Back during the Obama presidency, when Michelle Obama toured Africa wearing outfits that actually cost over half of the yearly income in some of the countries she visited, nobody in the media seemed to care.
In fact, most of the pieces about her attire were pretty much fluff of the People Magazine variety — an updated version of those old Jackie Kennedy pieces from the 1960s, paeans to the designers and, by extension, the woman wearing their handiwork.
The times, they have a’changed.
Say Melania Trump wore Nike socks out for her morning run. By the afternoon, there would be a slapdash think piece on CNN: “Why Melania’s choice of socks shows she stands in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and against her husband.”
Say she wore New Balance socks. CNN: “Why Melania’s choice of socks shows she has a tin ear toward America’s troubled racial history — just like her husband.”
Yes, I’ll admit that there are times Melania’s sartorial choices invite some serious examination. “I REALLY DON’T CARE DO U?” might not have been the savviest choice of garment during the liberal media’s “families separated” offensive, but that dominated almost as many news cycles as Hurricane Florence did.
Other clothing controversies have been somewhat less deserved. As Independent Journal Review reminded us, during the Trumps’ trip to the U.K., the media decided to evoke comparisons to Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” — implying Melania was trying to imply her husband was the beast.
The yellow dress was a nod to Beauty and the Beast. Imprisoned in a castle with a true Beast! But I don't care. Do you?
— Scarlett O'Corleone (@godfatherwind) July 13, 2018
Thus we come to Melania’s current Africa trip, where she decided to sport a pith helmet. In certain corners of this world where people use words like “postcolonial” in everyday conversation as if it were punctuation, that was an abhorrence apparently on par with actual colonialization.
Melania Trump wearing a pith helmet on her trip to "Africa" is more than a silly sartorial choice. It's a reflection of her outdated understanding of Africa. (Also, she was photographed in safari attire multiple times on this trip.) #FLOTUSinAfricaBingo https://t.co/aCnkOnPBF8
— kim yi dionne (she/her) (@dadakim) October 5, 2018
That’s Kim Yi Dionne, a writer and professor at the University of California, Riverside. She had some choice words, not only regarding the pith helmet but Melania’s choice of attire throughout the entire trip. Take this shot from Egypt, which was apparently a bit too 1890s-Britisher for Dionne’s taste.
She is trolling all of us. pic.twitter.com/jyk9q2hmSR
— kim yi dionne (she/her) (@dadakim) October 6, 2018
Dionne wasn’t the only one who was offended by Melania’s clothes, however. At CNN (of course), Betsy Klein and Kate Bennett went off on the first lady’s choice of accessories.
“There is no need to wear a helmet on the type of safari Trump was taking; she was comfortably stowed in the backseat of a Toyota Land Cruiser; however, the helmet is largely used as more of a sun hat,” they wrote.
“The Secret Service agents in the vehicle were not wearing hats or helmets, and the guide seated behind her wore a uniform beret. Moreover, while there are no enforced rules or regulations for what to wear on a safari, it is widely suggested that participants avoid bright whites, reds and neon shades.”
I’ll say this much for Dionne: She’s probably more consistent than CNN. She’s in academia, after all; if I were to inform her that Calvin wore a pith helmet when he caught his “pet tiger,” I’m sure I could entrust her to publish a paper called “Hobbes and Susie Derkins Were Captives of the Patriarchy: Toxic Heteronormativity and White Power Structures in the Sunday Funnies” before the week was out.
CNN, however, would only express interest in the inherent perfidy of pith helmets while Melania was wearing them. And the helmet wasn’t all they found issue with; Klein and Bennett were also interested in the fact that the first lady’s clothes were too “neutral.”
“On the rest of the trip, Trump has worn largely neutral outfits, often in contrast to her hosts,” they wrote.
“In Malawi on Thursday, she wore a silk taupe dress with pockets on the chest, paired with a leather belt. In Ghana on Wednesday, she chose a belted olive canvas top with chest pockets and khakis, as her hosts on the Cape Coast wore outfits made of colorful kente cloth. On Tuesday in Accra, she wore a rust red and white striped dress with a tie at the neck. The one exception, thus far, came Thursday night as she arrived in Kenya in a white dress printed with birds paired with a bright yellow belt.”
Here’s where the response would be entirely appropriate: I really don’t care, do you?
And that was more or less what Melania said: “You know what, we just completed an amazing trip,” the first lady told reporters.
“I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear.”
Check it out here.
— The Hill (@thehill) October 7, 2018
It’s funny — if the media was so utterly engrossed in the clothing of a female liberal cultural figure to such a great degree, particularly to their detriment, there would be such a hue and cry. Misogyny! Sexism! Power structures! Brett Kavanaugh!
Melania, though? That’s cool. They’ll go for it, no matter what. You know, I’m beginning to see the logic behind that jacket…
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