In case you haven't already heard, Melania Trump just wore sky-high stilettos to visit parts of Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey — and the internet has a lot to say about it. Yes, wearing heels to a disaster zone is ridiculous. That much is common sense. At best, the shoes are simply very, very impractical for the situation. At worst, it's a reflection of the complacency of her husband's administration in the face of a national emergency. In any case, it's not great. There's no way around that, whether you're a fan of the First Lady or not.
In response to the shoes, Twitter is having a grand old time tearing apart the wardrobe choice and, sure, a lot of the jokes are funny. Finding moments of laughter in times of crisis is part of how we get through horrible times as a country, after all. But, tempting as it may be, to criticize Melania's heels is to miss a larger, more important point. Melania Trump is problematic for many, many reasons. For me, what she's wearing comes in just about last on that list.
Choosing to ignore Melania's footwear choices has less to do with whether it was a smart styling moment or not (of course it wasn't), and more to do with the fact that she has stood by her husband as he continues to make choices that demean women, disenfranchise people of color, and demean the overall office of the presidency.
Melania stood by when her husband was recorded bragging about sexual assault. She stood by as he equated white supremacists to those fighting for equality. She stood by as he continuously hurled appearance-based insults at woman after woman. For the most part, she remains totally silent during these times of controversy. If she says anything at all, her response is often offering some sort of a defense for her husband's behavior.
If we want to criticize Melania, there are about a thousand places to start. And these are places built upon evidence of a clear lack of conviction on her part to fight for women's rights, immigrants' rights, or human rights in general — despite the fact that she falls into all three of those categories. Not a single one of those criticisms has a damn thing to do with what she's wearing. Much like the danger of focusing on Trump's media antics rather than his actual policies, the same risk exists when focusing on Melania's shoes instead of her actions (or lack thereof).
What's more, if we are going to criticize Melania for her complicity via supporting her husband amidst his incredibly damaging choices and words (and she should be criticized for this), then using an critique that echoes the most common sexist insult hurled at first ladies in our country's history is not the way to do it. After all, tearing down a first lady for her clothing being "inappropriate" happened with Michelle Obama, too.
Melania's camp has slammed the media for losing it over the heels, though what they're saying is fairly reductive (yes, most of us know that there will always be important things to focus on than shoes). Choosing to criticize Melania's heels when we could criticize so many other things is dangerous and, frankly, a missed opportunity to call the First Lady out on things that really need to change.
It could certainly be argued that Melania's choice of heels in a flood zone is a reflection of the administration not caring about the damage of Hurricane Harvey (something Trump himself has been intensely criticized for in the past week). But even if there is merit to that argument, using appearance and wardrobe choices to criticize a woman's motives or morality is an inherently flawed and sexist tactic. Women being considered less intelligent, professional, or serious for wearing traditionally "sexy" clothing is the most tired narrative in the book. Melania deserves to be held accountable for her actions, or lack thereof — not for what society says her wardrobe choices must imply.
Sure, the idea of Melania casually stomping through waist-deep water in high heels as boats go by where cars are supposed to be is cringe-worthy — maybe even laughable. According to the Washington Examiner, though, Melania's spokesperson noted that the First Lady has a different pair of shoes that she will change into upon arriving in Texas . More importantly, though, is the fact that calling her out for her shoe choice when we all could call her out for so many other things is a waste of time and energy. It doesn't hold her accountable for anything at all.
To say the very least, I'm skeptical if we will ever see the day when Melania stands up and takes responsibility for her complicity — we might not. But it's only going to be because we all spent time criticizing her for things that matter, rather than drowning out those criticisms with sexist insults if that day ever does come. And if it does, I won't give a damn what type of shoes she's wearing.