In the aftermath of the murder, or more accurately the assassination of the investigative journalist Veronica Guerin by the so-called Gilligan drugs-syndicate in 1996 most of the public outrage was focused on the perpetrators and the godfathers of the Irish criminal underworld. What received scant interest at the time, and since, was the status of the wives, girlfriends and families of the gang-lords in Dublin and Limerick. These individuals were given a sort of pass for the activities of their partners despite the fact that most of the women were the enablers and beneficiaries of what was to become a form of low level but still bloody narco-terrorism in the 2000s.
I was reminded of this when reading a recent feature in Vanity Fair on a new book examining some of the background to the inscrutable American First Lady, Melania Trump. Initially the former model-turned-wife was invested by a curious press with all sorts of ridiculous motivations in the early days of the Trump administration and was seen as someone who would exercise a moderating influence on her husband. That of course was utter nonsense as the Slovenian-American proved to be every bit as venal and avaricious as her partner. And how was anyone surprised by that? The article is well worth a read and is a useful reminder that the current First Lady of the United States is more of a Madame Nguyen Van Thieu than a Jackie O.
Yes, we tend to attribute everything they do to these thugs personally. As if they exist and operate in a sort of vacuum, without a support structure and, particularly to your point, as though they alone are the sole beneficiaries of their activities. Trump, for example, is a narcissistic, not-very-bright, criminal who would have floundered entirely within days of reaching the Oval Office without reams of enablers, beneficiaries, and opportunists (that is, the entire Republican Party, his family, and a multitude of equally corrupt business moguls). Similarly, we talk of Putin, Erdogan etc as though they are lone operators, when the truth is they wouldn’t last a minute without their enablers and support structures. None of this is to take away a scintilla of responsibility from “figureheads” but rather to point out that there are multitudes of others who are equally responsible.
The fact that Melania Trump became and remained a wife of Donald tells us all we need to know about her.
LikeLiked by 2 people
My impression is that in the vast majority those who don’t like Trump don’t like Melania either. For the most part they don’t assign her that much importance, and probably shouldn’t as she was always a trophy wife. Mostly Trump’s supporters are the ones who assign Melania and Ivanka much more importance and influence than they actually have. Trump simply doesn’t take female opinion seriously, and that’s a lifelong pattern. Melania is unlikely to be a big influence on this presidency simply because she’s shallow, apolitical, a drop out, detached from public events, and in a marriage where it was understand from the beginning that having any opinions about anything simply wasn’t a part of her job description. A man like Trump would have found another “trophy” if she had not married him and agreed to play the role he wanted. The modeling industry both in the US and Melania’s native Slovenia (among other nations) trains such women by the sackful from the time some of them are still in diapers. My cousins sister in-law avoided being sucked up into that misogynistic training machine at the age of two because she wouldn’t stop screaming at being taken away from her mother to be made up for a shoot. She did fine at a regular daycare two months later. Many such machines are quick to select those who can be shaped to it and reject those who cannot. Some rejects face deadly consequences, while my cousin’s SIL grew up to be a teacher of Civics and ASL (American Sign Language) at a High School.
I see it as a sign of maturity in a way, that most Trump opponents in the US simply don’t focus on Melania or Barron. They may dislike Melania, they don’t necessarily have much sympathy for her, but they realize in the p end she probably isn’t a major policy influence.
How much responsibility wives and girlfriends have in groups like the Gilligan drug-syndicate, The Italian Mafia, drug cartels, extremist groups, terrorist groups and more often is hard to assess. The Italian Mafia both in Italy and countries with large Italian populations was in some times and places so patriarchal group wives never asked questions and indeed marriage to Mafioso wasn’t always voluntary, In others where women often were bosses, bodyguards and more including the notorious “black widow” clan of Naples. Similar things could be said of a variety of extremist groups and crime organizations around the world.
In the US there IS a tendency when looking at extremists groups to look not at the extant minority of women who do hold some positions of power within the organization, but to look to the wives and girlfriend who they insist must be preparing these clowns four course meals from scratch with gourmet lunch boxes and ironing their socks. Do they not realize how many otherwise normal single guys live on Top Ramen noodles, peanut butter, Taco Bell, and Subway, often sniffing socks from the pile of dirty laundry next to their bed because they haven’t gotten around to hauling it to the Laundromat or the washer at the end of the hall?
A lot of what this focus on wives cooking dinners versus the minority of women who really do have positions of power in certain administration, extremist groups, organized crime, and more comes down to a Victorian ideal of “female soft power”, and the whole “separate spheres” concept. The flawed idea was that women have as much power over world events via things like raising children, cooking, granting/withholding sex, feminine wiles and so on. In a lot of cases some feminists have even done a misguided rework, of that idea, but in the end it doesn’t work that way.
The reason there are fewer women with positions of power within these groups is often because the ideology or social mores of the group means that women are discriminated against or excluded.
There have been a few women with powerful roles in the RNC and Trump admin. However, some such as Sarah Sanders have resigned like many of the men. There are women like Phyllis Schlafly who have spent decades as rightwing activists. Schlafly started off as a Cold Warrior, then effectively stopped the ERA, and before her death wrote a book called “The Conservative Case for Trump”.
Honestly the focus on “soft power” among women like Melania is misplaced. Women like Phyllis Schlafly who could manipulate a very, very complex social context as Schlafly did are far more dangerous than trophy wives who every wants to think have more power than they actually do. Then again Schlafly was intelligent, articulate and ironically had a lot of what most feminists wanted. She isn’t as easy to make into a misogynistic sock puppet. Indeed people even mis-represent her actual arguments (which I still don’t buy) because that makes her a little easier to put into a simplistic box.
