I did not vote for Donald Trump, nor was I happy when he won the election. I also didn’t like the idea of Melania Trump becoming the First Lady. Between her questionable taste in men, the senseless way she’s defended her husband’s horrible sexual assault remarks, and the way she plagiarized Michelle Obama's speech, there was nothing motivating me to like the idea of Melania becoming our next FLOTUS.
Not to mention I witnessed eight years of certain conservatives insulting Michelle Obama for simply being herself — a strong woman. According to these individuals, her outfits were too informal, her shoulders were exposed inappropriately, and the fact that she did push-ups was not First Lady behavior.
Despite it being the 21st century, where plenty of women in America do push-ups and show off their shoulders in dresses, our Michelle Obama apparently wasn’t supposed to resemble the rest of us. Instead, she was supposed to be covered up, formal, and working on her fitness behind the scenes at all times.
That was until the 2016 election.
The same individuals who criticized Michelle Obama for dressing fashionably and being relatable were awfully quiet as the possibility of Melania Trump becoming our next FLOTUS became a reality. Melania has shown her shoulders. her legs, her breasts; she’s done nude photoshoots, and the world is well aware of it. So having to watch Michelle get dragged while Melania was praised and even defended by many of the same conservatives made me bitter.
It was hard not to jump onboard with the new wave of haters who called out those conservatives’ hypocrisy and decided to hate on Melania like many once did Michelle. It was hard not to agree with the comments that America was “downgrading.” Most of all, it was hard not to judge Melania for her defense of her husband.
But then I realized our FLOTUS-to-be has a lot to offer America. In fact, she is probably our best hope at bridging many divides facing Americans today. (And, again, I say all of this as someone who really did not want her husband to become our next president.)
Melania has the power to open the minds of these conservatives who were once hypercritical and judgmental of our current First Lady. If these men and women can support Melania and defend her despite her controversial past, then perhaps she can encourage them to be less judgmental of all women who may or may not "act" conservatively. And as an immigrant who gained US citizenship in 2006, she can also serve as a powerful voice and advocate for immigrants undergoing the same process she once had to go through. Despite a few lingering questions, Melania has stated that she strongly believed in following the proper immigration paper trail in order to gain citizenship. Her experiences and identity can serve as a voice and reminder to her husband’s administration of the long, difficult process that is becoming a permanent resident and legal citizen of the United States.
Melania can also use the negative attention she’s been getting for her nude photos to advocate for consent and support sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape victims. Women who enjoy nudity or expose their bodies are not asking for it and deserve the same respect as women who cover themselves. Plus, in today’s digital age, you’re bound to know someone who has taken naked selfies in private or to send to others; they don’t deserve to be exploited or verbally or physically assaulted for taking nude or suggestive pictures. She can use her voice as a sobering reminder that we all have a right to express our bodies as we please and that no woman deserves to be objectified, harassed or assaulted, no matter how much skin she chooses to show.
Lastly, she can use her views on our culture being “too rough and too mean,” particularly among children and teenagers, to create better legislation and movements to protect those who experience bullying, especially online. If there’s one thing she has said that I completely agree with, it’s that “we have to find a better way to talk to each other, to disagree, to respect each other.” Although her husband hasn’t shown that he agrees with his wife’s views on this, her words are still important.
Melania can make a positive difference, especially for women, if she chooses to use her voice to help the greater good.
Yes, as a woman and someone with a conscience, I know Donald Trump has made misogynist, racist and crude remarks, and I am by no means a fan of his character. Many of his words and actions have been deplorable. But if we’re stuck with him, the most realistic thing we can hope for is a strong, confident woman by his side who isn’t afraid to stand on her own feet and speak her mind.
In an interview on 60 Minutes, Melania was asked if she ever tells her husband that he’s gone too far, to which she replied, “Yes, I tell him all the time. I think he hears me, but he will do what he wants to do [in] the end. He’s an adult. He knows the consequences. I give him my opinion and he could do whatever he likes with it.”
I mean, at least she tells him when he’s being an idiot, right? Can we realistically expect her to divorce him and condemn his behavior? No. Can we realistically expect her to speak out against her husband and the harmful things he says or does? No. Can we realistically expect her to never come up with dumb excuses for her husband’s poor words or actions? Nope.
But we can realistically expect her to speak her mind and remember that she’s in a position of power that could help many people in the US.
She will have to work for it. She will have to stand her ground. She will have to sift through adversity and praise alike to get to the heart of many issues. She will have to use her voice and not settle for being a silent trophy beside her husband during his presidency.
Luckily, it seems like she already knows this. In the aforementioned interview, Melania addressed the immense task of becoming our future FLOTUS.
“A lot of work needs to be done,” she said. “It’s stuff on your shoulders. And we will take care of it day by day. I will stay true to myself. I’m very strong and tough and confident. And I will listen to myself and I will do what is right and what feels to my heart.”
The best chance we have at humbling and humanizing the White House these next four years is Melania Trump.