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An Open Letter written in 2016 to Melania Trump: The irony of wasted power

You won’t read this, not in a million years.  But just in case, from one woman to another, one mother to another, I post this letter to you, Melania.

I don’t blame you for who you were years ago, for what you did or why you did it.  I watch the pictures of your naked body flow into my news feed, and I wonder at the unfairness of the web, where actions taken in a different time, for any reason, can come back to haunt years on.  In your case, it seems particularly unfair to blame you.  How could you have known that one day you were hold the power of American First Lady in those perfect, long fingers?  How could you have predicted your marriage to a famous typhoon, a man who convinced America to give him the highest office in the land?  The answer, of course, is that you could not, unless a fantasist or a lunatic.  People should not judge, blame or laugh, as though you were in possession of a crystal ball.

I do not share or repost the photos sent to me by mistaken, glib men, who titter with each other like little boys as they simultaneously degrade and lust after the woman you used to be.  Americans who shout at Trump for Sexism scatter cyberspace with your photos… I call them out.  My husband asked, “do you hate her?”  I felt surprised. “No,” I said, “of course not.”  You made a living using what you had, offered a major modeling contact at sixteen years of age, catapulted into the glittering, catty world of fashion houses in Paris and Milan.  If I lived in a tower block in a small town in communist ex-Yugoslavia, I can bet I would have done the same, given the opportunity.  Choosing colour after grey.  Money.  I find the sharing of these pictures unjust because no one is the same at 46 as at 16, or 26, or 36. But for our actions, we must be judged…

America!  Stop acting like Melania is from an alien planet.  This is a 46-year old woman from a progressive, little European country that resembles Austria and Italy.  With Trump since 1998, she has potential.

Melania, find the woman you once were.  Defend us against the misogynist onslaught.  Whisper in your husband’s ear, remind him to love all women as he loves his own.

Work to defend maternity leave, to tackle unequal pay and stop the de-funding of Planned Parenthood, an organization that helps so many women to make or not make desperate life decisions as well as reproductive health projects all around the world. Don’t let your husband promote the conservative cause, and persuade him of against placing anti-feminist justices to the Supreme Court.

Stand up as a progressive Slovenian to work for women’s rights.

Work to reverse the trend that validates the degrading and inhumane treatment of women based on looks or background.

Do not forget where you come from.  Do not sit quietly, hands tied, mouth shut, demure and useless, a voiceless manikin.

Respectfully,

me.

Beautiful Book Clubs Host Authors….

Beautiful Book Clubs Host Authors….

Yesterday the book club for the United Nations Women’s Guild hosted me here in Rome. Fifteen women gathered to listen and discuss ‘The Disobedient Wife‘ (Cinnamon Press 2015).thumbnail_disobedient_cover%20draft%206

Insights:

The title does not do justice to the central theme of the book, that close friendship and mutual support between women can be crucial to overcoming physical or psychological abuse.  I explained that the reason for the slightly flippant title was one of commercial appeal – I wanted a snappy, short sort of title that people would remember, and I didn’t want to put readers off!

I was asked if I thought the expatriate experience for women is more or less the same no matter which country you live in, to which I answered no.  I found people with different world views and priorities in Tajikistan than in Egypt, for example, where the former were mainly Embassy families, missionaries, NGO workers, and the latter, Oil Industry Executives.  In Egypt I had to work harder to find like-minded friends, but eventually of course, I did (and many were, in fact connected to oil).

suitcaseOne reader made the point that there are phases of experience that we probably all go through as expatriates, including the sense that as the years pass we become more and more dependent, especially if we move frequently and are unable to hold down or build our own careers.  It also may be potentially more of a blow when our children leave the nest, as then we really are absolutely alone, without access to the ready networks that international schools provide (whether or not one makes use of them).  One could say the same though, for many women anywhere, and it is a real reason why I believe that all expat ‘trailing spouses’ need space to develop that they can call their own.  For expats of course, this is complicated and must be mobile.  Thankfully, with the internet, all sorts of possibilities have opened up for us.

Another point that was made, was that domestic violence is endemic here in Italy and is on donnathe rise.  The reasons for this are not clear, but one member explained that as the economic situation in Italy worsens, tempers fray and women bare the brunt of frustration and anger men feel as a result. There is an organisation working in Rome to provide shelters for women as featured in The Disobedient Wife, called Differenza Donna.  http://www.differenzadonna.org/ which I want to highlight here, in case I have any Rome-based readers read this post. There will be a march on 26th November.  My friend Mary shared this report on this here: https://wideplus.org/un-special-rapporteur-on-feminicide-and-violence-against-women-in-italy/

Have a good week.