Since Donald Trump announced his decision to run for president back in 2015, Melania Trump has been subjected to an onslaught of criticism and sympathy.
Images criticizing the first lady for posing nude during her career as a supermodel have widely circulated the internet. Memes implying that “poor” Melania Trump has unwillingly found herself in the middle of increasingly contentious political battles spurred #FreeMelania to trend on Twitter multiple times throughout Trump’s campaign and after his election.
Maureen Dowd wrote of Melania Trump in The New York Times, “Her opacity, weirdly, has made her a folk hero of the left, which likes to imagine that she is a hostage to her embarrassing husband.”
Lauren Wright wrote in The Chicago Tribune that feminists should embrace Melania Trump’s decision to remain in New York and keep a low political profile.
“To reject the exercise entirely would be an embarrassing manifestation of the very problem that today’s feminist gatekeepers purportedly seek to remedy, prejudice against women who don’t share certain priorities or perspectives,” Wright said.
Seriously, give me a break. Melania Trump is a grown woman, and she is responsible for her actions, just like the rest of us.
Let me be clear, my problem with Melania Trump is not that she has posed naked or decided to focus on being a wife and mother. I believe those are both valid, respectable choices and feminists everywhere should defend her for making them.
But if Melania Trump truly believes in these things, and if American women are to defend her right to make her own choices, Melania’s silence as her husband slashes her fellow American women’s right to make similar decisions is nothing short of violence. Melania Trump standing idly by as people are hurt solidifies her complacency.
Melania Trump’s defense of her husband’s infamous leaked audiotape saying he can just “grab women by the pussy” is a direct affront to women who have fought to be respected regardless of how they pose, dress or conduct themselves. Women’s right to be sexual when and how they choose is hindered every single day by people with attitudes like the one Donald Trump expressed in that tape and the one she defends.
Melania Trump’s lack of comment as her husband fights to take away health care from millions of families is a smack in the face to any woman who would prefer to “focus on being a wife and mother” but now must pick up a second job to afford her children’s basic medical necessities. As a woman who claims to prioritize family, Melania Trump must realize how access to health care isn’t a political issue but an ethical one.
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Melania Trump’s silence as Betsy DeVos, her husband’s newly confirmed choice for secretary of education, threatens to destroy already struggling public schools, causing pain to thousands of mothers and children across the country, is violence. Any woman who wants to focus on children should realize a good education is vital for every child.
Perhaps most pointedly, Melania Trump’s decision to say nothing as her husband bashes immigrants is unforgivable. Melania Trump came to America from Slovenia using an H-1B visa, which classifies models as “highly skilled workers.” Donald Trump, however, has repeatedly spoken out against this program and the immigrants it brings to the U.S.
“The H-1B program is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay,” Donald Trump said in March 2016.
Melania Trump’s decision to remain silent as her husband causes immigrant families to live in constant terror is incredibly hypocritical, as she herself was an immigrant.
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The failure to hold Melania Trump accountable for her silence in the wake of her husband’s assault on multiple groups of people, frankly, is sexist. The assumption that Melania Trump’s defense of her husband is somehow not her choice paints Melania Trump as a vapid mouthpiece instead of the politically powerful figure she has become.
If Melania Trump were truly miserable with her husband and his policies, is she truly so helpless that she must suffer quietly, even defending her husband in public? If Melania Trump wants to break tradition by refusing to fill the traditional first lady mold of “doing it all,” I’m here for it.
If she continues in her complacency as her husband destroys Americans’ lives, however, she deserves no more sympathy than he does.
Julia O’Donnell ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism and strategic communication.