Following Hurricane Harvey, an article appeared in the New York Times on August 29, denouncing Melania Trump for wearing heels while boarding a plane to Texas, to visit the site of the tragedy with her husband, President Donald Trump. While the heels made the headline, the sneakers that Trump changed into by the time she reached Texas did not. The hypocrisy and pettiness of the media is apparent — why were Trump’s heels even a discussion in the first place, especially when there was bigger news to cover, like the aftermath of Harvey itself? The bashing of Trump did not end with the footwear faux pas. Now, about a month later, media outlets including US Today, US Weekly, Business Insider and People are criticizing her once again — now for choosing to wear a pricey Balmain flannel shirt while gardening at the White House.
I’m getting tired of seeing article upon article from so called “news” sources scrutinizing Trump for the clothes that she chooses to wear. I don’t think the topic merits a place at the table with the nuclear situation in North Korea, the devastation caused by the recent Mexican earthquake and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. First and foremost, save your criticism for the fashion pages, if you must, and even then, take a moment to think about what is being criticized, because many of these so-called “arguments” against Trump quickly prove themselves to be both hypocritical and unsound.
First of all, I’m looking around for feminists to come and defend Trump for her clothing choices — both in the case of the heels and the plaid shirt. After all, a woman can wear whatever she wants, whenever she wants, right? An article from the website Everyday Feminism says, “Whether it’ll be pegged as too revealing, too dowdy, too shabby or just ‘too much,’ it boils down to the same problem: women’s clothing choices are constantly under attack.” Feminists have identified it as a problem, and the recent commentary on Trump’s clothing fits the description of what the problem is. Nonetheless, I have yet to see a single feminist step up to defend her.
It’s pure hypocrisy how many so-called feminists pick and choose who they defend. Trump is the wife of a controversial president and I believe that she is not defended simply because many feminists disagree vehemently with the president on many issues. However, the president should be irrelevant to feminists acknowledging the problem that plagues Trump — namely that she is being judged on the basis of her appearance alone, which, according to feminists, is not supposed to be OK.
Regarding the case of Trump’s high heels, what the media neglected to publicize was that while she embarked on the plane wearing high heels, she disembarked in Texas wearing sensible sneakers and a baseball cap. In short, she clearly never intended to wear impractical heels to a disaster area and came prepared with clothes to change into. That seems reasonable enough — there are many people who go straight to the gym from the office, entering in clothing that would be ridiculous to exercise in, but changing in the locker rooms into appropriate attire. I see a mirrored situation in Trump boarding the plane and I see no reason for the media to jump all over her. If she had entered the disaster area wearing heels, then that would be a different story and that was clearly the narrative that the media was attempting to create.
As previously mentioned, Trump’s articles of clothing are not the only things being criticized. In the case of her designer flannel at the White House gardening event, the price of the piece itself was questioned. Critics blasted her because although the shirt was simple, it is made by Balmain and retails at around $1,380. Both aspects apparently make it unfit to garden in. Perhaps that would be the case if you live your life on an average American salary, but if you’re worth as much as Trump, I think that it all sounds about right.
Doing a little math shows that as far as ratios, proportions and percentages, Trump is doing fine. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American annual salary as of 2017 was about $73,298. Now, the job of first lady of the United States does not come with a salary, but according to the website celebritynetworth.com, Trump has a net worth of about $50 million, so I will use the figures in the following comparison. A simple women’s, red, plaid shirt from Target costs around $23 — roughly 0.031 percent of the average annual American salary of $73,298. Trump’s $1,380 shirt actually comes out to be 0.0028 percent of her net worth.
That means that if these figures are accurate, at least percentage wise, the average American wearing a plaid shirt to work in the garden is spending more of their annual income on their shirt than Trump is on her own. My argument is slightly trite, of course — I realize that there is more at stake here than just the prices and the percentages, and it is true that celebritynetworth.com cannot and does not take into account many factors that undoubtedly contribute to Trump’s overall income. However, the point that I am attempting to make is that Trump has much more money at her disposal than the average American. Therefore, she should not be scrutinized for wearing clothing that is an absurd amount for many of us simply because she can afford it.
Trump is not the first woman to be scrutinized for these particular fashion faux pas either. Former first ladies Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama were both criticized for wearing expensive clothing during inappropriate moments — Clinton during a speech on economic inequality and Obama while volunteering at a soup kitchen. The situations for the three women who occupy different places on the political spectrum make it clear that there is something deeper than politics at stake here.
What seems to actually be upsetting people is not the cost of the clothing, but the message that is conveyed by the person who wears clothing that is expensive for certain occasions. In the case of Obama, the Lanvin sneakers that she wore to the food bank were, as FOX News’ Noelle Watters put it, “Certainly not a reflection of the poor economy.” One could argue that the $540 used to buy her sneakers would have fed so many people, and while I agree that the answer to that question is worth thinking about, I would also respond with a question of my own, namely, where does one draw the line? My sneakers cost $30 — just a fraction of Obama’s — but that money could still be used to buy food for starving people as well.
Is the issue even the prices, or is it an underlying resentment that there are people in our country who can afford much more than others? I’m inclined to think the latter and we could get into a whole conversation about the 1 percent in the United States and the unfairness of it all. However, my focus is on people scrutinizing women just because they don’t like their clothing choices, or just that their clothing costs more than some would like it to. Also, keep in mind that the scrutinizing wouldn’t be occurring if they were not in positions of service. I would venture to say that Trump doesn’t own many Target plaid shirts. Should she have to go out and buy one specifically to not offend people at the gardening event? She could certainly afford it, but it seems a bit silly, especially when she is continuing a program that was created by our previous, beloved first lady.
It seems that all the heat directed toward the cost of the shirt that Trump chose to wear might just be there to detract from the fact that she’s participating in a similar action to our previous first lady, who incidentally received scrutiny for the exact same thing during a different service event. Overall, I don’t think that the clothing women wear should be taken so seriously or scrutinized as much. However, if the scrutiny must take place, the media should at least provide accurate and logical information instead of making assumptions and spinning false narratives.