With the election only days away, I remain puzzled by the disturbing silence and lack of leadership from Catholic and Christian women. As women of faith, we concur that the human being is never a “thing” or an object – each human being is a beloved creation of the Almighty worthy of divinely bestowed dignity. Critical issues of human dignity will be administered and guided by our next administration.
Many of our female leaders deeply object to Trump’s reported incidents of sexual objectification of women. Objectification of the human person occurs in many different forms, some which reduce the human being to nothing but an object. In Hillary Clinton, we see just such total objectification of the human person: a political objectification that reduces individuals and large swathes of the population to political pawns whose own worth and humanity she disregards, denigrates, denies and destroys for her personal political purposes. I suggest that we have allowed Trump’s incidents of sexual objectification of women to distract us and silence us from fighting a far more total, far more lethal form of objectification.
This is my call to women of faith: speak up for Donald Trump and Mike Pence.
Speak up despite your disgust with his sexual errors. I have read and heard many women express not just disapproval of his reported behaviors. Something more guttural, more unforgiveable, dominates the reaction to this man, expressed with words like “unprincipled,” “uncommitted,” “obscene” and “disrespectful.” These words attach not to particular occasions of mistake, sin and misbehavior, but to the very person of Trump himself- a deep-seated, formidably final judgment. No apology, counter-example, favorable experience, report or personal testimony registers.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, fits into patterns familiar to us: the stalwart, wronged wife who returns again and again to her sinful husband and the marriage her sacrifices hold together. While many women do not intend to vote for Hillary Clinton (due at least to her complete denial of humanity for the unborn child), there is empathy for her, sitting uncomfortably side-by-side with a gut-level repugnance for Trump.
Has this dissonance silenced women leaders who, without Trump’s sexual missteps, would champion the Trump-Pence ticket? Even the selection of Mike Pence, an absolute warrior for pro-life and impeccably credentialed Christian, has failed to evoke much enthusiasm for the ticket. Instead, I see many women of faith privately and in social media explaining their third party vote, their decision not to vote, or their support “down ticket” only.
“All human beings, in as much as they are created in the image of God, have the dignity of a person. A person is not something but someone” (CCC 66). From this principle, we, as women especially, recognize the harms and sinfulness of treating women as sexual objects. It is a fundamental form of disrespect for our person – and a disturbingly pervasive reality of modern culture.
From early adolescence, if not sooner, we become acutely aware of sexual objectification by entire industries as well as individual males. We struggle to build our own sense of self, independent of our sexual appeal. We shield our daughters and struggle to counteract the cultural sexual message. We labor mightily to educate our sons on sexual and verbal control, while learning the beauty and purpose of conjugal love.
But is it correct to conclude that Trump’s sins, his sins against the dignity of women, somehow reflect a complete personal disrespect for the human female? More, is it correct to conclude that this sexual objectification is a fundamental character flaw that, Hillary Clinton, in her role as steadfast, forgiving wife, does not herself suffer? I think not on both questions.
Hillary Clinton’s failures and sins against the dignity of the person take a different form than Trump’s. Her appetite and ambitions are starkly, ruthlessly, political in nature, not sexual. That she consistently encounters persons as political objects is beyond dispute.
Whether strategizing the denigration and demise of her husband’s lovers, characterizing the unborn child, justifying the drone-delivered deaths of innocents, managing the Benghazi deaths and their bereaved families, disregarding the travesty of globalization upon working American families or supporting the production and sale of baby parts by Planned Parenthood, Clinton’s sometimes shocking willingness to reduce human beings to political pawns includes fundamental breaches of human dignity, such as killing, maligning and lying. (Similarly, I do not personally believe that Clinton’s marriage is a sacred covenant blessed by her willingness to suffer, forgive and try again. I believe her marriage is a political arrangement.)
We do not have to compile, compare and argue Trump’s and Clinton’s failures, sins, mistakes and cruelties against human dignity. They are both flawed human beings and, while I personally find Clinton’s seemingly conscience-less political brutality far more offensive than Trump’s incidents of sexual objectification, we are not voting for Pope, preacher or priest.
Or are we? Are we as women of faith holding Donald Trump to an unattainable, unrealistic standard, an ideal that has no female corollary?
As one Catholic New Feminist observed in an article opposing Trump, “I do not know or recognize any of the men in my life when I see Donald Trump.” I believe her. I believe that she and many women of faith, especially our female leaders, do not recognize their men in Donald Trump. Since publishing my article “Trump the Guy” – in which I shared some of my own husband’s sinful moments of sexual objectification – I have learned from many women of faith that ‘their men” do not ever behave so crudely as Trump. Such incidents, these women insist, indicate an irreparable condition of “misogyny” much like eczema that will simply erupt no matter the remedies.
Whether our men of faith actually never err in their regard of women’s sexuality – or whether they are careful not to err in front of us – we hold them to a peculiarly high standard. This standard is set by our priests and male preachers who model respectful appreciation for the person of the female, as well as the dignity of every human person. It’s a standard most mere mortal layman would struggle to attain. It is a standard that is, in fact, holy.
But most men are not holy. They aren’t even close. Holding Donald Trump to the expressive and behavioral standards of a Catholic priest is neither realistic nor practical. More, when we expect our male politicians to be more like a priest or preacher than not, we lose the opportunity to advocate for our issues. This is a standard to which we do not hold other women – as evidenced by our lack of outrage with Hillary Clinton’s brutal, political objectification of the unborn, the disadvantaged and working classes, the immigrants trafficked across borders and the casualties of her political maneuvering and her husband’s lovers and sexual victims.
I call on my fellow women of faith to speak up on behalf of Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Our female community is sorely in need of leadership – leadership of discernment, thought and action. Will it be comfortable to speak on behalf of Donald Trump, whose sins and apologies have become the focus of conversation, debate and media coverage? For many, probably not. But remember you are speaking up for the unborn, for the innocents killed in the Middle East, for the workers displaced from their jobs, for Supreme Court Justices who value religion and religious values and, most importantly, for our Faith.