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The image politics of Trump & Co.

The image politics of Trump & Co.

By Dhruv Shekhar

In an article in the Washington Enquirer, Tom Rogan brought forth the painful hypocrisy afflicting America presently. He remarked on the manner that the American populace greeted its former First Lady, Ms Michelle Obama and her style quotient at the ESPY’s while simultaneously desecrating Melania & Ivanka Trump for the same. The attempt here is not a way to reproach Americans for their affiliation and love for their former First Lady. Instead, it is the hypocritical differential treatment and sheer lack of respect for a woman serving the same role presently.

Beware of affiliating with Donald Trump

Right from Gigi Hadid’s infamous and poorly intended impersonation at the American Music Awards to Ivanka Trump being chided for her ‘fashionable’ attire (the same high-fashion clothes that Michelle Obama wore), it appears that the Trump ladies can do no right or any good. Their affiliation with the American President has ensured a continuing blot on any good effort on their part.

An example could be the barrage of attention that Ivanka Trump’s attire garnered at the recent G-20 Meet. A legitimate question could have been on her presence at the event itself and whether it served any American interest. Instead, the entire focus remained on how girly her attire was. It was a line of questioning which is not merely sexist, but truly unnecessary. As for the aforesaid question of her sitting in the meeting, being that she was a part of the White House delegation, it is not entirely uncommon for other delegates to fill in for heads of state in certain instances—an aspect even acknowledged by Chancellor Merkel.

Trapped in the Obamas’ shadow

Another issue that seems to dog the aforesaid ladies is their position as successors to the Obama family. The tenure of the Obamas was a transformative event. They were and continue to be the best representation of relatable high-ranking ‘public officials’ for many. While the former President was certainly well versed with his task, it was Michelle Obama who was truly surprising. With her campaigns centring on combating obesity and promoting free health care, she fulfilled her objectives. She made extensive use of innovative tools such as social media and talk shows. This understandably made her a darling of the American press.

It is easy to understand how Michelle Obama followed a proud line of upstanding and publicly active First Ladies. They enjoyed universal appeal, and include the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy. It is a legacy which is not only tough to match but takes some time getting used to. However, there is also an ardent need to acknowledge that in the limited time frame that Melania Trump has been the First Lady, she has been nothing short of dignified and compassionate, and has represented America well. For on the same day that Michelle Obama’s fashion sensibilities were being lauded, Melania visited a children’s hospital in Paris.

Milestones of Melania Trump

In addition to the above, the First Lady opened a healing garden at the Washington Children’s Hospital in April. It is the same place where a month prior she visited to help the kids plant the garden. Her continued involvement with kids’ welfare has also seen her visit schools with Queen Rania of Jordan. She has co-hosted and organised the White House Easter Egg Roll. She was also noticed hosting an event at the White House, commemorating the International Women’s Day, and delivering an impassioned speech at the International Women of Courage ceremony in April. Alongside these, she has ably performed the traditional First Lady duties in being a capable host to the myriad of world leaders who have visited the USA.

With her move to the White House in June, the initial months may have been aimed at acclimatising and developing a flagship programme for her tenure as the FLOTUS. It could have had kids’ welfare as being the centrepiece and could have finally led to more concrete efforts to squash cyberbullying. After all, it took Michelle Obama nine months to do the same. One would assume that the above would lead to her being accorded the same respect as Michelle Obama. On the contrary, all this has been under the radar, making her appear moulded more like Bess Truman than her predecessor. Rogan states that where Obama is portrayed as talented, courageous and beautiful, Trump is represented as a high-class prostitute. Her beauty is being held against her and her accent represents her apparent stupidity.

Moving forward on the right way

There are contentious issues which persist. However, debates and discussions on such matters are the way to move forward. A media-wide persecution of said individuals is not the way to deal with the concerns. The US is contesting with a renewed basis of racial tension at present. Along with it, there is this popularly elected leader who the masses are at odds with. Therefore, it is essential that further divisiveness is not created. As a lifelong Democrat, Michael Bloomberg recently stated at Villanova University’s commencement address that true patriots are those who understand the true ideals of America—liberty, equality, openness, and tolerance. They are those who serve the country ahead of party.

The actions of a large set of media are a defeat to a country which prides itself on being one of the centres of liberalism and the modern feminist movement. Though the persecution and desecration of two women due to their affiliation to a conservative man are representative of a skewed concept of feminism and anachronistic to the above thoughts, this is not to state that the outcry by the American public against Donald Trump’s actions and words is wrong in its emanation. But perhaps, it is an opportune time for America to recognise that not all is wrong with the bandwagon known as Trump & Co.


Photo credit: ospedalebambinogesu via Visual Hunt / CC BY-ND

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