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