Over the past few months, it seems as though each week provides a new twist or turn in the race to the White House that gives, us in the media industry, ample fodder to condemn, ridicule, and more often than not, lampoon.
This week's presidential hopefuls' impropriety was no different. Prior to the Utah primary, an anti-Trump Super PAC, aptly named "Make America Awesome," launched a Facebook campaign in the state to dissuade Mormon voters from voting for, you guessed it, Donald Trump. In an effort to appeal to Utah's religious and conservative base, the organization employed the usual strategies: a cute baby picture that is meant to somehow represent the horrors of abortion and a quote from a beloved Republican figure (the other "R" guy this time though, Romney). But the SuperPAC engaged a novel attack, bringing the already deplorable mockery, that is our current political climate, to a new low.
"Make America Awesome" spread a meme of Trump's wife, Melania, using a photo from a past GQ shoot the model posed for, with the caption, "Meet Melania Trump, Your Next First Lady...Or You Could Support Ted Cruz On Tuesday." The meme elicited a prompt response from the Donald himself, which devolved into a bizarre, but characteristic, metaphoric d*ck measuring contest, between the two candidates defending their wives.
Now while I find the concept of dragging spouses' histories or appearances into a competition for the next leader of the free world irrelevant and reproachable, the message that the original meme alludes to, reveals a much more pervasive and detrimental attitude held in our current society. (Plus, I'm thoroughly annoyed that I now feel compelled to defend a Trump as a result of this political strategy).
The meme's caption, "Meet Melania Trump..." is innocuous enough, but the implicit message in the image and caption coupled together is, "Look at this slut. She chose to pose in a photo with no clothes on, so there's no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks that she could be a fitting first lady." This concept, that a woman cannot both embody an element of nudity and implied sexuality and professionalism simultaneously, is one that is widely held, largely erroneous, and intensely personal to me.
I am a host of an online news and talk show, where my intellect and ability to articulate my opinions and arguments is paramount. I am ALSO a woman unabashedly comfortable with her body and secure in her sensuality. I am both. And one does not detract from the other.
I am fortunate enough to have a great social following on Instagram and Twitter, that is engaged and attentive to the happenings of my life beyond my on-camera appearances. But as with most things on the Internet, there is a negative side (SEE: This Is What It's Like To Have A Vagina On The Internet for more). Whenever I stray from behind-the-scenes photos or the more casual "these are my feet on a yoga mat" posts in favor of a picture of myself at the beach or displaying my gym progress, I am met with a plethora of comments questioning my professionalism and qualifications to be a news commentator or "politely" instructing me to have more respect for myself.
How does that make sense? How does the encasement that carries my brain around, invalidate my intelligence and competence, when it's seen in its most natural and bare state? How does my confidence to post a picture of the body I nourish and love insinuate that I don't value myself? The answer? It doesn't. I have ample respect for myself and now it's time that society and the people who perpetuate these antiquated notions start having respect for me, and for all women who choose to embrace their bodies in this way, too.
I am intelligent and proud of the work I do. I am also confident in my body, work hard for it, and enjoy posting photos in which I can convey that. These two facts are not mutually exclusive. And again, one does not detract from the other.
Now I cannot speak to how efficacious Melania Trump will be as a first lady, God forbid Trump wins the presidency, but I can confidently state that a photo of her scantily-clad body does not give us any indication of that either. We need to celebrate women who can embody both their physical bodies and bodies of work and not tell them, once again, that they cannot have it all.