Does the First Nude First Lady Break a Glass Ceiling? By jordan gaines

On the night of November 8, 2016, the newly announced President-Elect Donald Trump took the stage to address his supporters with his wife by his side. Melania Trump, wearing an all-white jumpsuit that People Magazine called “a suffragette-inspired ensemble”, Mrs. Trump’s on take on the staple pants suit of her husband’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. Comparisons between Trump’s $4,000 jumpsuit and Clinton’s campaign wardrobe were a common theme in the election night recap amongst fashion and women’s magazines and many have pushed back on the need to constantly criticize the clothing of women in politics as being sexist.

Still while the focus remained on how reminiscent Trump’s jumpsuit was of Clinton’s appearance, all I could see was Mrs. Trump’s waving at her husband’s constituents and clinging to his with her bare, right arm. While People may have taken a dig at Trump’s history of biting off of other women with their Clinton comparisons, it ended by writing, “If there’s one thing both sides of this election can agree on it’s that our future first family, if nothing else, is certainly well dressed.” There was never a question on the appropriateness of her ensemble, a luxury that our current First Lady has not been afforded.

Despite there being a whole Tumblr praising them, Michelle Obama’s bare arms have been under constant scrutiny like in 2009 when she wore a sleeveless dress at the President’s address to Congress and on the cover of a February issue of People Magazine that same year. She was even criticized wearing shorts while on vacation in Arizona in 2010.

From a third-wave feminist lens the lack of decry towards Trump’s sleeveless jumpsuit could be considered progress and even a breaking of glass ceilings of sorts, as she is the first First Lady to have such a history. Six years later and maybe we live in country that no longer seeks to sanitize the female body, so much so that we have accepted a First Lady that bares more than just arms.

But instead of denouncing the then wife of the Republican presidential candidate, many media outlets jumped to her defense, like a Fortune Magazine article that stated Trump’s nude photos “aren’t important”.

Again, this should be lauded as showmanship of our country’s progress on the need to police women’s body. It should be, but if it were it would be missing a key component. This is the wife of a man who, for many, has exposed the presence of sexism and rape culture in America by building a platform on it.

In that context it becomes difficult to regard Trump’s nude photos as feminist win without recognizing how her freedom to bare all exists in tandem with her husband’s beliefs that women should be punished for having abortions. The freedom she is allotted is available to everyone. But while many women will lack access to necessary healthcare and birth control needs due to their level of education or socioeconomic status, Mrs. Obama lacks merit and resources in neither category.

So what is that makes the playing field between the former and future First Lady so uneven? What could possibly be the difference between the two women?

Hmmm.

In an election where white women shocked the country by voting 52 percent to 43 percent for Trump, while black women voted 94 percent to 4 percent for Hilary, the country is learning a powerful lesson on intersectionality.

Coined by critical race theory scholar, Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality is the study of overlapping social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. It is the other side of the coin to what Stanford University gender sociologist Marianne Cooper called “gender-political consciousness,” when explaining to Fortune why white women voted for Donald Trump despite his sexist history.

“Gender is not lived in isolation- it is intimately connected to one’s race, one’s sexuality, one’s social class, and to one’s ethnicity,” Cooper told Fortune.

In that context it becomes difficult to regard Trump’s nude photos as feminist win without recognizing how her freedom to bare all exists in tandem with her husband’s beliefs that women should be punished for having abortions. The freedom she is allotted is available to everyone. But while many women will lack access to necessary healthcare and birth control needs due to their level of education or socioeconomic status, Mrs. Obama lacks merit and resources in neither category.

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