I must confess, I didn’t see this variation of the Naked Teacher Principle coming.
That long-running topic on Ethics Alarms involves teachers who allow naked or sexually provocative photographs of themselves to become available to their pre-college age students. The verdict here is that such teachers have no basis for complaint if their employers subsequently judge them to be fatally diminished as role models and authority figures, having traversed into the category of sex objects, at least for some students. There are many variations of the principle that have been explored here, some requiring substantive exceptions, like The Provocatively-Clad Bodybuilding Teacher Principle. Some are slam-dunks, like the Online-Porn Star Teacher Principle.
Today the question raised is how we should feel about potential First Ladies who have left naked photo-shoots in their wake. Melania Trump, now the speech-writer trophy wife of GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump, was previously not a role model, but just a model, and occasionally a naked model. The tabloid New York Post somehow got a hold of some of her more stimulating photos and published them, the first batch with the typical Post headline, “The Ogle Office,” and the second, showing Mrs, Trump in some girl-on-girl action…
…headlined, “Menage a Trump.”
Is this unfair of the Post? Is this below-the-belt, attacking Melania to get at her husband?
The Trump-hating Huffington Post, which puts the following questionable description of Trump under every article including his name…
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.
…(someday remind me to unpack this, which is substantially unfair and misleading) has rushed to Melania’s rescue in an article by Zeba Blay, a typical HuffPo social justice warrior of impaired analytical skills, arguing that “You Can Be Anti-Trump Without Slut-Shaming Melania.”
Boy, is it terrible…hypocritical, inconsistent, illogical, silly.
1. Central to Hillary Clinton’s argument that she is qualified to be President is that she spent 8 years as First Lady. This means that the Democrats, whose number includes just about everyone connected with the Huffington Post, believe that First Lady is a substantive position. I don’t think it is, or should be, but that’s what Trump’s opponents are arguing, because if they don’t believe that, there goes about half of Hillary’s claim to have relevant experience. Melania’s past, her judgment, her values and past conduct are, therefore, according to Trump’s opponents, completely relevant to the election.
2. Blay writes, “Ultimately, the nude photos are irrelevant. They tell nothing about Melania Trump’s character or her ethics, and they certainly tell us nothing of Donald Trump’s.” That, ultimately, is the call of every voter to make, not Bay’s. I can see where the choice to be photographed nude for compensation is relevant to assessing someone’s judgment and values. I can certainly see where a rational voter, who knows that the First Lady, along with the President, is a symbolic presence representing our nation to the rest of the world, feels that Melania’s image as nude model will not be helpful, especially to Muslims.
The photos are relevant.
3. Writes Blay,
“Defending Melania Trump from being slut-shamed and reduced to a “thing” rather than a person, doesn’t mean having to defend Donald Trump if you disagree deeply with his message. He himself, after all, seems to be pushing her body and her beauty as a selling-point.”
If Melania didn’t see those modelling jobs as “slutty,” then there is no reason to argue that she is shamed by publicizing them. She is an adult, and was when they were taken. She made the choice, and she is accountable.
She didn’t know she would be married to someone running for President, you say? I don’t blame her: she shouldn’t be. Still, there is nothing unethical about revealing the product of a potential First Lady’s choices. Nobody made her pose nude. She made the decision to accept money to be objectified, and she is estopped from complaining that those photos objectify her. She consented. Why should the Post, or Blay, hesitate to publicize photos made with Melania’s full cooperation? Blay’s argument would apply to naked photos taken without Mrs. Trump’s knowledge or consent, but not these.
4. This is news. Of course it’s news. It’s news like Bill Clinton’s cigar tricks were news. What if there were photos of Eleanor Roosevelt performing a lap dance for a sailor? Irrelevant? If nude photos of the elegant Jackie Kennedy surfaced, taken when she was a moonlighting debutante, is Blay seriously arguing that those should have been censored by the press, because the public couldn’t handle the truth?
5. More Bland…
“Of course, the sexist scrutiny that Mrs. Trump is getting should come as no surprise. Michelle Obama has undergone similar attacks over the last eight years. She’s been called, numerous times, an ape and a monkey.”
Huh? So showing actual photographs of Mrs. Trump that show her in all her anatomical glory is the equivalent of racist insults to Mrs. Obama? Run that by me again, would you?
6. Again, Bland making no sense:
“What this speaks to is how the First Lady (or potential First Lady) is still viewed as an extension of her husband, rather than as an individual in her own right.”
Did an editor even read this junk? The photos are of Melania, who is “running” for First Lady in her own right. How is revealing something about her past not “focusing on her as an individual?”
7. Most bizarrely of all, the author, who doubles down on HuffPo’s official position that Trump is a misogynist, ends by saying that the photos “certainly tell us nothing of Donald Trump’s” character or ethics.
Well, speak for yourself, Zeba. While Barack Obama married a lawyer and intellectual equal, and George Bush married a dedicated teacher, and Bill Clinton married a political ally, lawyer and activist, Donald Trump chose for his life partner (actually the role is “partner until he finds a woman who is younger after the previous partner’s looks begin to fade”) a woman almost thirty years younger whose primary appeal to him is her appearance (we also know this from his own statements), who had to lie about her credentials and who couldn’t write her own speech without stealing part of it.
This tells me a lot about Trump. I knew all of it before, but maybe a lot of people don’t. He’s misogynist. Melania has the only qualities he cares about in women.
8. There is nothing unethical about the Post publishing the photos. The way the paper framed them was unfair and slimy, but the Post is unfair and slimy, pretty much every day.
9. Thus, the Naked Presidential Candidate’s Wife Principle:
Neither a potential First Lady nor her husband have any basis for complaint if naked photos of the candidate’s wife that she allowed to be taken become public, and the source publishing them has violated no ethical principles by doing so.