Melania Trump is not the enemy – slut shaming her won’t end sexism or stop the Donald

And we’re seeing it with Melania Trump, who is now being unfavorably compared to Michelle Obama on the Internet. The gist of a lot of the criticism is that Trump, a former fashion model, has posed nude, and is therefore incapable of being a decent first lady (the fact that we still have “First Lady” is something we should address too). And there are memes showing Obama looking resplendent, elegant, and beautiful, juxtaposed with images of Trump, naked and exposed, black bars discretely covering her nipples. We’re then pushed to choose one over the other.

And that sucks out loud because Trump’s background in modeling has little to do with her capabilities as FLOTUS. And when we create a binary of a “good woman” versus a “bad woman” we’re playing into the gross hands of respectability politics that seek to shame and ostracize women who are sexual. And what’s worse is that in this heated fight, in which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the combatants, we’ve dragged in an innocent bystander. After all, think what you will about Melania Trump, she’s the enemy, Donald Trump is the enemy. We’re picking on the wrong Trump.

Women – particularly women in the public – but women as a whole have had to move throughout various circles in our society, being everything to everybody. They have to be tough, but not too tough, otherwise they’re unlikable and aggressive; they have to be sensitive, but not too sensitive, because then they’re just being emotional; they have to be competent, but not too competent because then they’re intimidating; and they have to be sexual, but not too sexual because then they’re sluts. All of these weird expectations that we place on women foster these awful culture wars in which we have to praise one woman, but we also have to remember to knock down another woman in the process. Yes, Michelle Obama is lovely. Yes,  Michelle Obama is brilliant. Yes, Michelle Obama is qualified to be president (wow, wouldn’t that be great? Can you imagine?) These are all true and they will remain true whether or not we crap on Melania Trump. So, if Obama’s awesomeness is guaranteed – a sure thing, then we don’t have to demean ourselves by hitting Trump. As Michelle Obama said in her brilliant, fabulous DNC speech, “when they go low, we go high.”

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