I feel compelled to start this post of by noting that ordinarily I am hesitant to the point of paralysis to criticize someone else’s religious beliefs.
Having said that, I am now going to criticize someone else’s religious beliefs – Mitt Romney’s, in fact. These criticisms are based on my experience alone, but I do think they are valid in light of the man Mitt Romney has shown himself to be.
A few years ago, I lived in eastern Idaho, home of not one, but two Mormon temples in an area that is smaller than my hometown even if you add up every single person in every single town. And there I got a crash course in some of the more extreme ways religious dogma can infiltrate public lives if there is its influence goes unexamined.
For years, I lived in a world where the majority of the population was raised to avoid questioning religious authority – in fact, in a world where the majority of the population was barred by religion from reading or listening to things that ran contrary to the teachings of the church. I lived as an oddity because I was unmarried and childless and had every intention of remaining so. I was a woman who believed in the validity of her opinion in a world where the dominant religion taught unquestioning acceptance of male authority, and every man in the faith is raised to the expectation of authority in both his home and his church.
So what I’m sayin’ is, you get a lot – and I mean a lot – of mansplainy behavior from Mormon men. It won’t even be malicious. Their religion teaches them that they know what’s best for women, no matter what women think, so it’s only natural that they believe it.
My mind flashes back to those days when I hear Mitt Romney try to talk to female voters and reporters. Romney is absurdly rich and privileged, which blinds him to a lot of realities and gives him a sense of entitlement, yes. We talk about that all the time.
But what I’ve heard no one say is that he was also raised Mormon, and his paternalistic view of womanhood absolutely stems from that. He was raised to believe that his opinion is automatically more valid than that of any woman – so of course he sounds like he’s never listened to the female point of view. The plain truth is, it’s likely he hasn’t.
He was raised in a world that doesn’t ask questions. So it’s no wonder he and Ann act like the public is taking liberties to demand explanations from him.
When I hear Mitt Romney have the temerity to tell women what they want or tell the nation what they are entitled to know, I hear a Mormon bishop blended with the worst arrogance of the corporate boardroom.
The Christian Right shows us clearly that it isn’t always possible to separate a person’s religion from their decisions in public office. Mitt Romney’s behavior shows me that sometimes it’s absolutely necessary that we don’t try, because it means the deepest roots of his demonstrable contempt for our rights and autonomy as female citizens go unexposed and unexamined.