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Melania And Feminism - What It Means for Our Daughters

23/11/2016 12:42

I don't need to bang on about Trump and his misogynistic ideals, his religiously backed pro-life policies, his self-confessed pride at being a sexual predator or his appointment of the bigot Steve Bannon as his strategist because it is glaringly obvious that the man is a feminist nightmare. We are living in a world where even women voted for a man who wears his disrespect for females on his sleeve - how can this be?

The American public voted for the polar opposite of everything Obama stands for. They certainly wanted political change but I am not sure that they were quite ready for a presidential gender change. If Clinton had managed to take her stagnant brand of politics to the White House what title would her husband have adopted? Her First Man, First Gentleman, First Husband? Reducing a man to second fiddle, especially an ex-president, would have stuck in the throats of the proportion of electorate who fear powerful women. In the UK we have seen our share of strong women. Elizabeth I is still inspiring women 480 years after she was on the throne. Here and in other parts of Europe a female lead is less newsworthy, we are used to women in positions of power.

There still isn't a woman in the Oval Office but there is one going along for the presidential ride and her name is Melania Trump.

Melania will soon take up the mantle of first lady from Michelle Obama. Michelle is a strong woman and regardless of what you think of her political affiliations, she is a role model for women. A lawyer and writer there is no doubt that Michelle would survive in the world on her own without a man by her side. In speeches she has been an advocate for feminism recognising that we can not move forward as a global community by ignoring half of the world's population.

"No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens." Michelle Obama.

Melania is quite different. She is a model who purported to have a degree in architecture when in truth she left university in the first year. She is his third wife and is a pin-up for every misogynist ideal of how a woman should look - a little like a Barbie doll. Her academic credentials and indeed outward appearance shouldn't matter. What should matter is her demeanour and what she will bring to the table as First Lady. Her response has been that she will be 'very traditional'. Whether that means that she will be a feminist activist like Betty Ford or that she will support her husband by darning his presidential socks I couldn't say but I do suspect the latter. What I do know is that she has a lot of work to do to get out from under the glare of Donald's golden locks.
Guilty by association she supports the restriction of women's rights in America. She supports the idea that abortion should be illegal, that men can sexually assault women (as Trump has admitted to doing) and that breast-feeding is 'disgusting'.

What is far scarier is that so many people thought that despite all of this Trump was the best option. It seems that the consensus in the USA and the UK is that people are fed up with the status quo and they are willing to do anything it takes to be heard. In voting for change in this instance feminism is forced to take a step backwards.

In Trump's reality the gender gap shouldn't be a concern because men are the ones with the power not women. Trump has referred to women as 'aesthetically pleasing objects' which rolls back any attempt at narrowing the gap to a time well before women burnt their bras. If one of the most influential people on the planet openly suggests that it is okay to objectify women then there is real danger. Some girls are going to start to believe they are little more then the sum of their exterior assets especially when they look at Melania and wonder if she got where she is because she has nice breasts?

Even before Trump was elected equality was struggling. When reading about the gender gap in the UK I was disturbed to read that consideration is being given to renaming the subject 'engineering' to something which has less masculine connotations. It is as if the word itself is the guilty party not the patriarchal society that perpetuates the idea that engineering is a mans game. It's the same with toys. There is a trend to stick glasses and lanyards on dolls in the vague hope that by doing this it will encourage girls to become scientists.
What would incite change is if those girls were encouraged to mix some red phosphorus with potassium chlorate - maybe that would blow the idiocy from inside some anti-feminist minds.

I can not help but worry that with Melania in the spot light little girls, especially American little girls, will continue to focus on their outward appearance at the detriment of all else. That make-up, shoes and the pursuit of an unrealistic body shape will gain even more momentum as will the inevitable rise in young women's mental health issues.

What can be done? How can feminism possibly move forward when faced with this new world order? It needs strong women to stand up and speak up. It needs mothers and fathers to tell their daughters that this is not okay. It needs parents to buy their daughter a science kit over a lip gloss station. We need to understand that people have had enough of the lies of self serving politicians and have voted for a political shake-up. They aren't all sexist but Trump quite clearly is and we can't rely on Melania to be the voice of women - women must find their own.

'I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves.'Mary Wollstoncraft.'

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