How the Media is Unfair to Melania Trump

With each new President, the American people usher into the White House a person who didn’t ask to be there– the First Lady (and hopefully one day, the First Gentleman). Presidential candidates go through rigorous and exhaustive campaigns for the privilege of holding office, but their spouses, not unwillingly, are forced into roles of leadership by default.

After the legacies left behind by remarkable and active First Ladies– Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Eleanor Roosevelt to name a few– certain expectations have been placed on the role of First Lady. It is not a role of governance but one of ceremony, because as President, her husband is the head of state.

 

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In fact, the United States Constitution does not mention the First Lady even once. The aforementioned women chose to utilize their resources and visibility to focus on a few key issues (childhood obesity, literacy, health care, etc.) under no obligation other than moral agency.

 

Our newest First Lady, First Lady Melania Trump, has faced criticism from the media for her seemingly complacent role in the Trump administration. While it would be ideal to have a Harvard-educated, ambitious and outspoken woman (hey, Michelle) representing the United States and fighting for a cause which could benefit its people, we cannot set our expectations higher than the First Lady could possibly reach.

 

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To place the same expectations on First Lady Melania Trump as were placed on her predecessors is not entirely fair. Melania Trump is a First Lady like America has never seen before, just as Donald Trump is a President we’ve certainly never had. He was elected for that very reason. She, however, was not.

 

Melania Trump has not received a college degree and went from being a model to a mother. This is in no way meant to condemn those choices or to belittle Melania Trump’s career. This is only to say that she is very obviously not as equipped to lead or conduct a national campaign as were, say, Hillary Clinton, a graduate of Yale Law, and Michelle Obama, a graduate of both Princeton University and Harvard Law. Placing Melania Trump’s effect as First Lady beside that of Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton is like comparing my ability to perform quantum mechanics to that of a particle physicist. It’s not really fair to me or the physicist.

 

Now, this is not to say that Melania Trump shouldn’t lead a national campaign benefitting Fibromyalgia or Tibetan independence. She most certainly should. And while she has access to people qualified to do those things, she herself is not, which is not a concession we should overlook. She was a stay-at-home mom who now has the expectations of millions on her shoulders to follow in the footsteps of women far more capable than she. This is not a criticism, it is a fact.

 

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If Melania Trump, with her celebrity and influence is expected to use her powers for good, why not Kylie Jenner? Why not Beyonce? Those women are far more influential than Melania Trump and they asked for the power they hold. Fame was not thrust upon them. Yet we don’t expect those women to perform above their capabilities or to extents which exceed their qualifications because it is not part of their job descriptions. Neither is it part of Melania Trump’s.

 

The First Lady is not elected. The President is elected. While it would be nice to have a First Lady who used the agency of her position to create a “Greater America,” it really is not her job. Maybe anyone who feels it important to have an active First Lady should consider the qualifications of Presidential candidates’ spouses before casting their ballots. I have a feeling that camp is much smaller than the one spouting criticisms and complaints about Melania’s performance in her non-job.

 

Perhaps if Ms. Trump decides to run for President, we could criticize her lack of qualifications and her passive role in the White House, but until then, I think we should all leave Melania Trump alone.

 

(Melania Trump cannot run for President for many reasons the primary of which being that she was not born in the United States but you get my point.)