Stop Trying To Give Melania Trump A Story Just Because She Won't Tell One
The Debrief: Will the real Melania Trump please stand up
What does Melania Trump *really* think? Who is Melania Trump, you know, actually? Poor Melania, pity her. Melania Trump doesn’t want to be first lady, aren’t you outraged. Blink twice if you need help Melania. Is Melania Stepford fembot? No, wait: Free Melania. Will the real Melania Trump please stand up.
How do you solve a problem like Melania? Nobody seems to know what to make of her. Do we feel sorry for her? Do we resent her? Do we mock her? Do we stand with her? Why does First lady Melania Trump, it seems, leaves us foxed and confounded.
Whenever a woman becomes the focus of the entire world’s all seeing public eye the same thing happens. She is put into one of a few categories. The good news is that the repertoire has expended a little beyond the traditional Madonna / whore binary. The bad news is that the number of roles women can play in public life are still limited to a spectrum which crudely ranges, mutually exclusively, from mother to mistress, clever to basic, loved to hated, successful to gold digger and naughty to nice.
The left and liberal commentators have been particularly guilty of allowing their descriptions of her to verge on derogatory. Why describe her as a ‘fembot’? Sure, many of her semi-naked photo shoots see her holding poses that must have given her cramp, but why is an image of a woman in her pants so worthy of mockery? She may wear more foundation than you and be married to a man with whom you disagree with every fibre of your being (and who also wears more foundation than you), but that doesn’t necessarily make her cold and sinister. Her heart still beats. She still lives, breaths and feels. Those who don’t denigrate her project an even more troublesome narrative onto her: the one in which she is a victim, waiting to be saved.
Because we know (relatively) little about Melania Trump, she doesn’t fit neatly into the popular taxonomy of women established by mainstream thinking. We like a good story; we need narratives in order to understand people. Melania’s back story is compelling. It wouldn’t be out of place in Scandal. In fact, it provides enough fodder for a feature film in its own right. From communist country tower block to the White House via Park Avenue, she speaks six languages and married one of the world’s most infamous men before becoming America’s first lady despite not really seeming particularly enthralled by the position. However, beyond that she has deliberately remained something of a blank canvas.
Of course, it’s troubling that a woman would choose to marry a man who says and does sexist things more often than most people go to the toilet. There’s no doubt that it’s difficult to understand. There’s no question that it’s troubling. There’s no debate to be had about whether or not it’s feminist (it’s not).
Melania Trump poses more questions than she answers. She says little, looks awkward and doesn’t want to live in the White House. She does, to all intents and purposes, seem to be opting out of public life beyond what is absolutely required of her. For all we know she cringes every time Donald Trump enters a room and has had to mute him on Twitter. But, equally, perhaps she’s just fine with living her life in New York while her husband does his thing in another state. Maybe Melania really does like Donald ‘the way he is’. But, surely, trying to fathom the inner workings of a situation that is so bizzare, so far removed from most people's lives and so extraordinary is pointless. All bets are off; the normal rules don't apply here. There is no real precedent, no comparison to be made.
In the age of oversharing her reluctance to tell us what’s on her mind and general air of reticence makes people more uncomfortable than they would be if she did a tell all interview about hopes and dreams, fear and insecurities and what sort of tampons she favours.
I’d like to think that Melania is appalled that her husband wants to appoint pro-life judges to America’s Supreme Court, but the chances are we’ll never know. Until she talks out or does anything as first lady, we should stop trying to give her a story just because she won’t tell us one. As she said herself ‘our culture has gotten too mean and too rough’ so let’s wait before we decide who she is and what she’s about.
It’s awkward, it’s disappointing and it’s archaic. She isn’t Hillary and she isn’t Michelle Obama but, whether we like it or not, as intersectional feminist Bell Hooks says ‘feminism is for everybody’ and hypocrisy is a very bad look.
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