I, a Mormon Woman, Hate this Anti-Trump Ad Made for Mormon Women

I'm a Mormon. I'm a woman. I'm a feminist. I'm a libertarian. 

And yeah, sometimes a few of those things go to war with one another and other times they fit together like Laverne and Shirley. (Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!) Mostly, they just look at one another, laugh and go get drinks.

It's complicated. Except for when it's not.

This campaign season has been one in which the sometimes fragmented parts of myself are in simpatico. I may not know who I whole-heartedly want to win the 2016 election (I mean, unless the Kaling/Poehler ticket becomes a thing, because then I for sure know). But I am very, very certain about who I do not want as the next President of the United States of America. 

Yeah, that Trump guy.

I'm not going to run through all the reasons why I think The Donald is bad for my country...from immigration to women's issues to international policy, wiser heads than mine have picked him apart pretty thoroughly. #NeverTrump foreva, you know?

I'm not the only Mormon that feels this way. 

While many have different political leanings than me, overwhelmingly Mormons are voting against Trump. They don't like his attitudes toward women, they don't like his anti-immigration stance, and they don't like his anti-Muslim rhetoric. They probably also don't like his lying-liar face. But I don't really have the data to back that assumption up. 

Heavily LDS Utah is holding their party-run caucuses this week. Listen, Trump will lose in Utah. That's not really in question. Cruz will win. That's not really being contested, either. However, with every delegate as precious as my kid's nap time (Go to sleep. Mommy needs to drink coke while watching Jessica Jones ALONE. NOW. RIGHT NOW), the margin by which Cruz wins is hugely important to those who, you know, care about that sort of thing. 

I'm not a Cruz supporter, but I get it. To trump the Trump you have to make the math work. 

So what are the powers that be in the Grand Ole Party doing to get us Mormons to rally around Cruz? Appealing to us ideologically? Pragmatically? Spiritually? (Okay. Actually, Glenn Beck might be trying to get the corner on that last one. Bless his heart.) Maybe. I mean, it's possible that's happening. But it's hard to hear any of that very relative sanity over the roar of crazy coming from the latest attempt to reach the Mormon voters. 

Make America Awesome started a Facebook campaign directly marketed to LDS Facebook users. Created under the direction of Liz "has Mormon family members" Mair, a few of the ads are exactly what you'd expect including the inevitable Romney shout out. (Who is going to tell all these political strategists that Mormons had political convictions before Mitt? Should I hold a press conference about it? Would it get media coverage if I invited Mitt to come up on stage with me? Wait.) Mostly, they seem like poorly written memes with emotional calls to action. You know, political business as usual. There is, however, one image that stands out from the solemn Mitts and smiling pro-life babies. 

Enter the Melania anti-Trump ad. 

Per Mckay Coppins piece on the ads, "Mair said [the Melania ad] is being promoted on Instagram as well, but only to LDS women." 

Ah, an old naked photo of a candidate's wife! How did Liz Mair know what to get us? But seriously. Why is she showing us this? According to Mair, "the Cruz campaign has turned the evangelical outreach into something of a fine art. We're not so sure he has LDS outreach locked down, though and this this is an area where we have a little bit of experience..."

Hey Liz!

You know who has a little bit of experience with the Mormon Utah Woman? Me! I was one for a full decade! I hate to blow up the focus group testing you did with your Mormon family members but, pardon my french here, this kind of shit does not play with my kind. 

We've got plenty of issues as a faith tradition when it comes to women and their roles. My time in Provo, Utah was not without conflict and I can't say prevailing Utah culture and I agree on everything. But, and here's the Mormon God Has a Literal Body truth, there is not one woman out of the hundreds I got to know during my sojourn in Utah that would look at your Melania ad and think, 

"You know, this picture of Melania has changed everything! I was thinking about going Kasich but the thought of Melania's perfectly pert ass in the White House is just the last straw. This cannot stand! VOTE! CRUZ!"

You know what Mormons like me will think?

