Our usually-silent First Lady created an uproar yesterday when she stepped onto a plane headed for Texas child detention centers wearing a jacket that read, “I DON’T CARE, DO U?” across the back. To onlookers, it was an indictment of everything that’s wrong with the Trump White House: deliberate and unabashed cruelty, blatant disregard for simple norms of decency and humanity, and a level of political idiocy that’s difficult to comprehend – so difficult that many of us were left wondering, Did she do that on purpose? And what in the world might that purpose be?
Perhaps, some suggested, it was to rile up progressives, so that right-wing commentators could in turn accuse us of being sexist by focusing on a woman’s wardrobe. If that’s the case, it’s a ham-fisted attempt at a feminist gotcha by people who don’t understand feminist complaints about critiquing women’s clothing – we object to demeaning, sexualizing, or judging women based on inconsequential and inconsistent sartorial standards to which men aren’t held. We don’t object to reading words printed on a person’s clothes and assuming that the person intends to broadcast exactly what those words say.
Perhaps Melania means exactly what the jacket says: That despite going on a humanitarian visit to children her husband’s administration has locked in cages, she actually does not care. Perhaps an undermining member of her own team handed her the jacket to publicly humiliate her and the president. It seems almost impossible that she just grabbed it as she ran out the door – Melania Trump is not a woman who casually throws on whatever’s draped over the back of her bedroom chair, or even goes out in public without careful makeup, a blowout, and chic designer clothing (the jacket was $39 and from Zara, not a typical choice for this First Lady).
“It’s a jacket,” Stephanie Grisham, the First Lady’s communications director, told reporters. “There was no hidden message.”
Today’s visit w the children in Texas impacted @flotus greatly. If media would spend their time & energy on her actions & efforts to help kids - rather than speculate & focus on her wardrobe - we could get so much accomplished on behalf of children. #SheCares #ItsJustAJacket- Stephanie Grisham (@StephGrisham45) June 21, 2018
No, there wasn’t. The message was easily readable across the back.
The “there’s no message” message was quickly undermined by Melania’s husband, who tweeted, ““I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!”
“I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2018
Just like the explanation for family separation policy itself, which, according to administration officials, was alternately intended to dissuade immigrants, didn’t exist, was biblically justified, and was the fault of Democrats, the story about the jacket is inconsistent and incoherent: A coat has a message written across the back, which doesn’t mean anything, except that it does.
Indeed, Melania often seems miserable in her role as First Lady. She clearly doesn’t enjoy public speaking or being in the D.C. spotlight. Her public interactions with her husband are often awkward. She would obviously rather be back in her gold-plated New York penthouse with her son and her parents.
So what’s stopping her?
Reputation and money, it seems – or actual dedication to her husband and, by extension, his evil policies. We don’t know what goes on in any couple’s marriage, but we do know that when Melania married Donald, he was already a famous misogynist who had engaged in a very public affair that humiliated his first wife, and regularly made clear that he valued women only for their physical appearance, reducing us to pieces of ass he collected like luxury buildings. He’d already made his racist attacks on the young men accused of raping a woman in Central Park (the young men were later exonerated, although Trump has refused to apologize); his bigotries were clear and well-known.
Melania made a choice to marry him. She knew she was partnering with a virulent racist misogynist. Either she actually loves a man like that, which says a lot about her own character, or she made a calculated decision to enjoy his vast wealth and bring her parents over to the U.S. to live a life of luxury.
If the latter, that is certainly her prerogative, and financial security is a reason women have married certain men for centuries. It certainly doesn’t indict Melania any more than her husband. For all the negative stereotypes about gold diggers, men who don’t see women as equals and instead choose to marry much younger, financially dependent ones who will silently do their bidding are infinitely worse. But that also doesn’t make Melania a sympathetic creature.
If her marriage was indeed transactional, she made a deal with the devil.
Of course, what Melania thought she was signing up for – marriage to a piggish man who at least was away much of the time groping Playboy models and leaving her in gilded peace – isn’t what she got when Trump decided to run for president. But that, too, is the price of signing up to be someone’s helpmeet and not their partner: They hold all the power, so they make all the decisions.
Melania could have issued an ultimatum: If you run for president, I walk. She could have left when he won the Republican nomination. She could leave now and never have to worry about money again – a tell-all book could net her enough to buy her own Fifth Avenue apartment, as well as priceless independence. It would be uncomfortable, yes. A good chunk of the country would hate her. But if she truly hates her current life, and if she truly objects to what her husband is doing, being hated by a bunch of strangers is a small price for recouping your soul.
She won’t, though, because there’s no actual evidence that Melania objects to any of this. She is an adult woman who has options, and she’s chosen this one: Being the attractive face of a racist, sexist, malignant administration that puts children and babies in internment camps. She is showing us who she is, and we should believe her. Whatever is going on in her head doesn’t matter. She’s not opening her mouth, so it’s her actions that speak.
And, of course, her jacket.
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