The Melania Trump plagiarism scandal actually touched a nerve on me. After The Donald’s wife was caught having lifted a section of text from a 2008 Michelle Obama address, Melania explained it away by saying that she’d simply taken inspiration a little too far. “A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama,” explained speechwriter Meredith McIver, recalling how the two of them ended up watching (and stealing) words from the current First Lady.
That statement was pretty aggravating to me. It revealed the stupidity of the con that the entire Trump movement is attempting to perpetrate. Of course Melania would want to have sought to emulate Michelle. That’s because the Obamas embody everything the chintzy Trump name aspires to but can’t achieve: class, gravitas, popularity, power, style, accomplishment.
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump riles up rednecks by propagating the narrative that President Obama is a national embarrassment. In private, his wife and his team of handlers look to the Obamas as a family of which the country is actually proud. The hypocrisy of Trump words compared to Trump actions is rank. For her role in exposing this divorce from reality, Melania Trump represents the artifice and vapidity of our present election better than any other figure.
That’s why I’d like to lob a big ol’ fuck you toward the New York Post for forcing me into a position of defending her. This weekend, the paper ran a full-page nude photo of Melania Trump on its cover along with the headline, “The Ogle Office.”
This is a sexist, tasteless cover. If you’re someone who dislikes Donald Trump for reducing women to their appearances and injecting misogyny into the political mainstream, well, this cover does both.
Sure, Melania was a model. She took this photo in a professional capacity. It’s not like the paper hacked someone’s phone to get it. This is an artsy photo that wouldn’t be demeaning at all in a respectful presentation.
But that’s not what the Post is after. They want to grab eyeballs in the cheapest way possible, by inviting you to “ogle” a naked woman, and then generate enough prurient guilt to disqualify the objectified woman from any claim to respect in the future.
I have no problem with putting sex on the cover of a newspaper — even a paper written ostensibly for children. My issue is that the Post exploited a specific woman’s sex appeal while using it to mock her ambition to offer anything more. It’s every bit as sexist as Trump himself, and puritanical in a really underhanded way.
The Post and The Donald deserve each other. They’re both conservative trash fires that give New York City a bad name. But in an election set to culminate in the inauguration of the nation’s first female president, let’s at least agree that women don’t deserve to be disrespected by either of them.