“En La Lucha” - Hillary Clinton and Mujerista Theology
Venezuelan American and Miss Universe 1996, Alicia Machado, has been at the center of this week’s electoral debate.
In the first presidential debate Hillary Clinton exposed yet another example of Donald Trump’s misogynist behavior, this time body-shaming Ms. Machado for gaining weight after winning the Miss Universe Pageant:
“And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman “Miss Piggy.” Then he called her “Miss Housekeeping,” because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name: Her name is Alicia Machado.”
The next day, Donald Trump doubled down on his comments in a Fox and Friends interview:
“She was the winner and you know, she gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem. We had a real problem. Not only that, her attitude, and we had a real problem with her, so Hillary went back into the years and she found this girl—this was many years ago. And found the girl and talked about her like she was Mother Theresa. And it wasn’t quite that way but that’s OK. Hillary has to do what she has to do.”
Ms. Machado has been out in the media this week telling her story of how Mr. Trump, then executive producer of the Miss Universe Pageant, impacted her life so negatively: “After that episode, I was sick, had anorexia and bulimia for five years. Over the past 20 years, I’ve gone to a lot of psychologists to combat this.”
But Hillary Clinton was able to bring Ms. Machado’s suffering—suffering caused by her opponent—to the forefront of electoral politics, and in that way she was also able to bring some kind of justice to that suffering. Ms. Machado recalled watching the debate with her mother and her daughter, and she said that she just started crying. “I started crying because I never imagined that such an important person like her would care about my story, know about my story.”
Right after Ms. Machado received her new U.S. passport, she tweeted: “I’m ready to vote For my country for you @HillaryClinton for my daughter For women workers.”
Ms. Machado’s story was particularly powerful for Latinas around the country because it tapped into that universal struggle for liberation and equality that we share. Maybe we all haven’t been called Miss Piggy or Miss Housekeeper before, and maybe we haven’t experienced workplace harassment—but we know a mother, a sister, an aunt, or a friend who has.
Hillary Clinton exposed more than Donald Trump’s misogyny. She exposed the political metanarrative of white male power over against the Latina community in American society today. She effectively showcased how white power and privilege piercingly inflicts psychological violence—not in theory, but in practice—and the consequences of that violence that our Latina sisters suffer daily.
But above all else, Hillary Clinton raised a liberation counternarrative of every Latina “in the struggle”—what Mujerista theologian Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz called “en la lucha”—against the ideology of sexism and ethnic prejudice. Clinton did so by challenging 84 million viewers to consider every Latina’s oppression and liberation as their own.
If Mujerista (womanist) theologian Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz were alive today, no one more than she would defend the importance of giving Latinas a national political stage to speak truth to power and to give voice to their experiences. Isasi-Diaz would argue we use Latinas’ stories as a source for religious, moral, and political discernment. Her theology pulls from the epistemological margins the value of Latinas’ suffering and liberation, and she places it at the center of our public policy debate.
Mujerista theology has a special role to play in the critique of the political spectacle that is Donald Trump, his party, and his supporters, and their assent to power by competing in anti-immigrant public policies that inevitably leads to the destruction of la familia y la communidad Latina. It does so in the following ways: (1) it demands respect for the dignity of Latinas, (2) it demands the opportunity to communicate Latinas’ lived experiences of oppression and liberation in the public square, and (3) it present Latinas’ alternative vision of an American society that gives their daughters and their granddaughters their fair shot at the American Dream.
In one fell swoop, Hillary Clinton did all of this for Latinas this week by placing our lived experience—our theology of oppression and our theology liberation—at the center of the national political debate.