We Need to Change the Narrative around Melania

Even if Melania hates Trump and her marriage, that does not absolve her of accountability for helping to uphold this presidency, and benefiting from it.

Since Melania became the First Lady of the United States of America there has been nothing but confusion in the media. They just don’t know how to talk about her. Trump is despicable, disgusting and disgraceful. That’s an easy thing to say. But what about the woman married to him?

The media have at times infantilised Melania and at other times completely failed to challenge her or call her out. There have even been calls/jokes for Melania to give us a signal if she wants to escape the White House. This narrative is dangerous though and ultimately harmful to wider discourse around intimate partner violence.

The tendency to pity Melania and make up any excuse possible to absolve her of her actions completely undermines survivors of intimate partner violence. That is not to dismiss fears around Melania (although there was never the same urge to shield Hillary from the media even though there were allegations that Bill Clinton was violent against women). But it is to say that one can both be victimised in one way and yet accountable for other actions. Whatever the situation with Melania we know one thing: the position of First Lady comes with its own office and Melania has helped uphold Trump’s government. There must be a way to hold her to account for that.

“The tendency to pity Melania and make up any excuse possible to absolve her of her actions completely undermines survivors of intimate partner violence”

Within hours of Trump’s inauguration, and Melania taking up the role of First Lady, her jewellery range appeared on the White House website. There was also the infamous jacket incident, and yes Melania, you should absolutely care about children being stolen from their parents. Even before Trump was President, Melania happily jumped in on the ‘birther’ theory and plagiarised Michelle Obama’s words. Melania has her own White House office. Her support of Trump helps uphold his presidency. Even if she is a victim who can’t escape her horrid life of Trump, that does not in any way mean that her complicity in the oppression of migrants can be denied.

This dangerous discourse based on little more than the fact Trump is disgusting, harms discussions on intimate partner violence. We still must hold the far right accountable. We make excuses for Melania but still allow abusive men into positions of power in the first place. Everyone wants to see the humanity in a rich white woman, but what about the humanity of migrants who are deemed illegal?

Melania could hate her husband, he might treat her horribly but she also benefits from upholding and maintaining this far right government. Both those ideas can exist. Right now, the US needs people to call out everyone complicit.

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