Feminism | Posted by Kayleigh Bolingbroke on 02/16/2017
What Does #FreeMelania Really Mean?
By now, you have probably seen the infamous clip of Trump and Melania on Inauguration Day. To recap for those who haven’t, the footage shows Trump turning to Melania, who is courtly, beaming. As soon as Trump turns his back, her smile turns swiftly into what can only be described as a grave scowl.
Much speculation has surrounded the clip itself. Some people have suggested that Melania’s sudden somber expression may not even have been a reaction to anything Trump said to her, but to Trump possibly looking straight past his wife to smile at his daughter, Ivanka, who stood behind Melania. But no matter what exactly occurred in that clip, it’s undeniable that Melania’s behavior has started to form an eerie pattern: one that many have posited aligns with signs of abuse. For example, the new First Lady seems to stick to a very precise, guarded script when she speaks about her husband during interviews. On Inauguration Day, Donald Trump got out of the car without giving Melania so much as a second glance – in fact, the Obamas were the ones to courteously help the new First Lady up the stairs whilst her husband paraded ahead, behaving in a typically narcissistic fashion.
While many people comedically responded to these clips with sly digs and gibes, others were more concerned, and even created the hashtag #FreeMelania to reference the ever-growing suggestion that Melania Trump has been in some way abused by her husband. To be clear, there is no proof that she has been treated this way, but social media users instantaneously gave into speculation and began to tweet at Melania Trump herself, saying things such as “#freemelania sorry for your abuse” and “Can you imagine the abuse @MELANIATRUMP has suffered at the tiny hands of drumpf!! #freemelania.”
The #FreeMelania hashtag went so viral that the website Mic even asked body language experts to analize both Melania’s and Donald’s behavior on Inauguration Day. “If you didn’t know that they were married, you wouldn’t know that they are married,” body language expert Susan Constantine told Mic. “Melania is an object to him,” she continued. “I don’t see any warmth or true love and compassion in that relationship whatsoever.” She also claimed that during the President’s and First Lady’s dance at the Inauguration Ball, Donald Trump was pulling Melania “in sexually,” while Mrs. Trump was slightly pulling away from him during the dance, indicating that she “didn’t want to merge with him as a partner.”
By assuming Melania is being abused, many of us are viewing Melania as helpless and passive. We assume she has no voice, no opinion of her own, and many people have even described her as no more than Donald Trump’s accessory. While these claims are perhaps meant to reflect more on Trump’s innate misogyny, one has to wonder: Why do we automatically assume Melania is a victim? Does she really deserve the sympathy people are giving her?
The hard truth is, dissecting Melania’s body language ignores her own past actions. For example, Melania defended her husband in the wake of allegations of his sexual misconduct towards other women. When the infamous tape of her husband bragging about sexually assaulting women leaked back in October, Melania deemed the language as merely “boy talk” and blamed the tape’s release on “left-wing media.” She also previously supported her husband’s claims that President Obama was not a U.S. citizen, claiming that the then-President’s birth certificate was “not a birth certificate.”
Of course, we can speculate, but we’ll never know the truth. But we shouldn’t assume Melania is an innocent, separate entity to her husband’s goals just because she is a woman. She vocally defends her husband’s cruel decisions, and, much like his daughters, actively partakes in telling lies to American citizens.
But these acts — her own acts — are the only ones on which we should evaluate the First Lady. We cannot dismantle her just because of who she is married to. The #FreeMelania hashtag was created for a reason — even if that reason is to recognize that no matter what Melania’s reality is, there are plenty of women occupying the role we have projected onto her. Many women are tied to men who also make misogynistic remarks and perpetuate hatred in their own ways. Perhaps #FreeMelania is our society’s way of encouraging not just Melania, but all women, to resist standing by men who act and behave the way Trump does. And that’s a call-to-action worth supporting.
The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author alone and do not represent WMC or WMC Fbomb. WMC is a 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse candidates.