Melania Trump is already called “the most unpopular First Lady of the USA.” However, most presidential wives appear on the list of the best first ladies only after passing the title to a successor. Do you think Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton were admired in this role? Not at all.
The First Lady, unlike the President, is not elected. The new leader’s wife gets this position automatically. This “automatic” nomination can play a cruel joke: not being able to choose a suitable wife for their president, but clearly understanding how the president’s wife can handle political issues, people never miss an opportunity to criticize their First Lady. Having elected Republican Donald Trump the 45th president of the United States, the American people got Slovenian model Melania together with the new leader. Most probably, she will have to work hard to win universal acclaim. The Americans criticize her past, her accent, and even her style (this must be especially difficult to comment on).
Michelle Obama’s designer Sophie Theallet refuses to work with the new First Lady; the American media are intensively looking for compromising materials about the Slovene woman, while famous model Gigi Hadid wickedly parodies her speech during the American Music Awards ceremony (she apologizes later, but not so publicly – in Instagram).
As you know, it is difficult to please the public opinion. Despite the fact that the institution of the First Lady has existed for more than two centuries, no one knows the formula of a perfect First Lady. Every First Lady has something that the people and the world will certainly treat as an unpardonable sin.
Sin one: excessive participation in government
Much has changed since the 19th century, when the term “the First Lady” entered the political lexicon. Instead of being her spouse’s silent shadow, the wife of the president becomes a full-fledged subject of national policy and an active player in the international arena. For example, since 1993 the First Lady enjoys the status of “a functional equivalent of advisor to the President” in the US legal system.
Of course, active participation of President’s wives in the political life of the country apart from the President himself inevitably causes a huge storm of criticism on the part of many citizens. Thus, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, was often criticized for excessive interest in politics despite her success in diplomacy, in promoting the creation of the United Nations, and in many other things (Truman later called her the “First Lady of the World”). There were people who thought it would be better for her to spend more time at home, taking care of the children.
Eva, the first wife of Argentina’s President Juan Peron irritated the country’s Congress for her requirements to safeguard women’s rights, as well as for her active work at strengthening the Peronist regime.
Even Hillary Clinton failed to avoid global condemnation. As the First Lady of the United States in the1990-s, she was actively promoting the health care reform, but the project was supported neither by the medical community, nor even by society or Congress. She had to resign from the position of head of the health reform committee.
Sin two: lack of initiative
It is surprising, but the world equally criticizes the First Ladies for their excessive role in the political life of the country and arranging lush receptions. For example, Eva Peron was condemned by many conservative Argentines, but Juan’s third wife, Isabel, was openly disliked. As the First Lady of Argentina, she took no active part in her husband’s activity, so after his death she failed to cope with the role of a political leader, having automatically become the first woman president of the country. As a result, she was punished by house arrest and deportation.
President Eisenhower’s wife Mamie was often accused of excessive secrecy. She carefully protected the details of their life. The thrifty and modest mistress rarely appeared in public and was given a ridiculous verdict of alcoholism. Mamie suffered from the inflammation of the inner ear, which affected her balance, but no one knew this, so rumors appeared that the First Lady had obvious problems with alcohol. She stayed at home and rarely appeared in public.
Sin three: dubious past
It has recently been spoken a lot about Melania’s erotic photo shoot for American GQ that took place years ago. Of course, America has not had a single presidential wife, except Mrs. Trump, whom the people would see “nude”, but she is not the only First Lady to have done so on a global scale.
For example, Isabel Peron’s past caused considerable people’s irritation as she was the former Panamanian nightclub dancer. Carla Bruni, the wife of French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, was criticized for erotic pictures taken by Michel Comte. However, the French electorate reacted to Carla’s work as a top model more calmly than in any other country. Moreover, having become the First Lady, Carla demonstrated an elegant and restrained style of dress and behavior and even won the 2008 title of the new Jacqueline Kennedy according to the Vanity Fair magazine.
Sin four: lack of style
The position of the First Lady obliges women to always be elegant. Wearing expensive clothes is a skill which, unfortunately, even the wife of a president or prime minister may fail to have.
For example, the wife of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Veronica, was often blamed for brilliant vulgar costumes, an abundance of jewelry and too heavy makeup. The voters from around the world dislike simple styles as well: George W. Bush’s spouse Laura failed to fascinate the Americans. The 43rd First Lady of the United States preferred shapeless and colorless pantsuits, so many voters called her a simpleton. Michelle Obama was also repeatedly exposed to sharp criticism. During the 8 years of her husband’s presidency, she repeatedly topped the list of the most tasteless First Ladies of America. This happened despite the existence of a personal stylist.
Sin five: a flawless style
Paradoxically, the First Ladies are as fiercely criticized for their perfect style as for its absence. It seems incredible, but even Jacqueline Kennedy once suffered because of her great style of dressing. The audience found Jacqueline’s famous double-breasted leopard coat too vulgar. However, this criticism did not last long: the public later admitted that even such a “gaudy” print looked perfect on Jackie.
In the eyes of the Soviet people, one of the major sins of the “perestroika” policy was the elegant style of Raisa Gorbachev. Her perfect tailored suits, colorful coats and expensive jewelry fascinated the Western press, but, of course, undermined the love and credibility of the Soviet citizens, who suffered from the scarcity of food at that time.
Sin six: love of luxury and extravagance
Lack of talent to dress, natural shyness or a strong character are the traits which people are born with and only then, if desired, start fighting with. Irrational use of taxpayers ‘money is a conscious choice that undermines the citizens’ trust in government.
Nancy Reagan was often accused of inefficient use of the federal treasury and greed for luxury. She could not resist buying designer clothes and antiques. Moreover, in 1988, the Washington Post newspaper published an article, where the anonymous experts from the Tax Office calculated how much money Mrs. Reagan’s design gifts had cost the US treasury in the form of unpaid taxes. The amount was estimated at several million dollars. The issue, however, was hushed, and then the people forgave Nancy her sin, so now she is often called the best First Lady in the US history.
The Filipinos, however, were not so tolerant and did not reduce their reaction to the simple condemnation of the First Lady. President Ferdinand Marcos’ wife Imelda had the habit of flying to the United States for shopping at the expense of the state budget. This raised massive dissatisfaction with the Philippine government regime, which eventually led to overthrowing the government.
It is both early and difficult to say how the attitude of the Americans to their new First Lady Melania Trump will develop. But one thing can be said with certainty: it’ll be interesting to observe this process.