Let me preface this with a disclaimer: I do not consider myself a fan of Melania Trump for quite a few reasons. Her intellectual contributions to her husband’s campaign have been minimal, to say the least, and she’s done little with the global platform she’s been afforded. Not to mention a series of questionable personal choices (of which her marriage to Donald Trump is perhaps the pinnacle).
I say all of this not to bash Mrs. Trump, but to ingratiate myself to an audience that may find themselves gleefully reveling in fashion’s very public rejection of a woman based solely on who she sleeps next to each night.
In the wake of Sophie Theallet’s industry-wide call to refuse to dress Mrs. Trump, as well as Fashionista’s refusal to cover the soon-to-be First Lady’s wardrobe, it’s high time we talk about the implications of refusing a woman service based on her husband’s political leanings- however offensive we may find them.
“Integrity is our only true currency,” Ms. Theallet eloquently concludes in her letter.
A noble claim. Or is it?
For a figurehead who speaks on a platform of female empowerment, she sure has no qualms about shaming and isolating one of her own. More concerning, however, is the hypocrisy with which the designer – and indeed, much of the fashion industry – dismisses Mrs. Trump as a reflection of the values (or lack thereof) purported by her husband as he campaigned for the highest office in the land.
Fashion has had a well-documented history with Mrs. Obama, and, similarly, with Hillary Clinton. Notably, Anna Wintour has actively campaigned on behalf of Mrs. Clinton without giving a second thought as to whether or not her presidential candidate of choice was guilty of her husband’s sins, including a lurid history of infidelity and alleged sexual assault. Moreover, the women who have accused Mr. Clinton of sexual misconduct have made claims that Hillary Clinton herself attempted to silence them.
And yet, curiously enough, not a peep from the fashion industry. In fact, as many major publications have chosen to endorse Mrs. Clinton during the 2016 election, they have worked to distance her from her husband’s wrongdoings, claiming that a woman is not culpable for her husband’s transgressions.
There is something seriously awry in the arguments put forth that attempt to justify refusing service to Mrs. Trump. This is neither an endorsement or rejection of any candidate (or their wives), but rather an inquiry into the very flawed line of thinking that got us here.
I’m inclined to say that we can’t have it both ways, that if we condemn Melania for her husband’s offenses, we must condemn Hillary, too. Similarly, if we find it acceptable to refuse professional services to a person based on our moral outrage at his or her lifestyle, shouldn’t citizens have the right to refuse service to, say, gay couples seeking services related to their wedding ceremonies? Surely this can’t be what Ms. Theallet had in mind.
So which is it?