Anti-Trump ads try to win over Mormons by slut-shaming Melania.

Anti-Trump Ads Try To Win Over Mormons By Slut-Shaming Melania

Anti-Trump Ads Try To Win Over Mormons By Slut-Shaming Melania

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
March 22 2016 5:40 PM

There’s No Need to Slut-Shame Melania in Political Ads. Trump Is Horrible Enough! 

melania_trump_ad
This ad targeted Mormon women in Utah on Facebook and Instagram.

Make America Awesome Again

Mormons don’t like Donald Trump, and it’s easy to see why. He’s a fan of profanity; Mormons think swearing’s a sin. Trump has founded his candidacy on draconian, xenophobic immigration proposals; Mormons, once the victims of discriminatory immigration policies, are more likely to support immigration than the average Republican.

Christina Cauterucci Christina Cauterucci

Christina Cauterucci is a Slate staff writer.

The conservative anti-Trump SuperPAC Make America Awesome has proposed another reason for Mormon Republicans to ditch the current front-runner: his wife.

Advertisement

In the lead-up to Tuesday’s Republican caucus in Utah, Make America Awesome has run a series of extraordinarily low-budget, meme-like ads telling Mormons on Facebook and Instagram to vote for Ted Cruz. There’s one that cites Mitt Romney’s advice to back whichever Republican can beat Trump. (In Utah, where Trump trails Cruz and John Kasich, that’s Cruz.) Another, with a stock photo of an infant, pegs Trump as a pro-choice politician.

Then there’s this one, which pulls an image from a British GQ profile of Melania, then Donald Trump’s girlfriend, from 2000.

It’s a cynical, short-sighted move from SuperPAC head Liz Mair, who is playing on voters’ impulses toward slut-shaming to turn them against a political candidate with actual, substantive, terrifying shortcomings that have nothing to do with his wife’s body. Mormons disavow pornography and revealing clothing; Mair’s ad implies that Melania is an immoral, hypersexual woman with no modesty who’d embarrass America by association. (Mair did not respond with comment in time for publication.)*

Even worse: The other two Make America Awesome ads made it to the feeds of Utahn men and women alike, but Mair only targeted women with the Melania, presumably because she thought that only women would tsk-tsk Melania’s supposed promiscuity, while men would salivate over her bod and register an unconscious affinity for the Trump name. (She’d be smart to check the studies that show that men routinely discriminate against women who’ve had lots of sex.)

Advertisement

Make America Awesome has used sexist tropes and language to make its point before. On its site, the SuperPAC calls Ann Coulter a “Trump-ette” and a “groupie.” One of its Valentine’s Day cards implied that candidates need “balls” to engage in political debates.

At Vox, Emily Crockett defended Melania’s worth with a list of her accomplishments: “Melania Trump studied architecture and design at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia before becoming a successful fashion model. She speaks five languages fluently and has her own jewelry and cosmetics lines. Barbara Walters, after interviewing her, said, ‘Maybe because she's so beautiful, we don't expect her to be as smart as she is.’”

But none of that should matter. Regardless of her educational background or business acumen, Melania’s expression of her sexuality is no grounds for a shaming campaign against her or her husband. Mair told Crockett she didn’t intend viewers to take issue with Melania’s nudity—she thought Mormon women would be more concerned with the fact that Melania was handcuffed to a briefcase “looking vulnerable,” which “sends an implicit message of female subservience.”

With or without the push of Make America Awesome’s ads, Donald Trump looks set to lose in Utah. A Deseret News/KSL poll indicated that, in one of the most Republican states in the union, Trump would likely lose to either of the Democratic candidates in a general election, too. This would mark an astounding slip in Republicans’ heretofore solid grip on the Mormon community. Utah Governor Gary Herbert helped turn the tide against Trump when he pointed out a parallel between Trump’s rhetoric on Muslims and the persecution of Mormons in the late 19th century. An author who wrote a book on Mormonism offered ThinkProgress another theory to explain Mormons’ hatred of Trump: “Mormons place a high premium on being nice, and Trump is not nice.” By that logic, they’ll reject Make America Awesome’s slimy Melania Trump ad, too.

*Update, Mar. 22, 2016, 6:00 p.m.: Liz Mair responded to my request for comment after publication. “I’m excited to see self-described progressives and feminists doing the bidding of the Trump campaign,” Mair wrote me in an email. “If I’d known this ad was going to create the furor it has, I wouldn’t have pulled the plug on two other, much more controversial ads we were considering in an effort to avoid rocking the boat too much. But, if people are determined to have a cow about this because of their own internal, unaddressed, throwback attitudes to what nudity on the part of a pretty lady connotes without literally looking at the broader picture, I may just go the whole hog and run those other ads, too. … I want to beat Donald Trump, who by the way has zero problem with attacking women who appear scantily-clad in men’s magazines.”