First Lady Melania Trump set Twitter ablaze when she publicly rejected holding the tiny hand of her husband President* Donald Trump. Liberals who loathe the arrogant real estate mogul turned national embarrassment relished in schadenfreude, for this was surely big league humiliating to the man who rants endlessly about winning. But then the narrative began to take a bizarre turn. It wasn’t enough that we laughed at Donald’s modest attempt at PDA being rejected with the sharp flick of Melania’s wrist. Some began to spur a narrative of what this could mean. Surely it wasn’t so simple as she didn’t feel like holding his hand at that moment. Clearly, this—coupled with her insistence to stay in her Manhattan home instead of moving with her husband to the White House—means she not-so-secretly loathes him. And in that she’s one of us!
In an odd op-ed for The Washington Post, Kathleen Parker went so far as to write:
Captured on film, it was the flick (or slap?) seen ‘round the world — and in many cases, cheered. In that instant, the first lady became every American woman who donned a pink-kitten hat to protest the then-new president — and cemented her status as star of the show: “Melania of Arabia, High Priestess of the Testosterone-Intoxicated, Tiny-Hands Revue.” Or something like that.
Let’s go with “something like that.” Because this here:
Is not a righteous act of rebellion or a bold political statement.
Is not a Carol Burnett-style ear tug signaling to the Resistance that Melania sees us and wants us to know she’s with us. She just didn’t hold his hand. What she has done speaks much louder to her character.
This First Lady has played the beguiling trophy wife and supportive mouth piece to Trump’s agenda, which spurns non-white immigrants as dangerous and women in general as lacking “stamina” and sense. Physically, Melania is lovely. But just because she and her stepdaugher Ivanka look splendid in pantsuits does not make them shining examples of female resilience and strength (another incredible claim in Parker’s peculiar piece). Too many conservatives fell for the trap of assuming these women’s seemingly classy vibe meant they were trustworthy, and by extension so was the bloated, blathering man they stood by. Let’s not fall into the same trap just because Melania seems to have thrown the slightest shade at the brash bully she married. And let’s not pretend we’re so above our conservative peers for falling for the lure of these pretty women, assuming that because they seem lovely on the outside they must be on the in.
Melania Trump is no secret ally. This woman married Donald Trump. She’s stood by his side even after he mocked a differently abled reporter, even after the “grab ‘em by the pussy” tapes were made public, even after every other horrible thing he’s done and said. At best, Melania is a pretty prop in an administration dedicated to stripping away women’s access to reproductive healthcare options. At worst, she’s an active participant in this process.
Maybe she does hate her Donald. Maybe theirs is a dead marriage that will keep him up at night in worry and misery, just as his presidency does to many of us. None of this makes Melania a feminist hero. Actual political action would, and nothing short of that.
I totally understand the allure of the vengeful fantasy that imagines the Trump marriage as one of resentment, regret, and barely repressed rage. But to extend this fantasy to assuming Melania herself deserves praise for being classy arm candy who occasionally shows an ounce of autonomy, that’s ludicrous and childish and we need to do better. We need to expect more. We need to raise the bar for white women so it’s at least high enough they don’t trip on it while still trampling the rights of themselves and others.
She swatted his hand away again? Eh. Call me when she slaps him full across the face.— Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko) May 24, 2017
Kristy Puchko is not so much an angry feminist as much as—no you know what? Fuck that. She is an angry feminist. Aren’t you?