The Thing about Melania and Barron Trump

The Women’s March was an unprecedented event that brought together millions of women, from all walks of life, on all seven continents. While there were many ideologies and social causes championed at the march, the most central reason was the battle against sexism, and to express extreme dissatisfaction with the election of Donald Trump.There were several signs that captured these ideas well:

At the march and increasingly more so on social media the messaging regarding Melania has become problematic because of its inherent sexism:

Recently, the hashtag #FreeMelania has started to trend. Body language experts, arm chair psychologists and meme creators have all chimed in regarding Melania, but we don’t know Melania Trump. Prior to her husband becoming the 45th president of the United State, she has never fully articulated her political beliefs, and what she has divulged about herself has been minimal, stating, “Nobody knows and nobody will ever know, Because that’s between me and my husband.” That is not to say that she has not said things worthy of criticism, but the majority of judgment detractor’s ire revolves around her career, marriage choices and comparisons with former First Lady Michelle Obama.

The differences between Michelle Obama and Melania Trump are striking both in background, but also because of the type of First Lady Michelle was, and the type Melania is projected to become. One of the most common comparisons drawn between to the two are their chosen career paths, one an attorney and the other a former lingerie model. Lambasting Melania’s modeling career decisions, specifically her decision to pose nude, is sexist because it attempts to reduce her value to her body. She chose to pose nude, and this disqualifies her as a respectable, decent human being, forget a first lady. This criticism may be intended to offend the Trumps and Trump supporters, but it is rooted in the denigration of women.

If feminism is fundamentally a fight for women to have agency over their decisions, free from judgements based on stereotypes and expectations, then any bashing of Melania Trump that calls on her choice in career is unwise; it weakens one of the pillars of the movement.

If, Melania Trump is actually an abused, unhappy, and sequestered woman, trapped in a relationship that she cannot escape, then her misery should not be material for jokes. How can we feminists demand that women’s rights be prioritized when we easily make bait of women we dislike?

This isn’t simply about Melania. Recently, there has been an influx of comments directed at Barron Trump, alluding to his disability. Disability cannot be determined solely by observation, but it also is not a short-coming or inadequacy — to imply such is endemic of ableist thinking.

In the coming months, the criticism of the Trump family will continue. Trump will undoubtedly continue to spew racist, sexist, and ableist vomit. We need to make sure we don’t respond in kind.

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