They'll think you think slut-shaming motivates them. They'll think it motivates you, too. They'll think the GOP is happy to embrace misogyny if it means a win for "right" guy. They'll think you think Mormon women aren't smart enough to understand the nuances of delegate math, policy positions or even basic political processes. They'll think you think the only way to appeal to religious women is by manipulating visceral reactions. They'll think you think context doesn't matter. (Is the implication that Melania is going to perform all her First Lady duties naked on a bed sheet?) They'll think the GOP believes converting the self-righteous is more important than actually being good. They'll think you're only against the commodification of women if she's your woman. And Melania, you've made clear, is not one of your women. (You're using a woman's body to sell your cause...you get that, right?) They'll think you think women who are overtly sexual are somehow threatening. They'll think you think Melania is just another one of Donald's bad attributes, not a flesh and blood person who belongs to herself. They'll think you think it's alright to shame a woman for her body as long as she sleeps next to a man you don't like.

At least Trump is honest about his misogyny. You? You're a woman trying to convert women to your man by tearing down another woman. I can't decide whether that's masochism, sadism or a hearty serving of both. Those Utah Mormon women I spent a decade communing with and clashing against? They're going to think you aren't really any better than the guy you're asking them to help you defeat.

And you know what? 

I think they might be right.

By the time I'd finished writing this piece, Liz Mair had responded on twitter to some of my tweets that were critical of the ad. She cares about effective. I hope we remember to care about a little bit more than that, amen. (Also...did we ever doubt the effectiveness of a picture of a naked woman when it comes to getting clicks on the internet? Is that the data?)

Set in Stone

Tourists peer over the Grand Canyon's rim in 1947

Tourists looking down into the grand canyon in 1947. We've always been fascinated by the places time carved out before us.

It was still cool outside. The kind of spring day that gives you a summer sun wrapped with winter’s last chilled breath. On our way home from California, the radio was low and the girls slept in the backseat. Riley held my hand and I stared ahead. The window framed the Utah desert - a painting that’s faded in the sun. I’ve made that drive a hundred times since I was a little girl. I know the high and low places, the breaks in the road, the emptied gas stations and broken down cafes. I could trace it out for you in the desert sand. Familiarity doesn’t always mean certainty, of course.

There’s a canyon. A few miles long and a few hundred feet tall. It curves and shadows and slows and rolls. I’m always afraid when we drive through there. It is too fast, or too slow. Too twisted or too sloped. Riley always teases while I suck the breath through my teeth and clench my eyes as the car speeds past rock that has stood since before our hopes were born. It isn’t just the speed or the car. I feel small there. Mortal. One of millions that will pass by those stones without asking what they’ve seen. I used to think they felt my silence, but now I’ve begun to think I am the one being ignored. That canyon holds time I’ll never touch and as we curve through it to return to our home and chores and worries, I sometimes wonder what we’ve left behind.

The drive that day wasn’t so different. Going into the canyon felt the same. An intake of air and then fast talking to act like I wasn’t afraid. Riley smiled knowingly and so I put my words away and looked out the window.

A car and then yellow lines and then a tree and a stream and then briefly, so briefly my heart recorded it before my eyes - a father and daughter on the side of the road, looking over the red clay expanse. She held a camera and he held her shoulders. A guide to the art of vision and focus. And for just an instant, amid those sentinels that hold time, I could feel the weight of my father’s hands on my shoulders. His words of encouragement as I chose the focus and filter for my world. The beauty of the moments I had once, the ones that exist somewhere in the places I’ve lived through till they’re worn with the breathing and leaving. I was a girl that still had a dad and a heart that beat without the patchwork of hope and faith and sanctified sorrow. Another moment and then the scene was gone, hidden by our progress and the jutting earth.

The road flattened and the horizon grew. The canyon fell behind us. I cried as it I felt it collapse on the time it held and the person I used to be.

Riley looked over at me, his eyes still knowing and I remembered his hand on mine. I squeezed it once and then wiped away the wetness from my face.

“Ready to get home?”


And we drove on.