With every new presidency comes the expectation that the First Spouse will adopt a cause that is considered sufficiently non-controversial in nature. So as the doomsday clock ticked ever faster towards the Trump inauguration at the end of 2016, people not only speculated about which nightmarish regressive agendas Donald would make a waking reality while in office, but also about which one First Lady Melania would take on as her own.
The Slovenian former model has faced a barrage of accusations about her patchy immigration record, leaked nude photo spreads, and most salacious of all (and most relevant to our interests at Tits and Sass), suggestions that she once worked as a “high-end escort” in New York. For all these reasons and because it is the issue du jour with celebrities, suburban moms, and religious zealots alike, the anti-trafficking movement is just the ticket for Melania’s pet project. But before I explain exactly why that is, let’s get to know centerfold-posing, married-to-a-repulsive-billionaire, definitely-not-a-prostitute Melania Trump a little bit better.
For the past 24 years, each prospective First Lady has submitted a personal cookie recipe to Family Circle magazine, which readers then vote on to determine who will make the best wife and mother to the Nation, because patriarchy. If her pre-election baking skills are any indication, the current First Lady is a woman who does not give a single shit about political life. “Melania Trump’s Star Cookies” even look sad in their professional photographs online. In essence, the recipe is for a needlessly complicated sugar cookie which calls for two egg yolks but only one egg white. Why does she hate us? There’s a half-hearted dollop of sour cream at the very end which, I imagine, is supposed to be a feeble wink at her Slavic roots. Then, in some sort of lazy nod toward patriotism, she instructs us to “use a 2 ½ inch star-shaped cookie cutter.” If you don’t own one, you’ve already let the terrorists win. After you “heat oven to 350F”, the last instruction is, “Can I go home now?” To put this in perspective, Michelle Obama made “White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies.” See what she did there? Because Michelle Obama is always in it to win it.
But the unfortunate cookie recipe dates back to September of last year, and it was only the early days of the robust compendium of sad Melania anecdotes we would accrue. Her mood on Inauguration Day matched that of the rest of the world, at least when she thought a certain someone wasn’t watching. If Melania has ever been a sex worker—which she absolutely has not been and feel free to check with her lawyer about that—this is exactly what she would have looked like during those rare moments of solitude when her client was in the bathroom and she no longer had to emote. It’s the facial expression that goes along with that glorious freedom at the end of a call when you step back into the hotel hallway and can finally fart in peace and the sublime pleasure of leaving your armpits unshaven for the whole week you’re on a break from work. Oh sweet relief! Unfortunately, that brief moment caught on camera was but one of many things that fueled dark speculations that there might be trouble in paradise for Mrs.Trump.
At this point it seems like her passion project is avoiding her husband as much as possible (she is excelling at this) so it’s unclear if she’s ready to put much more on her plate right now. If her enthusiasm for public life and antiquated feminine kitchen tasks are any sign of her ambitions to come, then Melania will likely take a path similar to the more apathetic first ladies who came before her, such as Jackie Kennedy, who dedicated her Vassar education and fluency in French to redecorating the White House. Or Lady Bird Johnson shortly thereafter, who believed that planting flowers up and down America’s highways would add some much-needed cheer to hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veteran funeral processions.
But to take the easy way out like these women did would be a grave loss for an anti-trafficking movement that relies heavily on key endorsements from celebrities who have literally no idea what they’re talking about. It would be a loss for the Trump administration which could capitalize on the conservative agenda espoused by most anti-trafficking groups, just as many American governments before it have done. And most of all, it would be a public relations loss for Melania herself, because nothing says “I hate prostitutes and am definitely not one” louder and prouder than mainstream anti-trafficking work.
Here are the top six reasons Melania Trump should support the anti-trafficking industry as First Lady:
#6) Anti-trafficking Seems Apolitical: Since the term “trafficking” is defined by the United Nations as something violent and exploitative, it stands to reason that “anti-trafficking” must be good, right? In the words of the Commander-in-Chief: Wrong!
Sex worker rights groups, along with the tiny minority of anti-trafficking groups that actually care about trafficking survivors, are heavily critical of the abuses that have occurred under the rallying cry of “rescuing trafficked victims.” The people who are generally intercepted by anti-trafficking measures are migrant women trying to leave an economically depressed homeland and sex workers trying to work their way out of poverty. In fact, this pattern of international movement and labor is so common that Melania Trump herself could have easily been among the many women who rely on precarious ways to leave their home countries for brighter futures. If she wasn’t born with the facial symmetry and Barbie doll-proportions to attract a wealthy womanizer, and if she hadn’t had the good fortune of being at the right party at the right time in the right push-up bra, it’s unlikely that she would have scored her extremely rare “extraordinary ability” visa to work legally in the United States. Had things been slightly different, the soon-to-be “most photographed woman in the world” could also have been on the receiving end of violent anti-trafficking rescue tactics such as incarceration and fines, forced reform programs, deportation, loss of income, and cruel public shaming.
But luckily for Melania Trump, she avoided this fate. And luckily for her future career, the violent harms of the anti-trafficking industry receive virtually zero press, and the government efforts sponsoring it are uniformly bipartisan. While media seems to be slowly cluing in the to lack of reliability of many trafficking claims, anti-trafficking stories are still often published with little criticism, dubious ethics, and fetishistic imagery. It’s a free pass for Melania and so many other would-be advocates to get away with just about anything under the sun.
