It’s hard to feel sympathy for Cersei Lannister, the icy queen from Game of Thrones. She’s a vindictive, murderous woman whose only redeeming quality is her love for her children (until it isn’t.) Still, I cannot rejoice when her character is paraded naked before crowds shouting “Shame! Shame!” nor when her brother rapes her or her father brutally dismisses her. Her humiliation in those instances is too familiar. It’s not fantasy. The thing about those scenes is that Cersei is not being punished for the evil she’s committed — she is being punished because she’s a woman. Gender violence is like an invisible cage, and no amount of money or status can free you from it. I won’t ever cheer for it.
This is why the recent attacks on Melania Trump, an unsympathetic character, give me chills.
It’s not because she’s immune from criticism, whether for enabling Donald Trump or for her own bigotry, far from it. It’s because those valid criticisms have been taken as license to mock her unfortunate marriage to DJT.
Trump is an abuser. He himself has made that clear. That makes him dangerous to his wife. And she likely won’t be able to redeem herself without putting herself and her child in harm’s way.
The viral video of Melania’s face falling as her husband turns his back to her during the inauguration made many people laugh. But while you’re mocking their marriage, he’s likely terrorizing her for letting her face slip on television.
How do I know that?
2) An abuser’s greatest fear is that his victim might tell on him. Around the world, women and children in abusive situations are killed over revelations far smaller than what this GIF reveals:
Your denial of the stakes involved only isolates abused women and children further.
Believe me, they feel your indifference. They know that you don’t believe them. Their worst fears are realized every time people turn their heads, close their eyes and refuse to bear witness.
Victims of domestic violence, if they’re lucky, find strength in good samaritans — people who are disturbed and refuse to look away — people like Michelle and Barack Obama, who graciously waited for Melania on inauguration day and escorted her inside the White House. Even then, the relief is temporary. Eventually she’ll be alone with him again.
Don’t fear intimate violence in your daily life? Lucky you. Now shut up, because you know nothing.
The comedian Russell Peters has a famous bit about immigrant parents beating their children. “White people, please beat your kids,” he says. Why? Because immigrant kids want what white kids have — no real consequences for their behavior.
In Peters’ bit, a white kid tells little Russell, “next time your parents try and beat you, threaten Child Protective Services.” Little Russell goes home, threatens his Indian dad and gets his ass whooped like never before. Never adopt that angry white kid’s advice, Peters warns — it’ll get you killed.
Think about that the next time you judge Melania for staying with Trump. Imagine what kind of threats he uses to make her stay. It’s hard to understand them if you’ve never been subjected to them. It’s easy to be like the white kid in the Peters bit.
Remember, this country was so indifferent to Trump’s abusive ways, it elected him President. He has the lawyers, the money, and the muscle. He is free to humiliate any member of his family — whether it’s publicly agreeing that his daughter Ivanka is a “piece of ass,” or making it obvious that he cheats on his wife.
Once upon a time, Melania was literally an illegal immigrant, and while the hypocrisy of that fact in light of Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant campaign is obvious, her vulnerability should be too.
After multiple divorces, it’s no accident that Trump eventually seduced a much younger, poorer immigrant woman who could not defend herself publicly for fear of being kicked out of the country.
Though Melania consented to marry him, liberals who claim she therefore deserves whatever comes next are adopting Trump’s logic.
Meanwhile, Melania’s famous nude photos are empowering to Trump but not to her. He shows his wife off like a thoroughbred. She, on the other hand, can’t win. If she’s proud of them, she’s a whore. If she’s not, she’s a prude and a hypocrite.
Either way, Melania is stuck with a conman who raped his first wife, Ivana, because he was enraged about a bald spot, and whose idea of consent is to grab first and never apologize. Let me remind you that, according to this man’s lawyer, “you can’t rape your spouse.”
Speaking of which, where have Ivana and Marla been hidden? Ivana has been conspicuously silent about her daughter, Ivanka, essentially playing First Lady for her ex. Marla has reportedly been begging for hand-outs.
Finally, if you think Trump wouldn’t forcibly separate his youngest son Barron from his mother, you’re naïve.
Trump, like other narcissists, gets off on the impunity with which he transgresses norms. He wants you to think that Melania “deserves” whatever she gets.
Appearances can be deceptive. #BlackLivesMatter, for example, has disrupted white Americans’ benevolent view of “nice police officers who are only doing their jobs.” Melania, meanwhile, disrupts the commonly held belief that “a wealthy lifestyle means you’re safe.”
For abused women and children, the family home is not a refuge — it’s a prison. Despite what you think, prisons can come in gold.
I never felt for Melania more than when she was allowed to remain in New York with Barron. She didn’t want to see Trump every day — who would? And my stomach flipped when Trump looked over Melania’s shoulder as she voted. We turned that image into another fun meme — but ignored the darker implications:
Trump wasn’t just checking to see that Melania voted for him. He was threatening her should she hesitate.
Why? Because monsters hate being reminded that they’re monsters. Abusers beat you harder when you wince.
Forgive the frankness, but despite what you think, Melania’s job isn’t to get fucked by her husband; it’s to smile and scream that she loves it when he hurts her. He relishes her forgiveness of the unforgivable; her total submission.
Remember how he embarrassed her for laughs at the Al Smith dinner? It was played as a warm-hearted joke — but Trump never makes jokes like that about himself. And while Trump’s base may laud “Empress Melania”, her stunning good looks, and her submission to her husband, none of that makes her safe from him or his well-documented rage.
Don’t think this is just a private matter between husband and wife. Humiliating those closest to him gives Trump the energy to screw this country. Abuse makes him feel like a king. Not just Melania’s king anymore. Our king.
So don’t trash Melania just to get to Trump. He already tells her she’s trash every day.
If you don’t have the energy to go to bat for Melania, I respect that. There are many underprivileged victims of abuse in this country who need our support. I believe that we can support them without kicking a woman who, in one way or another, gets kicked every day, fancy clothes and shoes be damned.
Attack Melania’s birtherism. Criticize the fact that she hung journalist Julia Ioffe out to dry and didn’t care about the anti-Semitic attacks that followed. But please don’t talk about how she “deserves” her abusive marriage. You’re only empowering Trump when you do that.
For more information about domestic and gender violence: https://www.sanctuaryforfamilies.org/