Trump two-day visit to Saudi Arabia was an event that carried a lot of question marks with it – Trump’s performance on his first foreign trip – Russian affairs (and others) haunting him at home – his low ratings and many more. The one issue none expected were Melania and Ivanka. They became THE ISSUE.
During the Second Gulf War, when the US Army came to rescue Saudi Arabia, troops were all over the country. In an interview with BBC Arabic Radio, a female US soldier proudly said that the American female soldiers had come to rescue Saudi Arabia and their women from Saddam and the prison they lived in. That comment did not go down very well among Saudi women.
On his first foreign trip as US president, Donald Trump was accompanied by his wife, First Lady Melania, and daughter Ivanka (the unpaid special advisor). International media covered his visit from a political but also personal aspect, guessing whether Trump’s abilities will take him respectfully through the stresses of such a visit.
Starting his first foreign trip with Saudi Arabia, followed by Israel and Europe, covering the three major religions was less of an issue. The political and economic parts were one aspect. The appearances and looks of the two ladies were not an issue before the visit but became one as soon as Melania stepped out of Air Force One. Detailed descriptions of her jumpsuit, its colour, belt, and hairstyle – everything was commented on in social media. She looked beautiful and polished. Tweets from Saudi Arabia to the USA explicitly followed her moves from the first second to the last second in Saudi Arabia. It was an unprecedented turmoil in Saudi Arabia.
Perhaps not even Rihanna or Lady Gaga would have received the same attention, but definitely not Michelle Obama nor Chancellor Merkel, nor European Foreign Minister Frederica Mogherini, who is an Italian beauty.
Pictures of dazed Saudi guards, ministers and translators became a joke on Saudi social media.
Ivanka’s dress was sold out online within an hour. In short, no one remembered if Melania had said anything except her first tweet, but clearly her presence was felt. Ivanka was shown engaged in a meeting with the usual suspects Saudi businesswomen who OF COURSE donated $100,000 to her foundation that supposedly supports women in business.
What was the usual about Trump ladies Mealania’s and Ivanka’ visit to Saudi Arabia?
Clearly Melania and Ivanka Trump have been a hit with the Saudi press. News reports have praised both for their “classy and conservative” fashion. Donald Trump is similar to Saudi men’s mentality, they want women to behave, preferably look pretty in pictures, more than to hold positions of power.
Most importantly, both women were hailed for not wearing the traditional Saudi headscarves. International media pushed aggressively to not follow the strict Wahabi rules for women in conservative Saudi Arabia. This would have been a suppression of women’s rights which are famously low in Saudi Arabia. It is the country in which women suffer to get their basic rights. What about women’s right at the Vatican? Are they more liberal, so that it is ok to cover up? In pictures showing Melania and Ivanka visiting Pope Francis, they were head to toe covered in black.
Going back to Saudi Arabia, it was a shame and disgrace for all Saudi women choosing the creme de la creme of Saudi society to meet with Ivanka. Saudi women from all classes and backgrounds have done a tremendous deal fighting for their rights. These would have been the correct pictures of Saudi women to show.
My last point is, what a disgrace and insult for Saudi women to allow two foreign women break the rules of covering up for not … what appearing liberal? Open to other cultures? What about Saudi women, why were they not present in the official meetings like Melania and Ivanka? All the young ambitious powerful faces members of Shoura Council. Well, yes that would have meant for them to come covered up. Or maybe that would have been their chance not to? Well, for sure it would have drawn the light on the contractions leading to hypocritic Saudi lifestyle. That of course is to be avoided.