What a Nude Model and Ivy League-educated Lawyer Tell Us about Double Standards
First, she plagiarized the First Lady. Then, she deleted her website after getting caught lying about graduating from college. Now we learn Melania Trump may have done the very thing her husband wages his entire campaign against – worked as an undocumented immigrant.
The privilege America bestows on women like Melania explains why she thought she’d get away with all this. By appropriating not just words but an aesthetic not her own, Melania Iggy-ed the First Lady. And robbing a black woman’s labor and passing it off as yours is an apt meta-narrative for much of Western Civilization, itself. (By the way, white people – come getcha boi, Steve King).
But we should explore the double standard that causes half this country to, with a straight face, think wannabe and – Black Jesus-willing – never-gonna-be First Lady Melania Trump is even qualified. When coming from the same people who’ve spent 8 years – evilly, hatefully and disgracefully – slandering Michelle, the idea that Melania is anywhere near-par with Michelle is an absurdity, baked inside a joke, wrapped in an insult.
And, yet, the utter waste-of-space that is Newt Gingrich actually fixed his mouth to say, “If they were the same words…Melania delivered them a heckuva lot better than Michelle. So Michelle might like to look at the video tape, to see what a really great delivery of those words was.” The racism that compels Gingrich to think that is the same that caused him to call her husband a “food stamp president” with a “Kenyan anti-colonial” worldview.
Where Gingrich got this idea that the 1st first lady with two Ivy League degrees has something to “learn” from a nude model – with a grand total of seven college credits, whose principal life achievement is marrying a septuagenarian man-child – comes from a rich culture of undervaluing black, female excellence.
It’s a disrespect with which First Lady Obama is all-too-familiar.
Here is a women who skipped second grade and graduated salutatorian from her gifted high school, yet, teachers told her she was setting her “sights too high” in her college selections. Being underestimated has been a lifelong experience for our first lady.
Consider the psychological toll that takes. On an individual. On a people. Over time.
Told she’d never get into Princeton, she graduated from there cum laude. Then, Harvard Law. Michelle annually pulls down top spots on worldwide “Most Admired Woman” polls. She’s had historically high approval ratings – higher than Jackie-O, Nancy, and Eleanor. Mrs. Obama has been elegant, indefatigable, gracious to-a-fault, represented America unceasingly well abroad, and is a global icon of class, fashion, and fitness, a role model to untold millions.
Yet, Trump Reddit, “alt-right” blogs, and Twitter trolls have spent 8 years dining out on the most outrageously racist Michelle-hating. It’s why this racist cartoon was drawn – Melania festooned in all her resplendent whiteness, versus an offensive and masculinized depiction of Michelle. Insecurity masked as racism is why so many men find Michelle’s arms and Serena Williams threatening, “manly”, and “scary.” #MasculinitySoFragile.
Trumpkins parrot exactly the four stereotypes of black women Pat Hill Collins blasted decades ago: the Mammy, Matriarch, Jezebel, and Welfare Mother. Each involves largescale Creep-Squading of black women’s bodies, like a Congressman thinking it was okay for him to comment on, and find fault with Michelle Obama having a “big butt.” The First Lady has been called the president’s “baby momma” by a FOX…Faux News producer, and photoshopped as a slave on a magazine.
One time she wore shorts. Today put her decision up for the whole world to judge. 300,000 viewers voted, inviting comments like, some Americans “thought [Michelle’s] shorts were inappropriate or too short.” Yet, now those same shorts police want a former nude model as first lady! It’s not about clothes. It’s the woman wearing them.
At the time, FLOTUS apologized. “Sometimes I forget I’m the first lady and I’m running around in shorts.” Standing accused by a nameless horde inspecting her body, she – the blameless – accepted blame.
America had Stockholm Syndromed its First Lady.
“I will not feel remorse” is what the Oklahoma policeman who raped thirteen black women said at his sentencing last year. “Rape,” in the antebellum South “meant, by definition, rape of a white woman,” bell hooks reminds.
Against this, Ain’t I A Woman and Josephine Baker (“The rear-end exists. I see no reason to be ashamed of it… [some are] so insignificant that they’re good only for sitting on”), and The Bluest Eye assert a #BlackGirlMagic tradition of self-affirmation. There, FLOTUS found self-love. She recalled: “My first doll was Malibu Barbie. That was the standard for perfection.” Then she read “Phenomenal Woman.” And, she remembered, it “celebrated black women’s beauty like no one had ever dared to before. Our curves, our stride, our strength, our grace… clever and sassy…powerful and sexual and boastful.”
Only under conditions of white supremacy could it be said that Michelle is a “baby mama,” while – ironically – it’s Melania who is stepmom to four children not her own.
If Melania – who grew up lower-income and got out of it by marrying a billionaire – were black, we’d hear words like “hood rich” and “gold digger.”
If Melania were black, her nude modeling would be subject to slut-shaming, as we have a double standard when poor women of color make money off their bodies vs. the ways women of means do the same.
If Melania were black, we’d hear “side chick” in heavy rotation, since she started dating Donald while he was still married to another woman.
If Melania Trump were a black woman – foreign-born, heavily accented, former nude model, who got out of humble beginnings as the mistress to a billionaire 24-years older – she’d have less-than-zero chance of being First Lady.