First Ladies: I Don’t Care if You Can Bake, Pose Nude, or Have Great Arms

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Melania Trump GQ Cover

I woke up this morning, checked my facebook, and saw this  article. A quick search also found me this article and this one. In fact there are countless memes, tweets, blogs, and articles about Melania’s nudity. Some of them at least bother to debate whether this should have any bearing on Donald Trump’s eligibility as president. Most simply assume that her career should disqualify him. I will fully admit that I am not a Melania fan, but this has nothing to do with how I feel about Melania Trump.

For me, this goes beyond party lines. This barrage of articles is saying that a woman cannot be taken seriously if she has posed nude – that somehow removing your clothing means that you no longer have a brain. In fact, being perceived as sexual somehow lessens your moral fiber. I would call this a classic case of slut shaming, pure and simple. What the hell does Melania’s nudity have to do with Donald’s campaign? But wait, it gets worse.

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Melania and Donald Trump

A lot of the defense of Melania and her nudes seems to revolve around the idea that because she’s hot, she should flaunt it. As a nation, we should consider ourselves lucky to have such a sexy first lady. Yes, the occasional Trump person will come out and mention that she speaks four languages and she really does contribute, but for the most part both sides continue to focus on Melania’s beauty. Donald Trump’s repeated bragging about his wife’s appearance only reinforces the idea that the most important thing Melania brings to the table is her looks.

I don’t know which I find more insulting: the idea that we cannot elect a man because his wife has been seen naked or that we should elect a man because his wife is hot.

Candy Carson

Candy and Ben Carson

Going back a few months, let’s remember the incredibly unflattering comparisons made between Michelle Obama and Candy Carson. Mrs. Carson wasn’t “hot” enough to be first lady. No one seemed to care about her BA from Yale, her MA from Johns Hopkins, or her history as a concert violinist. All that mattered is that by our cultural standards of beauty she looked dumpy. So it turns out that a woman also cannot be taken seriously if she isn’t fashionable enough.

I also fully admit that I love Michelle Obama. If I ever had a daughter and her life looked anything like Michelle’s, I would be delighted. Not

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Michelle Obama

so much by the White House bit, but the Princeton and Harvard part followed by her highly successful career. Yet, much of the conversation revolves around her fantastic arms, how she supports US designers, but also wears H&M, and how gorgeously dressed she is. So much of her qualifications to be married to the man who is president seem to revolve around being hot, but not “too hot;” being haute couture, but also being down to earth.

 

In fact, the life of a first lady seems completely thankless. I always felt bad for Teresa Heinz Kerry during the 2004 election cycle. She seemed so intent on being her own person, on maintaining her own life, on continuing to work outside the White House, but her stance was seen as detrimental to her husband’s

(FILES): This February 6, 2013 file photo shows Teresa Heinz Kerry (L) and husband, US Secretary of State John Kerry, applauding during introductions at his ceremonial swearing-in event at the US Department of State in Washington, DC. The wife of US Secretary of State John Kerry was on July 7, 2013 rushed to hospital after falling ill, a US source told AFP. Teresa Heinz Kerry "suffered some kind of medical episode" and was taken to a local hospital in Nantucket, a source close to Kerry said. Heinz Kerry, a multilingual philanthropist born to Portuguese parents in colonial-era Mozambique, was undergoing tests and Kerry was by her side, he added. AFP PHOTO / Files / Paul J. RichardsPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Theresa and John Kerry

campaign. There is an expectation that any potential first lady will put aside her previous life: be it modeling, philanthropy, or the law and become a commodity. She must be beautiful and elegant, but not too sexy. She has to have had the career and education, but now her only job is to prop up and humanize this man. She represents family values and shares cookie recipes.

Cindy and John McCain

Considering that the first lady’s name does not appear on the ballot and that she does not receive a salary, I think we should pretty much leave them alone. If we are going to pay attention to them, I think there’s a lot more that we could talk about than who wore it better, whether or not Cindy McCain stole her cookie recipe, and Melania Trump’s nudity. So, this election cycle, regardless of political persuasion, can we all agree to focus on the issues and stop with the slut shaming, the nitpicking about arms, dresses, and baking skills? Maybe we’d find time and energy to discuss, you know, policy…

Talia Squires
Talia Squires is the editor in chief for bi.org. Talia has a degree in German Literature from Bryn Mawr College and a Master's in Critical Studies from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She's obsessed with good food, fantastic wine, and trashy television. She lives in LA with her husband and fluffy Lhasa Apso.