It’s hard to know where to start with the latest campaign “scandal” — Melania Trump’s 20-year-old nude photo shoot, evidence of which has been slapped on the New York Post’s front page for two days running.
“The Ogle Office: You’ve Never Seen a Potential First Lady Like This,” screamed Sunday’s headline, followed by Monday’s “Menage a Trump: Melania Pics With Model First Lady,” which aimed to shock with the “girl-on-girl” images unearthed by the daily tabloid.
So what’s wrong with this picture? Plenty, from the mock outrage behind a nonstory about a woman doing her job (shame on its writer, Isabel Vincent) to the deeply misogynistic and homophobic decision by the New York Post to run it — not to mention the hypocrisy from all corners of the holier-than-thou GOP, which by all accounts so far is just fine with the pics, naturally.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller told CNN that the photos are “a celebration of the human body as art, and [there’s] nothing to be embarrassed about with the photos. She’s a beautiful woman.” GOP consultant Ed Rollins, who managed President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign, told the Post that he expected no fallout and that “the Christian right has made adjustments” in order to support Trump — despite his fathering a child out of wedlock and being on his third marriage.
The photos published by the Post with such glee are from a 1995 series shot in New York by French fashion photographer Jarl Alé de Basseville for the now-defunct Max magazine. Melania was 25 at the time.
Melania is no stranger to slut-shaming, unfortunately, and supporters of Ted Cruz were behind it the last time around. In March, a super-PAC supporting the then-candidate used similar nude photos of the former model in an attempt to persuade Mormons in Utah to vote against Trump in the state primary. Feminists, despite not wanting to defend the Trump camp, could not help but speak out against the sexism at play during that ugly time — just as they are now, thankfully, during this ugly time.
“A woman’s value does not lie solely in her youth, beauty, and sexuality,” Jennifer Siebel Newsom, CEO and founder of the Representation Project, which calls out sexist media coverage of women, tells Yahoo Style. “The New York Post’s recent cover story and imagery about Melania Trump perpetuates this limiting, sexist narrative.”
At least one tweet focused on the hypocrisy of how differently the GOP responds to Melania vs. Michelle Obama:
Outrage that Melania Trump is on the cover of New York Post with bare body? Matches GOP outrage that Michelle Obama had bare arms. @LoansNZ
— RiotWomenn (@RiotWomennn) August 1, 2016
Plenty of other non-Trump supporters stood up for Melania:
So @MELANIATRUMP was naked. She was a model. Now leave her alone.
— Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) August 1, 2016
Just saw that New York Post cover. Ugh, trash. I really don’t care that Melania Trump posed naked, & don’t like attempts to shame her.
— Crooked Jayelle (@GreenEyedLilo) July 31, 2016
I’m really opposed to shaming Melania Trump for posing naked. Don’t RT that cover please. She did nothing wrong ½
— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) July 31, 2016
100% anti-Trump but @nypost is a truly disgusting rag with those naked Melania covers
— Fidel Sarcastro (@KubahNYC) August 1, 2016
“It’s a terrible thing to do to her,” Whoopi Goldberg noted on The View.
Of course, in addition to the straight-up nude-shaming came the implication, on Monday, that posing nude while snuggled up against another nude women was even worse. It’s something that really angers Trish Bendix, editor in chief of lesbian pop-culture source After Ellen.
“Lesbian rumors and insults have been used against Hillary for years, so it’ll be interesting to see how these explicit images of Melania will be received,” Bendix tells Yahoo Style. “Her husband’s platform is one that, despite what he may tweet when convenient, is not LGBT friendly. These photos are for the Donald Trumps of the world — the straight white guys who see this kind of faux lesbianism (something not specific to but certainly embraced by both the modeling and porn industries) as something for them to be entertained by, and not any threat to them and their frail masculinity.”
Bendix predicts that Melania’s photos “won’t scandalize anyone because she was in these photos and poses for men like Donald to ogle over — and ogle they will. Sadly,” she adds, “Melania will be shamed in the process, which no woman deserves.”