About 20 years ago, a young model took some photos for Max, a French magazine, which happened to feature her without clothing. Her now-husband is currently running for president of the United States. Although the pair are seen as a celebrity couple (and him a real estate tycoon), this particular type of attention translates into a completely different kind of spotlight, where the media suddenly feels the right to scrutinize every action of the candidate's family. So am I terribly surprised that all these years later, The New York Post published Melania Trump's naked photos on their front page?
Not really, for many reasons involving the male gaze, societal body shaming, and the political news cycle — not to mention The Post's reputation. What was somewhat surprising, however, was the Trump campaign's response, as delivered by communications adviser Jason Miller to CNN:
They are a celebration of the human body as art. There's nothing to be embarrassed about.
And he's totally right. Let's back up a minute and consider Melania. She is a person who has autonomy of herself and her body, regardless of who her spouse is. Born in Slovenia, she began modeling as a teenager, which eventually brought her to the United States, where she met Trump. She's been photographed by famous names like Patrick Demarchelier and Mario Testino, and appeared in various fashion magazine spreads. So, a prolific career.
Although she's put her work on pause in order to take care of their son, her career has spanned from modeling, to running a skincare line and a QVC jewelry line, to guest hosting on The View, to even a commercial for Aflac. The truth is that Melania had a life before she met Trump, and she — just like any other woman — has every right to make the decisions she has about her own body and career.
Sadly, this isn't the first time someone has tried to use Melania's model past as a political weapon. Back in March, an anti-Trump super PAC created a meme of Melania from a 2000 British GQ photoshoot in which she lies naked on a fur rug. It read, "Meet Melania Trump, your next First Lady. Or, you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday." Shaming Melania this way was actually more vile than The Post's front page, as it was directly urging voters to pick a certain candidate because the other's wife is "immoral." Trump, understandably, lashed out, tweeting:
Unfortunately, he aimed his rage at Cruz instead of the super PAC that created it, and he was wrong to bring Heidi Cruz into it, in the same way the super PAC was wrong for invoking the picture of Melania. Both were out of line.
As for the photoshoots themselves, they're an empowering embrace of the female body, and not something she or her family need to be shamed for. Melania should receive attention for her successful career — not for her appearance only.
Now that we've moved past the conventions and still have three months to go until the general election, it's best to reserve judgement for the candidates' policies and plans. But encouraging the objectification of Melania and criticizing her nude photos is simply anti-feminist and unreasonable.