Intersting ! The first thing that came to my mind was Tony Soprano and Carmella, Walter white and Skyler. I think we as humans try to attain an understanding of these dynamics from the outside.. I don t know of any female writers of x gangsters or gangsters who have written an honest protrayal of the dynamics of the relationship and if they enabled and to what extent… I d also like to say That its not just men in power and women being the enablers I d wonder how much influence Margaret thatchers husband had over her..
We do seem to be comparing gangsters versus the supposed legitimate power holders.. The examples Grace used were Sicily and if im correct the death toll was approx 10 thousand there and it was a horrendously violent period due to power money and drugs and maybe culture per se, We could also look at the drug business that went on in Galicia (importation of cocaine to europe) in the 80 s 90 s early 2000s and we didnt see much violence relative to the quantity and value of the drugs being imported. There has been many women who just get the hell out of dodge when they realise whats happening. In Trumps case Melanie wasnt there before trump got rich and powerful he grew up with shed loads of money money money and Melanie knew what she was getting into. As to what power she has over Trump who knows but he met her late in his life so I m pretty sure he would have been set in his ways and changing his opinion would have been quite difficult…So if Melanie wasnt there I m sure there would be another trophy wife willing to put up with his shite for a billionaires lifestyle…Its obviously not totally clear or cut and dry with trump and Melanie nor was it with gilligan and his.. i would like to make a reference of the Tommaso Buscetta, his wife and families story and the bravery both he and his wife had in standing up to the powers of the mafia..Basically things are never as cler cut and dry as we’d like them to be…
Melania was born to a relatively good situation. Her Daddy in Slovenia was a Party Member and managed car and motorcycle sales for the state mfg. Her modeling career started with a Communist children’s clothing maker, where her mother was a pattern maker. She dropped out of university to take up full time modeling.
The argument that women could stop men from doing bad things, by simply refusing to give them sex and/or other things like cooking meals is at least as old as the play Lysistrata. Even in a society where you have marriage by consent, legal personhood, and where the woman would not end up poor or homeless as a consequence, that idea runs into one simple problem. Powerful men are a tiny minority of the male population, so even if the overwhelming majority of women won’t have them……somebody will. Of course, there are a wide variety of social and historic contexts that can make this reality even worse.
If I see the wife of a bad President I tend to assume “If she didn’t marry him somebody would have.
One case I do see as something of an exception would be the second and third wives of Argentine Strongman Juan Peron. Eva Peron, wife 2, really did campaign for him tirelessly and did use her fame as an actress and marginal origins to whip up support for her husband. The third wife Isabel Martinez de Peron actually succeeded him for a brief period (died of a heart attack), until the notorious “Junta” of the 1970s took the country.
Henry VIII wives on the other hand were all victims as I see it.
Most fall somewhere on the spectrum between “Evita” and Isabel Martinez, versus the women who were effectively forced into those marriages.
Oddly “The Godfather” movies (although I don’t like them for a number of reasons) illustrate how these things often happened with both Michael Corleone’s wives. The first one was an example, of how in some cases the woman (and her father) didn’t always have much of a choice. Think of the scene where Michael first speaks to his Sicilian bride’s Dad, having one of the bodyguards translate. In that social context, how could the Dad have said no without fearing consequences?!?! Some might have seen this as a step up, but the power dynamics were extremely dicey.
The other wife Kay had a choice. She also had plenty of warning, and stupidly pursued him anyway. Yet once married into the mob did you she have any real power? I’d say the last scene in the movie “The Godfather” pretty much says it all.
Eva Braun was a much more despicable person than the fictional “Kay”, but there’s no evidence she actually influenced Nazi policy, or that Hitler would have been stopped if she hadn’t pursued him. Hitler’s niece Geli Raubal was absolutely a victim. Sometimes with real dictators one woman had power and/or a choice, and the other absolutely had neither-not just with fictional mobsters!!!
******I was taught in school that Hitler never so much as kissed Eva Braun before their wedding/suicide. Is that standard in Irish schools or no?
Birds of a feather flock together and so it is with the Donald and Melania marriage.
But Trump would’ve been, and is a bad egg with or without Melania. Mafia Don, despised by his niece and his sister as being cruel, narcissistic and absolutely focussed on personal greed, he attracts the most base elements in American society.
A gangster in anyone’s language it’ll only be a matter of time before he, like others of his ilk, gets the bullet. America is a violent country flooded with weapons, Trump is a big big supporter of citizens being armed, he’s well disposed to using weapons on protestors. Just a matter of time if a heart attack doesn’t get the big fat fast food slob first.
I don’t want Trump assassinated. Luckily, The Secret Service does a pretty good job these days, as they’ve continually upped their game since the Kennedy assassination. They protect former Presidents too.
One of the more curious thing US and Irish society have in common, is that both have a peculiar, unusually strong, and often unpredictable political, historical and cultural chemistry around assassinations and martyrs. In the US this is particularly true about Presidential assassination.
This is NOT suggesting, that the reverence towards Lincoln or the nostalgia for the Kennedy years is simply because both were shot in the head. The other two Garfield and McKinley are seen as relatively forgettable Presidents. However, if Trump was shot and killed, it would likely worsen national polarization and perhaps by a lot. Like many of Obama’s voters were in part dreaming of “another Kennedy”, it could create a number of people who try to get “another Trump” nominated for the GOP ticket. Also if Faux News or all the right wing radio and TV can find so much as one person who expresses joy over Trump’s assassination they are going to play it up as typical of people who didn’t like Trump. All the Confederate flag wavers will be using that to prove “All liberals are hypocrites for condemning those who rejoiced over Lincoln’s death”.
An assassin’s bullet is one of the worst ways the Trump Presidency could end.