#5) Anti-trafficking Hysteria Complements a Conservative Agenda: It’s no coincidence that the anti-trafficking landscape is dominated by evangelical Christians, conservatives, and fundamentalist feminists, considering the kinds of laws that are enacted in its name. In other words, the Trump administration could make some major gains if they harnessed the power of trafficking hysteria.
First, conversations about trafficking pretty much exclusively focus on women, producing any number of reasons to control women’s bodies and freedoms in the name of protecting them, which should go along well with President Trump’s new-found anti-abortion zeal. Second, the conflation of trafficking with sex work has long been used to crack down on the sex industry as a whole, as in the witch-hunt against Backpage.com, which was undertaken with the specter of trafficking as its justification. Melania could represent law and order against naughty girls while her husband focuses on the “bad dudes.” And to prevent international trafficking, tighter immigration laws and harsher punishments for migrants have been put in place to restrict movement across borders. Sounds like the perfect women’s auxiliary project to Trump’s anti-immigration schemes!
#4) “Pizzagate” Was About Trafficking Obsession: In an attempt to slander Hillary Clinton during the campaign, some Trump supporters started the rumor that within her leaked e-mails were codes that pointed to an underground ring prostituting children operating out of a small Washington DC pizza shop. The now debunked conspiracy theory, which some say could have been integral to winning the election for Trump, was, at its root, based in cultural fears about trafficking. Despite the absolute lack of evidence to support it, excitement around the story grew until a local DC resident arrived at the pizzeria armed with an assault rifle to avenge the non-existent injustice.
When it comes to stories about the secret sinister behavior of their neighbors, Americans are willing to believe pretty much anything at this point. Who knows? A second dramatic trafficking-themed hoax might give the administration a green light to enact martial law at this point.
#3) Fake News is Anti-Trafficking’s Bread and Butter: What do the terrorist attacks in Bowling Green and Sweden have in common with many stories we hear about trafficking? They never happened. The Trump administration already has the strong bullshitting skills necessary to flourish in anti-trafficking, a realm where facts don’t seem to matter and scare-tactics do most of the talking. Due to the massive amounts of money being funneled into the fight against trafficking, the industry has already had its fair share of high-profile liars and cheats. Having her fraud revealed didn’t stop Somaly Mam from opening a second charity; the Trumps would be the perfect addition to this circle of Teflon-coated con artists.
#2) Anti-Trafficking is Usually Very Anti-Sex Work: Any good magician knows that the key to a successful trick is misdirection. Melania Trump might need a foolproof distraction since some more lurid allegations have come her way as of late, and anti-trafficking is the perfect fit. There were the nude photos of Melania Trump that surfaced during the campaign (no, not the spectacularly 90s GQ editorial pics shot on the Trump jet, but the even nakeder ones that could pass as stills from the Showgirls bisexual stage scene). Then things went from bad to worse for someone whose husband ran on a platform of restoring American values when one online newspaper and a small time blogger suggested that ‘modelling’ was really more of a euphemism. The Trump family sued for libel, won a “substantial sum” from the owner of tarpley.net, and is awaiting a verdict in the $140 million case against the Daily Mail. But does an undisclosed amount of money really convince the public that you’re not a super hot Eastern European sex worker who met her husband while working as an escort at chic New York parties hosted by an aging Italian real estate baron who rubs elbows with Kim Kardashian’s best friend, Jonathan Cheban?
A deep involvement in anti-trafficking, however, could really drive the point home, because targeting sexual labor is a vital aspect of the anti-trafficking framework. What’s been called the anti-prostitution “rescue industry”—groups that strive to abolish prostitution by any means necessary, even through policies that harm the very sex workers they seem so worried about—now focuses on “anti-trafficking.” In fact, many groups who bill themselves as “anti-human trafficking” were originally founded as anti-prostitution organizations.
#1) You Don’t Have to Fake a Headache if You’re Raiding Brothels in Thailand: If absence makes the heart grow fonder, perhaps a passion for anti-trafficking is the key to a healthy marriage. Ashton Kutcher, another high profile anti-trafficking obsessive who recently gave tearful testimony on the issue before the U.S. senate, spends an awful lot of his vacations overseas stigmatizing sex workers, and his marriage seems to be going pretty well. Considering the long history of American threats of sanction being tied to anti-trafficking measures in countries like Thailand and Cambodia, surely the local police can organize some state-sponsored raids for Melania to view so she doesn’t have to stay in the same time zone as her hubby. And any number of NGOs who treat the harassment and arrest of sex workers as a spectator sport would probably be happy to save her a seat.
Thus far in the Trump era, the President has held a “listening session” on the issue of human trafficking to report that he will direct the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to “focus on ending the absolutely horrific practice of human trafficking.” According to the Nazis over at Breitbart News, (Nazis who also love anti-trafficking, by the way), this move was made at the urging of his eldest and favorite daughter, Ivanka, who’s been considered by many to be the replacement First Lady and whose husband, Jared Kushner, is co-founder of the charity Tech Innovation to Fight Child Sexual Exploitation. Considering these strong family ties to profiting off the issue, her silver spoon background that is a trademark of anti-trafficking advocates who share no life experience with the objects of their aggressive compassion, plus the sheer convenience of actually having stepped foot in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue ever, Ivanka could very well eclipse Melania as a trafficking mega-star if it weren’t for one little-known fact: Dessert-based interventions are the ultimate key to anti-trafficking success. Advocacy organizations around the world are already saving women with chocolate bars, cupcakes, mini-cupcakes, normal-sized cakes, and yes, cookies. Might we suggest a national bake sale as Melania’s first fundraiser? Bon appetit, America.