Melania Trump, President-elect Donald Trump’s third wife, is a former supermodel who came to the U.S. in the mid-1990s. As the second non-American born First Lady in the country’s history and the first to pose nude prior to arriving at the White House, she faces challenges that many First Ladies have not.
Emma Staffaroni, Instructor in English and an advisor to Women’s Forum on campus, said that First Ladies have been known for taking on a reserved, feminine role that helps gather more female supporters in the candidate’s campaign.
“Women are kind of emblems of morality. They are supposed to represent family values, innocence, goodness, traditional motherliness… I think that in a way she elevates Trump. Frequently [and] historically, this is the sort of role that First Ladies can play,” she said.
Though Ms. Trump was not an active spokesperson in President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign at first, more recently, she has spoken out. For instance, Ms. Trump said she would combat cyber-bullying in a campaign speech last Thursday in Pennsylvania.
Shu Sakamoto ’17 said in an interview with The Phillipian, “[Her focus on bullying is] not bad, that’s one of the things that [others] could actually relate to. She’s not saying she’s going to do something about foreign policies, but bullying is something that she does know about… I feel that’s good.”
Staffaroni said, “[But] her husband is counteracting everything she says that could be good. The cyber-bullying issue is one that is really important. That’s an awesome focus for a First Lady campaign, but [her] husband is a part of the problem.”
Women in politics, Staffaroni said, are more judged for their physical appearances than men. She said that Ms. Trump has presented herself the way most wives of conservative men tend to present themselves – upper class, hyper-feminine, and professional.
Lucy Grossbard ’19, a Clinton supporter, believes that Ms. Trump sets an unrealistic standard for American women.
“She meets the requirements of media’s ‘perfect woman,’ and she might set an example for young girls looking at her as our First Lady where we need to have thin waists, large breasts, and big butts [as if] we need to look like the perfect woman… She wouldn’t set the right goals for women,” said Grossbard.
Other students are more concerned about the message Ms. Trump sends about the role and worth of women.
Jose Arnold ’19 said, “I think that she is not an unkind woman, but I think that to be okay and to stand by your husband when he makes sexist remarks just constantly, there’s inherently something wrong. She’s either scared or confused or a bad person, because misogyny is bad, and anyone who’s misogynist is inherently bad, and so I think she’s sending mixed messages to her children and children across America. She just kind of confuses me.”
Misah Edwards ’20, a Clinton supporter, said, “I feel like Ms. Trump doesn’t even know what’s happening… I don’t feel like Ms. Trump does anything to help… There’s not really substance when it comes to her, she’s just kind of empty as a person, and I feel like she’s [Trump’s] trophy wife… I feel like that just brings worse expectations on women.”
The Phillipian reached out to four Trump supporters. All four declined the interview.
Editor’s Note: This article was written for the Journalism elective – taught by Nina Scott, Instructor in English.