Like most people, I have been shocked and appalled by Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. The Billy Bush video made me sick to my stomach. As the political polls in Utah swing away from Trump, I have even felt a twinge of pride in this reddest of red states.
But, deep down inside, I am uneasy. I fear that my pride is not deserved. I worry that Utah’s rejection of Trump is based on it own form of misogyny, rather than an enlighten view of female equality. Whether it is the bordello or the pedestal, whether it is Trump or Mormon patriarchy, the bottom line is that women are seen as things, property, mere objects to be acted on by men. Women are not treated as fully human.
Today’s Mormonism puts women on a pedestal. Mormon’s believe in a Mother in Heaven, but she is placed beyond our reach. We are told we should not speak of her. We are told that She is so pure, that She cannot enter our world and interact with us. She is so sacred that we cannot know her in any meaningful way. Unlike male deity, She neither acts nor is acted upon. Unlike our personified Father in Heaven, She is objectified and placed on a heavenly pedestal, forever beyond relationship with us.
Likewise, Mormon culture strips women of their humanity. We promote a purity doctrine that imagines that some state of a female body matters more than the actual human being, who occupies that body. Trump’s crude view of women as objects that exist for his gratification, and modern Mormon purity doctrine both find a woman’s value in her sexuality. But given our history, this should not surprise us.
When I heard Trump’s sick bus ride claims of conquest, my mind quickly went to the acts of another powerful man in the 1840s, who used his celebrity, position and power to abuse women. Joseph Smith used claims of divine command to assemble a personal harem of dozens of women, including girls as young as 14 years old, to satisfy his personal desires. Using his claim that polygamy was the divine order of heaven, Smith set up a destructive legacy that injured millions. By placing maleness at the center of church power, he perpetually sentenced women to be lesser than.
Trump’s crude view of woman and Mormon patriarchy are two sides of the same coin. While Trump’s lewd acts and crude language repel Utah voters, like Trump the Mormon pedestalization of women also values women as sexual objects for the benefit of men. The antidote to this sick state of affairs is equality. It is time for Mormons to discard our doctrine of male supremacy and insist on full female power and equality both in and out of the church.