Misogyny is misogyny, says Ruth Bratt, whether it comes from the mouth of Donald Trump or is directed at his wife.
There are many, many disturbing things about the results of the US election. But, in recent days, a truly disturbing trend has been the amount of misogynist bile directed at Melania Trump. And often from the very people who (rightly) cried misogyny at Donald Trump during his election campaign.
To be fair, it started during the campaign. She made a speech, allegedly plagiarised, that used the same words in the same order as Michelle Obama’s speech of some years previously. It was pretty bad.
But the suggestion was Melania Trump was merely a cipher and couldn’t have come up with the ideas herself, or even have known what she was doing. Yes, most politicians and their spouses have speech writers and I’m sure she had one too, but the suggestion she couldn’t possibly have an original idea, that she was too stupid because she was too pretty and was a glamour model came, it seemed to me, from a place of misogyny more than any other.
Call her out on it, sure. But do it if it was stolen, not because she is too stupid to do anything else. And exactly how stupid is this woman, who speaks five languages, and can give a speech in front of a huge audience in her second tongue?
There is currently a meme going around Facebook, posted by a lot of left-leaning liberals (who, it would appear, make up the majority of Trump protesters). It is a picture of three former First Ladies, and the future FLOTUS.
The first three are depicted as demure, respectable, ‘proper’ First Ladies (not that they necessarily are or were, just that the specific images used portray that), and Melania Trump is shown in a naked shot from her modelling days. There are so many problems with this, it’s hard to know where to begin.
“It is absolutely fine to criticise Melania Trump for her beliefs. If only it were easy to find out what they are.”
First up, that’s not a shot of her being the First Lady. That’s a shot of her from years ago, doing her job, whether we agree with that job or not. Second up, it demands women have to be a certain way in order to deserve our respect, in order to be valid as a First Lady. They must be demure, they must be respectable, they must not show up their husbands.
Which leads us to another problem. Melania Trump is not her husband’s property. Her actions are not a stick with which to beat her husband. She is not posing naked now. She posed naked then. And even if she was naked in every picture of her that ever was, that’s not something with which to censure her, or indeed her (however vile) husband.
The good thing is that people are calling the posters of this meme out. And some of them are big enough to realise what they have done is misogynistic, like, I dunno, suggesting it is perfectly acceptable to grab a woman by the genitals.
There’s another fairly unpleasant meme – the picture of Trump looking a bit miserable, with the caption, “When you thought you had just married a sugar daddy, and you end up as FLOTUS.”
Where to begin? Admittedly, it is very hard to see why on earth anyone could be attracted to the President Elect for anything other than his money. But say you share his political views, say you agree with him, say you find him funny (which plenty of people clearly do)… Then you could fall in love with him. Hard to fathom, but still plausible.
The idea that a beautiful young woman could only be marrying an older, richer man for his money has surely been debunked by now. Melania Trump is being judged for her looks. She’s been with him since 1998. They’ve been married since 2005. His first marriage lasted 15 years, his second three. She’s doing pretty well. His track record is less impressive. But this has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PRESIDENCY. It’s as bad as criticising Hillary Clinton for Bill’s affairs.
“Society’s obsession with women’s bodies rather than their minds is insidious. It means that even those who profess to hate misogyny can be guilty of it.”
It is absolutely fine to criticise Melania Trump for her beliefs. If only it were easy to find out what they are. A quick trawl of the internet only revealed pictures of her in various states of nudity, often juxtaposed with pictures of her during the campaign, or with pictures of Michelle Obama being utterly brilliant.
I did find one article, in a usually fairly even-handed publication, entitled “First Lady Melania Trump: 14 things you didn’t know about Donald’s wife”. Brilliant. Now we can find out her views. Nope. The tag line to the headline was “From nude photo shoots and a creepy phone call to a $100,000 wedding dress and a secret half-brother”. Oh.
A First Lady being criticised by the media and the public is of course nothing new. Jackie Kennedy was both beloved and reviled before and after her husband’s death. Nancy Reagan was criticised for accepting thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts and being ‘too controlling’ of her husband’s Presidency and life. Hillary Clinton was blamed (amazingly) for her husband’s affairs, called an “enabler”, and again, seen as slightly too influential and involved in his presidency.
The criticisms of First Ladies have always been tinged with sexism – as these women who have been depicted as ‘demure’ in relation to Melania Trump were previously seen as ‘overbearing’, or too strident in their beliefs. But now, up against a woman who gets her tits out…
Society’s obsession with women’s bodies rather than their minds is insidious. It means that even those who profess to hate misogyny can be guilty of it, often without realising. The ease with which the very people who condemned Trump’s language (and suggested actions) can slut-shame a woman highlights the rampant hypocrisy of both political sides, as well as the minefield women still walk.
Judge us for views and actions, not nude photographs or demure respectability.7266 Views
Ruth is an improviser, comedian, actor, writer and the short half of double act Trodd en Bratt. She is rapidly becoming a middle class cliche who likes to bake and knit. Ruth is in Showstopper! The Improvised Musical currently in Edinburgh and about to embark on a West End run. www.theshowstoppers.org