Sitting by David Spillane


Dear Dad,

Mitt Romney was speaking to you, man-to-man, when he tweeted: “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.”

When I read that, I was certain that Mitt spoke not just to, but also for, the good Mormon men that I knew. I’ll be honest–I was proud of you guys and your old-fashioned paternalism. You were joining together to reject a man who treated “our wives and daughters” as if they were prey.

Sure, Dad, I knew that you that you distrusted Hillary (“an evil witch”). But I knew that you would go third party rather than vote for a man who trash-talked and devalued the women that you held dear and sacred.

You have always been a man of strong opinions and honest actions. Honest: you took care of Mom until she died and you took care of us. Opinionated: you wouldn’t let me date non-Mormons or wear shorts or play cards or wear pants on Sunday.

Sometimes you even got angry in support of your moral positions. Remember when you wouldn’t wear a tuxedo at my wedding? You were protesting that I kept my last name.  Do you recall your anger when I told you that I was putting off children to earn a Master’s degree? Or what about that time you hollered at that bookstore clerk because the store had a section for feminist and gay literature?

What you believed, you believed strongly. And you believed in the Mormon roles of men and women. The Family. Women in charge of the homefront and men out in public, earning money, slaying dragons, and protecting the women at home.  Remember those lectures about how feminine gifts were too sacred and spiritual to be used out in the world? In return for our feminine caretaking, you and the other men were supposed to preside over us, cherish and protect us.

You and Mitt, you gentlemen you, with your old-fashioned ideas. I will admit that I have been smug comparing Mormon morals to the evangelical folk who dismissed Trump’s behavior as so much macho blustering

So, the election.

This season has been hard on all of us. Remember how I told you how Trump’s statements made me and my sisters re-experience the times when we were not safe? When I told you how hard it was that a powerful man so publicly demeaned my gender? When I told you his words made us feel the shame in our bodies? How it felt personal, this public celebration of the ugliest ways that men use women?

So you can imagine my shock when I learned that you voted for him. I thought your desire to support the women in your life—to keep your side of that old-fashioned bargain of cherishing and protecting us–would be stronger than your fears. I thought you would practice what you preached, and refuse to align yourself to a man who so demeaned women.

I love and respect you in so many way, Dad. You helped me make good choices throughout my life. You gave me a lot of tools that I used to become a happy, successful woman.

But I can no longer respect your opinions about women. You spent your life teaching me base my decisions upon the promise that that you and your kind would protect me. Then you voted for someone who sees people like me as a bunch of parts to be used and rated. You voted for a man who brags that he has the right to grab my pussy.  Or demean my looks. Or dismiss my words because of blood coming out of my wherever.

And, perhaps hardest for both of us, you have lost my respect with religion and the family. I saw how your role as protector got tossed away when it was inconvenient.  I can’t help but wonder what else is disposable.

Am I being too tough? Probably. But I wish that I had heard a little more tough talk from you. I wish that I had heard a chorus of dads saying, with Mitt, “no, not our daughters. Not our wives. Not our neighbors. Not our people.” I wish that our needs had not been abandoned for political convenience, or perhaps something even darker.  This benevolent Mormon patriarchy and all of its intrinsic promises, that model that you have foisted upon me for so many years, did not give you the strength to stand up for me when I needed you.

But I still love you Dad.

GNM tries to take care of home and hearth (3 children+ husband+snake+rat). She is also a criminal defense lawyer and a civil rights activist


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22 Responses

  1. Partisano says:

    If Trump had been the Democratic nominee, and Clinton the Republican nominee, who would you have voted for? Would you have voted for the person or the party? An honest answer might explain why your father voted for Trump.

    • Amelia says:

      I would have voted for Clinton. Without even a blink of the eye that by doing so I was voting against my typical party loyalty. Because some things — the Constitution, human rights, basic decency, not believing it’s okay to sexually assault someone because you’re rich — are more important than partisan politics.

  2. Violadiva says:

    It breaks my heart to see all these good, decent republicans voting for their party over their conscience. I can’t even fathom that they would condone Trump’s words or actions.

    Thank you so much for this post.

  3. Anon says:

    Incredible post. I am floored by the people I know who are voting for Trump. People whom I have always respected and admired. People whom I can never look at the same again. I have had to start avoiding social media, lest I lose respect for more of my friends and neighbors. I will return to it when this nightmare is over. Thank you for this post.

  4. el oso says:

    Everyone of the bad things that Trump has done have been condoned by Hillary. It was just her husband who did them, so it was different. For all the feminists who can see no greater good than voting for Hillary, beware what she did 20-25 years ago. She has shown no signs of changing either.
    Crazy to think that a 3rd party, unmarried 40 year old mormon man may be the best feminist option.

    • That is different. It is sexism that causes us to equate a man who is a sexual predator with a woman who has the misfortune of being married to a sexual predator. It is sexist to hold women accountable for the actions of their husbands, instead of holding men accountable and refusing to elect men who use their power to prey on women. It is sexism that causes us to put women on display and critique how they handled their horrible husbands while we excuse the men who actually performed the crimes with a boys-will-be-boys shrug. I am not thrilled that our first “First Gentleman” will be no gentleman, but only one of the people actually running for office is a known sexual predator, and he should be held accountable.

