Wed, 10 Oct, 2018
Melania Trump slams critics: “Focus on what I do, not what I wear”
In what is considered a rare moment, Melania Trump has fired back at those criticising her outfit choices during her most recent trip to Africa.
Melania, 48, took to Twitter to post a video of her addressing the backlash she has received over her wardrobe, which many people believed to be tone-deaf and arrogant. But the video, which shows the First Lady in Egypt, has prompted even more criticism after declaring: “I want to talk about my trip and not what I wear. That’s very important what we do, what we’re doing with US aid, what I do with my initiatives.
“I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear.”
— The Hill (@thehill) October 7, 2018
The criticism from news and social media users started when Melania was photographed wearing a white pith helmet, which has historical ties with Africa’s colonisers.
“It was the headgear that attracted most attention,” wrote The Guardian. “Pith helmets – so-called because they are made of the material sholapith – were worn by European explorers and imperial administrators in Africa, parts of Asia and the Middle East in the 19th century before being adopted by military officers, rapidly becoming a symbol of status – and oppression.”
Users on social media hilariously compared the First Lady with film characters such as Dr Rene Emile Belloq from Indiana Jones and Michael Jackson from his music video for Smooth Criminal.
Many others were quick to point out how she exclusively supported European designers instead of showcasing the work of local African creators.
The backlash, which accused Melania of reinforcing colonialist behaviour, began a viral #FLOTUSInAfricaBingo hashtag – where Twitter users began to list the different stereotypical attitudes of tourists when visiting Africa.
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 It's a reflection of her outdated understanding of Africa.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 (@dadakim) October 5, 2018
— Matt Carotenuto (@matt_carotenuto) October 5, 2018
— Meja|梅贾 (@75Meja) October 6, 2018
Kim Yi Dionne, a political science professor from the University of California, is responsible for initiating the hashtag and claims that the First Lady’s outfit choices reinforced colonial attitudes.
“Her attire is a signal of her understanding of what Africa is in 2018. It’s tired and it’s old and it’s inaccurate,” Dr Dionne told The New York Times.
But while her fashion choices were ignorant, many raised the question as to what Melania actually does.
Her #BeBest campaign was labelled as confusing as the former model wanted to raise awareness on the issue of cyberbullying but given her husband's behaviour on Twitter and his notoriety of attacking people through the internet, the campaign fell short.
Many also drew comparisons to a campaign that was in place during Barack Obama’s run and noted the similarities between the two.
Even throughout President Trump’s campaign for the top position, Melania was given very little spotlight as Donald’s daughter Ivanka Trump was given the title of “unofficial First Lady.”
During her visit to Africa she was asked to comment on Brett Kavanaugh, the man who the President picked for the Supreme Court even after he was accused of sexual harassment. She was a woman of few words as she said that she is “against any kind of abuse or violence.”
She went on to deny the claims that Donald Trump labelled Haiti and other African nations as “s**thole countries.”
So, while Melania asks the world to focus on her work and not her style choices, the question that people are begging to know is, what is her work? And what is it that the First Lady has achieved since coming into the role?
This isn’t the first time Melania has sparked backlash over something she has decided to wear, as in June, she was heavily criticised on a global level for wearing a khaki Zara coat with the words “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” during her visit to the children affected by America’s immigration crisis.
During that time, the President caused an uproar over a policy that separated immigrant children from their parents after they were detained at the US border.
The jacket was said to be complicit and tone-deaf as the words emblazoned on the back were inappropriate for the occasion.
But one thing Melania has gotten right is that people should be focusing on the achievements and work of the First Lady rather than what she chooses to wear.