Melania Trump wants critics to focus on her initiatives instead of her fashion choices. But what does she actually do?
One could not help but notice the archaic view of Africa the first lady continues to hold as her controversial fashion choices likened her to the colonizers
Melania Trump hit out at her critics recently for slamming her fashion choices during her trip to Africa and said she wanted to talk about her initiatives and not what she wears. However, despite her rare defense of her designer clothes, one could not help but notice the archaic view of Africa the first lady continues to hold as her controversial fashion choices likened her to the colonizers.
The 48-year-old posted a video broadcast from Egypt, saying: "I want to talk about my trip, and not what I wear. That’s very important what we do, what we’re doing with US aid, what I do with my initiatives. I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear."
Trump's defense came after multiple social media users and news outlets pointed out that she wore a white pith helmet during her trip to Nairobi, Kenya, last week. Pith helmets have an association with Africa's colonizers. "It was the headgear that attracted most attention. Pith helmets – so-called because they are made of the material sholapith – were worn by European explorers and imperial administrators in Africa, parts of Asia and the Middle East in the 19th century before being adopted by military officers, rapidly becoming a symbol of status – and oppression," The Guardian noted.
The pith helmet Melania Trump wore during a Kenyan safari wasn't her most glaring faux pas. But some see her choice of a symbol of European colonial rule as a big error on the global stage. https://t.co/509wb8PJxu— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) October 5, 2018
Melania: What should I wear on my Africa trip to pay tribute to the culture and history of my hosts?— Owen Barder (@owenbarder) October 5, 2018
WH staff: A pith helmet. Definitely a pith helmet. https://t.co/JSmNkWM2RF
Reports stated the first lady's outfits during the trip drew comparisons from the villain from Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark, Dr. Rene Emile Belloq, to Michael Jackson in his Smooth Criminal video. Multiple social media users also criticized Trump for wearing high-end luxury European brands instead of supporting local African designers on her trip and reinforcing colonialist attitudes. The accusations sparked a #FLOTUSInAfricaBingo hashtag on Twitter, where many people called out the first lady on doing the things stereotypical travelers do in Africa.
Political science professor, Kim Yi Dionne, from the University of California, who initiated the hashtag said the first lady's understanding of Africa is archaic. "Her attire is a signal of her understanding of what Africa is in 2018. It’s tired and it’s old and it’s inaccurate," Dionne said while speaking to The New York Times.
Melania Trump wearing a pith helmet on her trip to "Africa" is more than a silly sartorial choice. It's a reflection of her outdated understanding of Africa. (Also, she was photographed in safari attire multiple times on this trip.) #FLOTUSinAfricaBingo https://t.co/aCnkOnPBF8— kim yi dionne (@dadakim) October 5, 2018
This isn't the first incident when the first lady has been criticized for her tone-deaf fashion choices. She invited worldwide criticism previously after she wore a khaki Zara coat with the words “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” Trump wore the jacket while visiting immigrant children displaced by her husband's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy. Donald Trump's controversial immigration policy separated hundreds of immigrant families with many children still living in camps, away from their parents.