      • My2Cents says:

        I don’t believe el oso was holding Hillary responsible for her husbands actions. El oso was clearly holding Hillary responsible for her own actions that she made in response to her husbands actions. Don’t conflate the two to support your agenda.

  5. Partisano says:

    I gave the example above because I think it explains why most people are voting Clinton or Trump. The LDS blogs are full of people who write post after post about Trump’s failings but can’t point out out one thing to say in favor of Clinton. That’s because they’re just going to vote for their party line. So, instead of putting on an air of self righteous indignation, I wish people would just be honest. You’re not voting for Clinton because she is qualified. It’s because you’re a dyed in the wool democrat and would vote democrat regardless of who it was. My father was county democratic chair for many years, and held his nose many times as he pulled the lever for Carter, Clinton et al. Whoever is elected is only one person. It’s who his or her associates and appointees are that will influence things the next four years. The fixation on one sole individual is misplaced, whether it be on Trump or Clinton.

    • nrc42 says:

      I don’t think many are, as you say, voting for her simply because she’s a Democrat. Most elections go that way, with people focusing on party over policy, but this election is different. Some genuinely support Hillary, some are as you say stuck on the party line, but this election many people, myself included, are voting for Hillary in order to defeat Trump. I would do anything to keep Trump out of office. I typically vote Democrat, but if somehow he were the Democratic candidate, I would vote Republican in a heartbeat. Keeping someone like Trump out of office is and should be the highest priority for anyone with even a semblance of moral decency.

    • Kate says:

      This is a little harsh. And objectively, Hillary Clinton is one of the most qualified presidential candidates ever, in terms of education, experience, elected office held, appointments held, etc. Individuals might not like her politics, or think she is corrupt, but she is actually qualified for the office of president.

    • Emily says:

      Partisano, I disagree with you. Like many people I know, this is the first time in my life that I’m giving my vote to the Democratic candidate, and I’m doing it because she’s as qualified for the job as Trump is unqualified.

  6. Kris says:

    I am ashamed for you. I voted for Trump for well thought out reasons, not any party line. No good parent deserves this. I hope he didn’t see this for his sake. I would be devastated if I were him and read this.

    • nrc42 says:

      He should be devastated. He has made it abundantly clear that he does not truly respect or care about women, as have all who voted for Trump. It doesn’t matter what anyone’s “well thought out reasons” are, by putting those reasons above safety of and respect for women, minorities, and non-Christians, Trump voters have shown that bigotry is okay to them.

  7. JLM says:

    This year was the first time I’ve ever voted for a Democratic POTUS. I split my down ticket. I’m not a fan of Clinton, but I’ve been in the Never Trump wagon since he announced his candidacy. It was a no brainer for me. It has been real disheartening to see so many Mormons abandon their morals in favour of politics. I hope the Q15 get it and all go independent.

  8. Julie says:

    Really? So you support a woman who not only tolerated and enabled her husband’s infidelity and abuse of women, but she went so far as to destroy anyone who told the world that Bill had raped them?
    Hillary says all women who claim to have been sexually accosted should be believed, when she tried to destroy the women who accused her husband.
    Shall we say, double standard?

  9. GNM says:

    Maybe this coversation would be more productive if we focused on the content, i.e. Does a patriarch have a responsibity to take actions in protection of women? Does this include voting a particular way?

  10. Emilie says:

    IMO…This election is extremely complicated morally, ethically, and politically. I have chosen to withhold judgement on anyone’s very difficult choice. Why someone would support one presidential candidate over the other or support a third party who cannot win, is a far more complex and personal choice than we like to pretend. Our own history and biases play into this. Curiosity and compassion seems to be the only peaceful option. I find it fascinating to inquire WHY individuals support whom they support. (So far no one has told me they are supporting either candidate because of their terrible choices.) We will learn far more from curiosity than assumptions. I am comforted that Heavenly Parents can make ALL things for our good. Even Clinton or Trump.

  11. Kate says:

    Yes, this. And I’m sorry. I didn’t ask my parents who they voted for because I honestly didn’t want to know. But I’ve watched so many Utah politicians (where I currently live) who denounced trump the tapes came out publicly vote for him, and a former general RS president pray at a trump rally, and I honestly just. don’t. get. it, for all of the reasons you mention.

  12. Kelsi Moore says:

    Only been able to vote for two presidential elections, last time republican and this time democrat. My ballot was all over the place, a couple democrats, a few republicans, a libertarian, a constitutionalist, a one issue candidate. And if you’re wondering I’m registered independent. I definitely think everyone should vote person not party. But I also tend to think that ideally we would have a few of everything in power and they could work together to represent everyone’s beliefs. But I’m a little bit of an idealist.

  13. Thanks, GNM, for your thoughts. Although I’ve know Mormon Hillary haters for decades, it’s still amazing when I read what they say. During my work among the world’s poor, I’ve at times associated with her & the amazing work she & Bill have done to advance women through microfinance. I’ve seen some of the impacts of her work for children through the years. When she voted for the Iraq War because of the false info from Bush & Cheney, I marched to her residence in NYC with thousands of protesters. Clearly, Hillary isn’t perfect, & we all know of Bill’s failures. However, her leadership & skills in service to America are far above Trump’s many selfish, illegal, & unethical actions over the years. I’d guess that compared to Trump, the Clinton’s would at least get to the Terrestrial Kingdom, far from The Donald’s burning way below in some sort of Trump hell. But who am I to judge? Just a Utah voter.

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