Melania Trump, known to be a very private person, has nonetheless been giving a lot of long, juicy interviews lately. Coming off the heels of her much-discussed GQ profile, which revealed a sort-of-secret half-brother and resulted in author Julia Ioffe fielding anti-Semitic death threats from Trump supporters, we now have a long feature from Dujour. It is interesting, to say the least.
I’ve written before about how Melania's tacit endorsement of traditional gender roles and various other not-super-feminist norms may be disappointing, but is ultimately her business. She gets to be whatever kind of woman she wants to be. This latest interview, though, does raise a few issues. One of the biggest? Her assertion that “men will be men.” If you’re the kind of person who reads Bustle, I’m sure you already correlate that with the rape-culture-promoting shrug-off “boys will be boys.” It’s in their nature to be sexist, to objectify. Best just accept it, no? Wear pants next time?
Melania’s comment was in response to the recent mini-scandal over Chris Matthews ogling her two weeks ago, somehow blissfully unaware he was still wearing a live microphone:
“Unbelievable,” she says of Matthews’ comment. “That’s what I’m saying! I’m not only a beauty, I’m smart. I have brains. I’m intelligent.” She exhales, adding: “I would just say, Men will be men.”
She uses that same phrase — “Men will be men” — when asked about Donald’s old appearances on Howard Stern’s show, which recently resurfaced online. Stern once asked if Donald would stay with Melania if she suffered a horrific car accident, and he replied: “How do the breasts look?” A similar vibe was conveyed when Trump came out on stage at a town-hall meeting at the University of Pennsylvania in 1999 and shouted, “Where’s my supermodel?”
Does Melania Trump seem especially attuned to what language has come to be coded as sexist or dangerous? Not really. And while I stand by my belief that how she dresses or spends her time or puts in her face is largely her business, the eve of her husband’s appointment as the GOP presidential nominee would maybe be a good time to consider her language.
Later, when the interview turns to Ioffe and the racist backlash she has endured, Melania said, “She provoked them.” Would she have said that if Ioffe was a man? Maybe. But should she also be aware that this kind of statement — particularly when the woman in question is at this very moment fielding rape and death threats — feeds rape culture and misogyny? Yeah, she should.
In the end, it never really matters what her husband says; maybe the same standard will apply to Melania. But that doesn’t mean she can’t try to do better.