The Melania Conundrum

If the popular media can be considered a reflection of society’s interests, it stands to reason that everyone is asking one question: Who is the real Melania Trump? While some criticize Melania for supporting her racist, misogynistic, elitist husband, others have suggested that Melania is actually a victim. Numerous “body language experts” have remarked on the way she supposedly leaned away from Donald during the Inaugural Ball, the way her smile seemingly turned to a grimace as soon as his back was turned, or the incredibly awkward moment when the Trumps met the Obamas at the White House and Donald powerfully strode towards the Obamas while completely ignoring Melania, leaving her to walk up the steps on her own.

These interpretations are certainly valid, especially when considering the power dynamic between the two. However, while Donald is one of the most dominant and influential (if negative) people in the world, they ignore some other very important facts about Melania and her history. First and foremost, Melania is not some beautiful yet unintelligent bimbo. She speaks five languages, and reports have said that she was wary of Trump the first time she met him at a New York party in 1998. She even refused to give him her phone number. Second, she came from fairly humble beginnings, born in communist Yugoslavia to an average family and rose to stardom due to an incredibly successful lifelong modeling career that started as early as 5 years old. She is anything but sheltered and her success and prowess are hers alone. If she at any time wanted to leave Donald, she could. Which leads me to my next point; Melania has consistently defended the heinous comments Donald has made about immigrants and women, of which she is both.

So, while I understand that coercion is a powerful force and that Donald is an arguably terrifying individual, Melania has made a choice. She’s made a choice to support a man who stands for hate and injustice. Of course, the choice to leave Donald would be uncomfortable, and if she feels at all trapped, it would take a lot of courage. HOWEVER, I don’t think that it would require more courage than is required of people of color protesting for their right to exist in the face of police brutality and mass incarceration that differentially affects people with black or brown skin. Nor would it require more courage than is required of poor, young, single women who become pregnant with no access to affordable women’s health care. Nor would it require more courage than is required of the Native Americans who have put their lives on the line to block the Dakota Access Pipeline and protect their land at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Now, I know that I have positioned myself pretty firmly on the side of Melania’s critics, but I do want to end this piece by trying to empathize with a fellow woman. None of us truly know the private lives of the Trump family. What happens between Donald and Melania behind closed doors will likely never be brought to light in a factual manner. We only know how Melania presents herself. As someone who has witnessed the devastating effects of abusive relationships, it isn’t totally unfeasible for me to imagine Melania’s behavior as a product of the emotional and verbal abuse that we see Donald use towards his enemies. He is a bully. Perhaps he bullies her the way he bullies the disabled or the way he bullies immigrants. Perhaps she really feels that she has no choice.

But whether she feels that way or not, there is always a choice. Melania continues to stand beside a demagogue even at the growing sympathy that people are showing her. The American people are trying to give her a way out. Will she take it? Does she want it?

What do you think? Please feel free to reach out.


Image from Harper's Bazaar "Melania Trump's American Dream"