Melania Trump does not deserve a redemption arc

The former First Lady is being lauded, but for what?

The First Lady should not be the first to have our sympathy. Photo courtesy of Andrea Hanks via Wikimedia Commons

by Kyla Dowling, Staff Writer

Since the Trumps’ glorious eviction from the White House, a lot has changed. Dogs are in the White House again, Biden has reversed the transgender military ban, but for some strange reason, people are still trying to defend Melania Trump. This defense ranges from celebrities like Chrissy Teigen praising her fashion on Twitter to The Hill publishing a piece on how she “deserved better.” 

Let’s get this straight: Melania Trump is not a victim here. She is an adult woman married to an authoritarian. It doesn’t matter that the media says it might be a transactional relationship or that she is gearing up towards divorce, she is still choosing to stay in the relationship. She stood by for four years as her monster of a husband let hundreds of thousands of Americans die of COVID-19, separated children from their parents at the border and put them in detention camps, and incited a deadly riot on the US Capitol. At best, she is a bystander. At worst, she is complicit.

At best, she is a bystander. At worst, she is complicit. 

We also cannot forget that she is her own person outside of her husband with her own beliefs. She is a “birther,” someone who believes that Barack Obama forged his birth certificate and was not eligible to be the president. She only believes sexual assault allegations when there is hard evidence. The woman whose fashion choices people are praising is the same woman who wore a jacket that read “I really don’t care, do u?” while on her way to a border detention facility.

Melania Trump could not be more clear about her viewpoints, and yet she garners sympathy. There have been plenty of memes of how uncomfortable she looks around her husband, and even a once-trending #FREEMELANIA hashtag, but what for? It doesn’t matter if her relationship with the former president is for appearance and nothing else, she still makes it a point to stand by him. It’s easy to paint her as a victim; white women, throughout all of history, have been seen as docile, virtuous, damsels in distress. But while Michelle Obama had to endure countless criticisms when her husband was president, Melania is viewed as an innocent person trapped by her big, bad husband. 

Now that she’s left the White House, people are pushing for her comeback. They’re pointing towards the good she’s done, like speaking out about racial harmony once, and . . . that’s about it. But as America moves forward with a new administration into a new era, it’s important not to let Melania Trump continue to play the victim. Terrible people can have good qualities. That doesn’t mean they should be praised for them, or, god forbid, that their actions should be forgotten because they have a single redeemable trait. And that certainly doesn’t mean they should have a platform — especially right after their power has been rightfully stripped from them.