“Maybe Mrs. Trump is more like Michelle Obama than people think,” read the op-ed piece called “The Quiet Radicalism of Melania Trump” published Thursday, which examined the first lady’s “reluctant” embrace of her role in comparison to Michelle, both of whom challenged the notion that first ladies are anything but blind supporters of their husbands.
“She may not be progressive,” read the story. “She may not be political. And yet Mrs. Trump may end up doing more than any of her predecessors to upend our expectations of the slavish devotion a first lady must display toward her husband.”
However, many on Twitter felt the reasons for Melania’s “apathy” toward the presidency stemmed more from private humiliation over her reported marital problems than a “quiet rebellion,” a feminist-first approach, and a genuine desire to shake up preconceived notions about first ladies.
The Quiet Radicalism of Melania Trump https://t.co/bPmvYdFfCG "Maybe Mrs. Trump is more like Michelle Obama than people think." Literally no one "thinks" this.
— Greg Mitchell (@GregMitch) January 26, 2018
How was Kate Andersen Brower paid for this piece of revisionist drivel? Melania Trump is a miserably unhappy 3rd wife with an impenetrable pre-nup w/her child as hostage. She's not forging ground, she's trapped like a character in an Edith Wharton novel. https://t.co/2yWuGBNHIk
— Victoria Brownworth (@VABVOX) January 26, 2018
I wish there was an emoji that could convey the feeling of my body eating my face while my face barfed all over my body. https://t.co/lUyU0VdoQ0
— Mangy Jay (@magi_jay) January 26, 2018
The pitch of this piece is that by not defending Donald Trump's infidelities – or lets face it, saying much at all really – Melania is revolutionizing the role of first lady. May be reading a little too much into what silence actually tells us. https://t.co/74I7eY5axz
— Don Moynihan (@donmoyn) January 26, 2018
You guys, she's not helplessly fuming and pouting, she's redefining the role! Thinly veiled loathing of your spouse is the chic new First Spouse style. GET WITH IT, JEEZ. https://t.co/Z0naYvLHor
— liberal blue (@weprogressives) January 26, 2018
"Maybe Mrs. Trump is more like Michelle Obama than people think." Certainly when it comes to convention speeches, anyway. https://t.co/xbEhD7KNbR
— J. Courtney Sullivan (@jcourtsull) January 26, 2018
The story describes how Melania doesn’t shower her husband with unconditional support, unlike former first ladies, Nancy Reagan and Lady Byrd Johnson.
For example, on Saturday, the one-year anniversary of the inauguration, Melania tweeted a photo of herself with a Marine, not her husband, without a mention of the president. And on Thursday, she suddenly canceled a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland — on her 13th wedding anniversary, no less — due to “too many scheduling and logistical issues.” However, the timing made some suspicious, amid reports that the president paid off adult-firm star Stormy Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) $130K, to squash an affair that occurred after Melania gave birth to son Barron.
This has been a year filled with many wonderful moments. I’ve enjoyed the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet throughout our great country & the world! pic.twitter.com/MMRi72ENd0
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) January 20, 2018
Other ways Melania has challenged expectations include chilly body language toward her husband, appearing to push his hand away on several occasions in public, a five-month delay moving to the White House (so 11-year-old Barron could finish his school year in New York City), and an anti-bullying campaign that kicked off nine months into the presidency.
The writer does acknowledge that Melania’s reasons “are almost certainly personal” while also drawing comparisons to Michelle Obama, “the first, first lady to challenge people to accept a woman who refused to play the role of the saccharine, adoring spouse,” citing a 2007 Vanity Fair interview.
“I can’t do that,” Michelle told the publication. “That’s not me. I love my husband. I think he’s one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever met, and he knows that. But he’s not perfect, and I don’t want the world to want him to be perfect.”
However, Michelle’s stance stemmed as much from her desire to hold her husband accountable and set realistic goals for the presidency as it did from her adoration as his wife.
“If you look for that, then people can’t try hard stuff, because you might mess up,” she further told Vanity Fair. “We want leaders to be bold and to try some things that might not work, because they might work and be great. I think that’s one of our failings as a nation — we’re looking for our leaders to be something that’s not realistic, and then we’re deeply disappointed when they don’t live up to those unrealistic standards. So let’s shake that up a little bit. We’re moving into the 21st century, and life is different. We’ve struggled; we’ve grown. Let’s not be hypocrites about it, either. Let’s not say we want one thing and then demand you be something you’re not.”
The former first lady, who ran a robust platform on anti-obesity and education for girls, explained that her motivation was personal responsibility. “The way I look at it is, We’re running for president of the United States. Me, Barack, Sasha, Malia, my mom, my brother, his sisters—we’re all running,” she told Vanity Fair. “I can’t hold down a full-time job as vice president of community and external affairs and be on the road three or four days a week. Barack has never asked me to stop doing my job; as far as he was concerned, ‘You have to do whatever makes you feel comfortable.’”
Michelle added, “But, for me, it was: How can I not be part of this? How can I go to work every day, when we’re trying to do something I believe in? If I really felt it was more important for me to be vice president of community and external affairs full-time, I would do that. But the bigger goal here is to get a good president—somebody I believe in, like Barack, who’s really going to be focused on the needs of ordinary people. For what I’m trying to do at the hospital, getting him elected is a better way for me to reach that goal. Part of doing this is that I would have felt guilty not doing it. I would have felt I was being selfish. We have this opportunity, and Barack could do amazing things, but I wanted help with the laundry? Now my conscience is clear.”
The New York Times also mentions Hillary Clinton as a “progressive and groundbreaking” first lady but positions her decision to remain married to the president after he admitted an affair with Monica Lewinsky as somehow counter to that, a claim Twitter called “hypocritical.”
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