“Arma virumque cano” is the first full sentence I learned in Latin. It’s the opening line to Virgil’s “Aeneid” and means “I sing of arms and the man.” Clearly, I’m not Virgil, so I will narrow my horizons for this column: I speak of feet and the woman.
The feet belong to the woman who is married to the president and they are by all accounts quite lovely, especially when encased in stratospherically high heels. You guessed it, I’m referring to Stilettogate.
In a week when Americans were fighting for their lives in dark water and a city drowned before our very eyes, some people thought it was appropriate to focus attention on FLOTUS’ choice of footwear when boarding a plane that would take her to Houston to survey the damage.
Initially, I thought it was just the usual mad twitterings of the mad twits on Facebook, people (usually women in this kind of thing) who are cyber mean girls. They try to disguise their hostility to President Trump and his wife behind concern for “decency, morality, compassion” but are generally incapable of keeping the masks on their faces for very long. Eventually, we see from their venomous comments how petty they truly are.
But these folks can be blocked and deleted. They are the rotten peanuts at the back of the gallery, unimportant and uninformed. The people who disappointed me were the adults who should have known better: journalists and public figures with an obligation to focus their energies on the victims of Hurricane Harvey and not on the First Lady’s fashion sense. This was serious stuff, and anyone who thought that ruminating on Melania Trump’s choice of shoes was appropriate is nothing more than a pathetic rube, right up there with the critics who made fun of Michelle Obama’s upper arm strength.
There is a time and a place for nitpicking about the first family, and most decent people understand that the agonizing days of a natural disaster do not fall anywhere within those parameters. While I didn’t expect the partisan chatter to go silent even while Houstonians were still standing on their roofs begging to be rescued, I did expect that the subject matter of the debates would be political, consequential and relevant. The height of Melania’s heels doesn’t satisfy any of those metrics.
The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan attacked FLOTUS for using the Harvey trip as an opportunity to show how different she is from the rest of the unwashed masses. “Trump is the kind of woman who refuses to pretend that her feet will, at any point, ever be immersed in cold, muddy, bacteria-infested Texas water,” Givhan wrote. “She is the kind of woman who may listen empathetically to your pain, but she knows that you know that she is not going to experience it. So why pretend?”
Why pretend, indeed. Givhan and her ilk have Melania’s number. When forced to acknowledge that Mrs. Trump had changed into sneakers on the plane and toured the devastation sans stilettos, the Pulitzer Prize winner sniped, “This was just a costume change for another fashion moment.” Oh yes, they gave this chick the big prize for a reason; she’s not only a writer, she’s a psychic.
Vanity Fair columnist Kenzie Bryant opined that it might not be Melania’s fault: “Have we confirmed whether or not her foot is part stiletto? That someone in the early aughts, exhausted by the whole putting shoes on and taking shoes off rigmarole, she just installed a five-inch steel rod in her heel? Can someone check, please?”
Give that woman a Pulitzer, too!
To their credit, some celebrities fought back, including Boy George, who said, “I’m officially against Melania hating!” Who knew that the guy who wears more eyeliner than I do would turn out to be the classiest one in the room?
Bottom line: I’m tired of pretending that the attacks on Melania Trump are anything more than the snobbery of enlightened liberal ladies, all of whom must be wearing nice, comfortable shoes.
Christine M. Flowers is a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.