Before You Say “Free Melania,” Recognize She Seems To Be Happy Where She’s At
Following Melania Trump's latest reaction (via spokeswoman) to Vanity Fair's long-awaited profile, it's clearer than ever that it's definitely time to stop saying "Free Melania," since she seems pretty content with things as is. The Vanity Fair story alleged that the Trumps' married life wasn't too far away from the internet's meme-ified rendering of the first lady — one who supposedly felt lukewarm about her husband and her new job. But Melania's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, was quick to counter the various claims and rail against what she claimed was a "false story" during an interview with HuffPost:
Mrs. Trump is a loving wife and mother who has always put her family first and that will not change. She is an independent woman who believes in our country, and continues her plans to serve as First Lady with integrity and dedication.
It's not a new thing for the Trump camp to deny, deflect, and redirect outrage when faced with less-than-flattering press. However, this firm and pearl-clutching denial of the details of the Vanity Fair story does indicate the true and final end to #SadMelania. The meme has been kicking around since before the inauguration, kept afloat by awkward candid moments parsed by experts, and, of course, the nearly 300 miles separating the first couple.
It's darkly satisfying on some level to imagine that maybe one of the big players, the first lady, might not like her husband either. And, further, it might give one a thrill to indulge in the (fruitless) hope that she could be the one person on the inside that might cease to hold rank.
In fact, one unnamed source in Vanity Fair's profile shared that very fantasy:
A fashion fixture who's known the Trump clan for decades shared with me his fantasy: "My dream is that Michelle Obama will convince her to leave him, and she'll become this great feminist icon. She will walk into the middle of everything and say, 'He's crazy. This is nuts. I don't know what I was doing!'"
But, it is just that: a fantasy. One that no clever screenshot, perfectly GIF-ed eye-roll, or clever SNL short could will into reality. Because Melania is, as Grisham noted to HuffPost, "an independent woman" who has the agency to choose the lifestyle she wants, America needs to realize that she calls the shots in her own life.
In real life, Melania largely stays out of the limelight, but still makes appearances when needed: whether it was repeating her husband's birther comments about former President Barack Obama, her smattering of election stump speeches, or to dismiss allegations that he sexually assaulted women following the infamous "Locker Room Talk" video (Trump firmly denied those allegations). She also gave America a taste of her own concerns when she selected combating cyberbullying as her cause to champion as FLOTUS — despite critics arguing that her husband indulged in that activity a bit himself.
Whether Melania is happy is ultimately something that really only she (and the people she decides to tell) will ever know, but implying that she doesn't know exactly what role she plays in the larger cultural and political conversations or that she is an unwilling participant is naive. Melania's silence and spokeswoman-led defense should be allowed to speak for itself.
Once and for all: Melania certainly doesn't need you to #FreeHer.