​Is Melania Trump the most reluctant first lady ever

first_imgShare on Twitter Topics ​Is Melania Trump the most reluctant first lady ever? It might look as if she simply hates her husband, but the debacle of her child internet safety campaign suggests she actually despises the entire business Zoe Williams Share via Email Share on Twitter Shortcuts Share on Facebook Melania Trump Share on LinkedIn The correct response to the Trump spectacle is to retire in disgust, but there’s something about Melania. Everything she does is laced with this mesmerising ambiguity: does she just loathe her husband? Or does she despise everything about the entire business?From her black lace garb and appalled visage while meeting the pope (handily subtitled by Twitter: “Dress for the job you want #widow”) and her refusal to touch Trump in public, to her manifest joy in the company of Barack Obama, it often looks like straight spousal hatred. But then she launches a campaign for child internet safety, accompanied by a pamphlet that bears “an uncanny resemblance” to a document released under Michelle Obama’s name, almost two years after she was accused of partly plagiarising one of Michelle’s convention speeches, and it looks a lot like revulsion for the whole enterprise they call “first lady”.She would not be the first to dread the job. Eleanor Roosevelt, famous for inspirational quotes about teabags, said, of the night of the election: “I had watched Mrs Theodore Roosevelt and had seen what it meant to be the wife of a president, and I cannot say I was pleased at the prospect.” Mind, she was famously a reluctant everything (wife, mother, advice-giver).However idiosyncratic a first lady, Melania can never escape her context. Both Eleanor Roosevelt and Lou Henry Hoover had fine proto-feminist credentials (although Hoover felt bound to drop them all) in feminism’s nascent phase; it was when the women’s movement was established, paradoxically, that first ladies had to start acting like Stepford wives. Hillary Clinton, having begun her pitch as her husband’s intellectual equal, found herself in a cookie-baking competition with Barbara Bush, which was like watching the boxer Nicola Adams having to drop her final bout for some fine embroidery in order to win her Olympic gold. It’s not really a paradox, though, is it? That was the 90s all over; prove your strong views, then demonstrate how easily you can think the opposite, in case anyone doesn’t like your strong views.Michelle Obama drew that into a more comfortable, 00s shape with her apparently boundless enthusiasm for all causes, from freeing kidnapped Nigerian girls to the benefits of exercise. Melania may not be reluctant, so much as theatrically embodying a 21st-century cultural endpoint, a wry, impeccably groomed nihilism, ascending each podium like a woman who, sentenced to the guillotine, doesn’t care. Melania Trump … ‘wry, impeccably groomed nihilism’.Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images Share on Messenger Share on Facebook Shares8181 Support The Guardian Melania Trump Reuse this content Last modified on Tue 8 May 2018 17.00 EDT Shortcuts features Since you’re here… … we have a small favour to ask. The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Share via Email Share on Pinterest @zoesqwilliams Tue 8 May 2018 10.04 EDT Share on WhatsApplast_img