Cooper: Miss America, #MeToo and Melania

Cooper: Miss America, #MeToo and Melania

June 10th, 2018 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

Miss America contestants can stop searching for that perfect, figure-flattering but modest, one- or two-piece bathing suit, and mix in a few KitKats.

The days of the annual pageant's swimsuit competition are over.

"We are moving it forward," organization chairwoman Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America herself, said last week on ABC's "Good Morning America, "and evolving it in this cultural revolution."

Carlson knows a little something about the cultural revolution. After all, she helped spawn the #MeToo era in 2016 when she filed a harassment lawsuit against former Fox chairman Roger Ailes.

Feminists have said for years the swimsuit competition was a tired vestige of a sexist past when women were judged by their looks alone. Women, they have raged, are more than meets the eye and deserve respect for exactly who they are.

All women except Melania Trump, apparently.

The first lady has been the subject of scurrilous, vicious rumors over the past several weeks as she recovered from kidney surgery.

The stories in mainstream press publications and broadcast news programs — not just the usual-suspect gossip columns — have speculated about her having a face lift, having left the president and her marriage, having agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller, and having been physically abused by her husband.

No modern first lady has been subjected to such treatment, which since her husband's inauguration has included intense scrutinization of her body language, the rumor there was an imposter Melania, a fake shoe scandal surrounding Hurricane Harvey, and cruel criticism of her White House Christmas decorating choices. But because the publications and the networks so hate Trump, and because he upset favored Democrat and would-be first female president Hillary Clinton in 2016, she has been singled out for harsh, mean-spirited coverage.

That's occurred even though she's an ideal modern woman who had a career — as a model and businesswoman — and speaks five languages.

In fact, she didn't fit the image of the women that feminists, including one specific candidate's wife, decried.

"I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas," Hillary Clinton infamously said when husband Bill ran for the office of president in 1992, "but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life."

The same applied to Melania.

In the fairly recent past, first ladies were treated respectfully, even lionized for their courage in revealing their medical diagnoses before entering a hospital for surgery. Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan, both of whom underwent breast cancer surgery and both of whose husbands were Republicans, are just two examples.

Indeed, throughout U.S. history, several first ladies, including Letitia Tyler, Caroline Harrison, Ida McKinley and Ellen Wilson, were ill during large parts of their husband's presidential terms and rarely appeared in public.

Melania Trump? Although her procedure was revealed and her condition was said to be benign, she has garnered no sympathy and certainly no understanding for taking time to recover.

Where are all the #MeToo champions to take offense at the treatment of this woman and first lady? Where are the feminists? Where are Gretchen Carlson and other supporters of the Miss America changes, who said the contest now will "put the ownership of a woman's presence and beauty in her hands," who said the changes will "increase the accurate portrayal of women in media," and who said women should "be able to show the world who you are as a person from the inside of your soul."

By all reports, the current first lady is quiet, doesn't relish the glare of the spotlight (like her husband) and prefers the company of her family. If she needs to take three weeks to recover from a kidney operation, so what?

Trump has now made several public appearances, and that has quieted some of the speculation. The fact the speculation was there to begin with, though, is a testament to the hypocrisy and partisanship of the national media.

Last week, her husband called the press on its "unfair" coverage, especially, he said, since several reporters had seen her "walking merrily along to a meeting" the week before last and did not reveal it.

Unfortunately, as long as Donald Trump walks through the halls of the White House, the long knives will be out for Melania and any and all things Trump. And as long as that hypocrisy continues, it makes it difficult to take seriously the claim that the #MeToo movement relates to all women.

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