When I woke up the morning after the Republican National Convention to find no fewer than three Twitter hashtags centered around Melania Trump (#Melania, #MelaniaSpeech and #FamousMelaniaTrumpQuotes), I braced myself for what I suspected would be an onslaught of anti-women idiocy. As usual, Twitter didn't fail me, and we are failing one another by falling for yet another silly distraction.
Melania Trump isn't a political guru; she's a former model from Slovenia and a mom who tends to keep to herself, and for reasons that are beyond my comprehension but also none of my business, she married Donald Trump 11 years ago. There's a sneaking suspicion that she plagiarized parts of Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 (Trump's folks deny this), but the real mystery here is why she is taking the blame when a team of speechwriters with one job failed to recognize the similarities while writing, cowriting or proofreading and editing the speech.
The deeper and more troubling issue here is that, all by its lonesome, plagiarizing a speech is enough of a sin to criticize. It's a justifiable attack on an action that many of us, and particularly journalists, find unacceptable.
But the Melania hashtag inspired some to post really ugly and disturbing comments about a woman whose sole crime is trying to support her husband. The entire idea that she or any wife is needed up there onstage to prove to the country that a presidential candidate is morally capable of having sex with just one woman is outdated and infantile. Maybe Melania and Company realized that's the reality of their situation and there's no point in fighting it. Perhaps Melania came around and felt she had something important to say. Whatever the reasons, there's no excuse for these kinds of reactions:
I can't believe Melania actually copied Michelle Obamas speech...What a stupid bimbo. Go back to Russia whore— Daenerys Targaryen (@_catpajamas_) July 19, 2016
Melania only had a month or so to write a speech. I am sure she just didn't have the time to do it herself... Busy Bimbo. #morningjoe— David (@DavidJHinkley) July 19, 2016
Melania attended Trump University while Michelle graduated from Harvard/Princeton University. So what do you expect from that white Bimbo.— Mrs. Old Bae (@coolminnie16) July 19, 2016
For the sake of honesty and so that you don't follow me on Twitter and then immediately kick yourself, I am not voting for Trump. I do not agree with Trump's political ideology, nor do I feel he has the foreign affairs experience needed to become president. But I recognize the hypocrisy that takes place when the same supporters of a party that is criticizing Trump for his anti-immigrant and anti-women remarks uses Melania's accent and looks against her.
A good friend argued with me that Trump is getting what he deserves because of the way he speaks about other women — most notably, how he rudely spoke about Ted Cruz's wife. Melania is not a victim, he said, and to treat her as one is to take the most un-feminist stance imaginable. I agree — to a degree. This isn't just about Melania. To prove that Trump stands alone with his foolish remarks, you have to resist the urge to join in and contribute to the cacophony. What we add to a conversation ultimately reflects back on us — not on the person at whom we're directing the comments.
In this case, calling Melania names or insisting she's a "bimbo" (a "bimbo" who, by the way, speaks five languages and raises money for charities like the Breast Cancer Research Foundation) is distracting us from focusing on real issues. It's also a form of slut-shaming that so many of us would never stand for — as long as the person we're shaming isn't a beautiful model who fell in love with a loathsome villain.
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