First lady Melania Trump makes a lot of sense when she says critics ought to “focus on what I do, not what I wear.”
Mrs. Trump has just concluded a brief solo jaunt to Africa, where she visited four countries while highlighting her concern for children and women’s rights and well-being.
But then she got photographed wearing a pith helmet, the kind of headgear popular during the era of colonization of Africa. Twitter trolls were all over it, criticizing the first lady for her poor choice of hats.
Her response sought to remind her critics that she is trying to do noble work on behalf of children and women. That should be their focus, not the style of hats she wears, which critics said are too much of a reminder of the oppression brought to Africa during the years of European empire-building.
That brings me to an element that fills me with mixed feelings.
The first lady’s staff ought to be dialed in, focused like lasers on the image she portrays whenever she is seen in public. I am wondering why Mrs. Trump’s staff couldn’t foresee this kind of blow back. She wore that jacket that caught people’s attention. It said, “I really don’t care, do u?” while she was touring immigration camps along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Then, of course, we have the first lady’s signature issue: bullying of children, including that which occurs via the Internet. That is a noble cause to promote, but the first lady seems blind and deaf to the bullying that occurs via Twitter — from her husband, the president of the United States of America.
So, the pith helmet outcry seems on the surface to be overblown. Critics ought to concentrate on the first lady’s deeds, not her attire.
Then again, let’s take greater care, Mme. First Lady, to avoid these kinds of pitfalls.