I felt a twinge of guilt as a feminist for referring to the new First Lady of the United States of America as a problem. Considering who her husband is, what he’s said, and how much power he now holds, she’s the least of our worries.
Nonetheless, I do believe that the pickle we have with Melania Trump is twofold. We have a problem with her, and she has a problem because of us.
Let’s start with our disapproval of her. Perhaps what’s most got the world’s goat was her seemingly plagiarised convention speech taken from Michelle Obama. Or rather, I live in hope that this has been what’s irked the world most about her. I also live in hope that though she may have taken word for word the ideas of Mrs Obama, she will at least be compelled to believe in them and follow them through in her role as First Lady. But this is only a fool’s hope.
Mrs Trump’s case runs somewhat parallel to that of Pope Benedict XVI. Both these individuals had and have big shoes to fill. Unfortunately, neither of them seemed or seem to be up to the task, disappointing an already dismayed audience who never wanted for there to be a change in the first place. Not only did Pope Benedict XVI fail to carry on the goodly glow of John Paul II, but he also managed to anger the followers he was meant to lead. Similarly, Melania Trump has so far managed to shatter everything Michelle Obama had worked for, and she’s not even trying.
And here lies our other qualm with her. Where Michelle Obama was a vocal activist who was continuously productive in her fight for equality, Melania Trump has made it clear that she has no genuine intention of carrying that torch. All she wants to do – or so our perception of her tells us – is sit pretty and complacent at the White House until Mr Trump’s time is up, thus furthering her legacy as a trophy wife. This gives us the impression that she’s either suppressed by her husband, or that she is indeed not capable enough to carry on Mrs Obama’s work… or both. And for this, the world is now pitying her, as is evident from comments made on the couple’s very hostile first dance.
I cannot say whether or not Melania is an intelligent woman in her own right. It would be hypocritical of me to make the assumption that just because she probably has fake tits, she’s a bimbo. But for the moment, let us assume that no, she’s not the brightest of ladies, and she’s a little bit slow compared to the highly qualified and eloquent Michelle. Perhaps she’s shying away from First Lady duties because she feels she could potentially embarrass herself and reveal her lack of smarts. How was she to know, when she married Donald Trump back in 2005, that he’d be running for President? She may have been dragged into all this. Perhaps she is in fact making a wise move of saying it best by saying nothing at all.
Then again, she could also be emulating her husband’s ideals by letting the man run the show, and by fulfilling her Donald-duty of being that very exemplary 10 which he so loves. We simply do not know.
What we do know, however, is that the press will be the press. We get most of our information on people such as Melania through their selected quotes and camera lenses, and so far, the picture that’s been painted is of course entirely sexist – one that fuels Trump’s opponents’ disapproval of the new President, and also one that further appeases a lot of his followers’ perception of women. Either way, Melania has ended up a victim of misogyny (unless of course she enjoys being objectified). One side will view her as nothing but a slutty trinket, tainting the sanctity and position of First Lady. The other side will be pleased with her slutty trinkiness, because to many of them, that’s what First Ladies should be.
And this brings us to yet another point. A lot of women opposing Trump don’t like Melania because she represents someone whom we’ve all encountered in our working lives. She represents the woman whose appearance did most of the talking. She’s the woman who was happy to share a marital bed with a man old enough to be her father. And this hurts a lot of hardworking women who weren’t blessed with Melania’s genes and plastic surgeon (who’s done an excellent job, I’m just saying). It’s particularly bitter for us because we’ve spent just less than a decade having our hopes and dreams kindled by Michelle Obama, a black woman from an underprivileged background who battled with the patriarchy and became a leader in her own right.
However, we’ve got to curb our hostility, lest it turns us into chauvinists. Something that’s been doing the rounds are Melania’s previous nude photos, including a lesbian-themed monochrome shoot taken in 1996. Through the rounds, we’ve seen the typical lecherous remarks made by men (both for and anti-Trump) degrading her like a piece of meat. But then, more disappointingly, there are some women who’ve objected to her being First Lady simply because we’ve all seen her naked. Have we not learnt that chastising women for embracing their sexuality is just as bad as when men exploit it for their own uses?
Let’s take issue with Melania for her complacency in feminist campaigning and her plagiarism, but not for her body. Let’s take issue with those who make use of this woman to humiliate the new President. Not because he doesn’t need humiliating, but because using Melania as cannon fodder will render us no better than those misogynists he’s managed to rally.