Most media will play up their relationship as the focus of the story. But another narrative has emerged: visible proof of Melania’s disgust for her husband is validation that she is suffering, which she deserves.
She supported his racism, sexual assault, and overall terribleness and continues to waste millions of dollars living at Trump Tower instead of at the White House. For the horrors her complicity has helped put on us, she deserves whatever distress or pain she’s feeling and expressing. She knowingly sold her soul for fame and wealth; she sacrificed any chance at a sense of agency to be a trophy wife to a known pig. And now she’s living up in a gold tower, first lady of the United States, pissing away our money. Why should we pity her?
Her situation — and the response to it — has echoes of something darker and more disturbing than a gold digger who wound up First Lady of the United States. What should disturb us is not that Melania, in all her complicity, is evil. It’s that she willfully became a non-person, and the dichotomy of that truth with her actions now is jarring. She plagiarized a speech by Michelle Obama. When asked about the “grab em by the pussy” tapes, she repeated, almost word-for-word, the same exact statement. She clearly and consistently regurgitates what someone else tells her to say. She has no record of holding personal opinions about anything. She is as close to a robot as possible, wholly devoid of personality or agency.
When you zoom out of thinking just in the framework of Melania or Ivanka Trump, the capacity for any person to relinquish all of their humanity to be totally subservient to someone else is horrifying. To be able to do that for a deranged monster like Donald Trump? For decades? It’s mind-boggling, to say the absolute very least.
But that wholly subservient robot-person is starting to glitch out — favoriting a tweet about how much she hates her husband, swatting away his hand during extremely public moments. These are wildly out of the norm for how this robot-person is expected to behave: docile, wholly committed, and loving to him. Those deviations are worth examining beyond a dark laugh about how she deserves to suffer (ignoring the inherent misogyny in the gleefulness of folks swooning with delight at the perfect target to direct their unending hate).
Could it be that all this time, she very consciously knew he was a moron and a monster? If so, why stay? Assuming she knew, did she stay because she’d lose her child? Her US citizenship? Her income? More likely, she rationalized away his stupidity and hatefulness because she saw something better on the horizon. Could it be that through everything, she believed there was a chance that his fame, and therefore her wealth, would grow? And now that it’s peaked, now that she is firmly in the history books, has she realized that there’s no reason to hide her absolute loathing toward this despicable, hateful idiot?
If we tiptoe down a dangerous conspiracy theory path: what if her public displays of disaffection are because she knows her husband won the presidency illegitimately and she’s distancing herself as a method of self-preservation? That’s such a wild claim. Here’s another one: what if she was told that, if she stayed and behaved and said what she was told to say during the election, then after the inauguration she would be allowed to have visits from friends and family and to stay in Trump Tower instead of having to join Donald at the White House? It’s insane to theorize, but it’s more insane that a human person so willfully gave up all of herself just to be Mrs. Donald Trump (yet clearly, that’s exactly what Melania did).
Whatever the case may be — and we likely will never truly know — this woman deserves no sympathy from us for her decisions to marry and support a monster and his evil, disgusting rhetoric. But to immediately close off all other avenues of thought, leaving us only to immediately hate her rather than taking a closer look at what she might be trying to say on her own for the first time in her public life— it’s like executing a convicted murderer right as they’re about to spill the beans on another suspect.
We don’t have to greet Melania Trump with open arms and a smile. We just need to pause a moment and recognize that if this robot-person who sold their soul is acting out, there’s something deeply, darkly wrong happening in the shadows. And these tiny actions shouldn’t be swept under the rug of blanketed scorn and disapproval.
Melania Trump is not a black and white issue. This isn’t a case of white feminism or sympathizing with the plight of the poor aggrieved millionaire/FLOTUS who lives in a gold tower, though that’s what those making kneejerk conclusions would have you believe. It’s about resisting the kneejerk and groupthink that closes us off from critically examining things around us. Melania Trump is dropping mad hints, and the easy immediacy of absolute hate is distracting us from noticing them. So let’s take a breath and keep our eyes open. She’s been with that man for decades and she’s starting to lose it. Let’s give her the space to spill a little before we send her off to get the chair.