Want Melania Trump in the White House? Pay Her
When does women’s work become real work?
When no woman shows up to do it.
It feels like a footnote to the tumult of Month 1 of the Trump presidency, a minor detail easily lost in the toxic stew of news about Russia, executive orders, legal appeals and grammatically challenged Twitter blitzes. But by now, most of America knows that Melania Trump has declared herself the First Lady Who Wouldn’t.
Instead of taking up the mantle of First Hostess and slipping into the role of a landlocked Julie the cruise director without complaint, Melania the Intermittent has chosen to mostly stay in New York City with her young son, at least through the end of the school year, emerging from her gilded penthouse for a White House dinner here or a sightseeing jaunt there.
她并没有接过第一女主人的衣钵，任劳任怨地直接进入岸上的邮轮总监朱莉的角色（七八十年代的电视剧《爱之船》[The Love Boat]里的一个角色——编著），穿梭两地的梅拉尼娅选择了大部分时间留在纽约与幼子待在一起，至少在学年结束之前会这样，虽然她不时也会从金碧辉煌的顶层公寓里出来，去参加白宫晚餐或者观光游览。
While a libel lawsuit suggests that Mrs. Trump had an eye on eventually monetizing her role as “one of the most photographed women in the world,” she has seemed uninterested in doing the work of the first lady. She waited until the end of January to name a social secretary and has yet to hire a full staff for her office. During his news conference Thursday, President Trump gave a progress report, explaining that his wife had “opened up the visitors center” and predicted that she would be a “fantastic” first lady, insofar as she was “always the highest quality that you’ll ever find.”
You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Now that Mr. Trump has turned 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue into a bachelor pad, it’s clear that we’ve been taking our first ladies for granted.
For decades, we’ve assumed that the wife of the man in the Oval Office would ditch whatever else she had going on — a law career, a lucrative job as a hospital administrator, a quiet life as a stay-at-home mom — to take on the gig. Since Martha Washington, the first lady has been the nation’s hostess; since Eleanor Roosevelt, she’s also championed a cause, usually related to women and children. She welcomes visiting dignitaries, entertains their spouses, hosts holiday parties and mom-dances with Jimmy Fallon, all with the public and the paparazzi ready to pounce on any wardrobe infelicities or bad hair days.
几十年来，我们一直假设，椭圆形办公室里那个男人的妻子会放弃自己在做的任何其他事情——法律事业、作为医院管理者的高薪职业、作为全职妈妈的安静生活——来承担这份工作。自从玛莎·华盛顿(Martha Washington)以来，第一夫人一直是这个国家招待宾客的女主人；自从埃莉诺·罗斯福(Eleanor Roosevelt)之后，第一夫人也会支持一项事业，通常与妇女和儿童有关。她欢迎来访的贵宾，款待他们的配偶，举办假日聚会，与吉米·法伦(Jimmy Fallon)一起演绎妈妈舞蹈，与此同时公众和狗仔队都已经好了准备，随时可以批评她们在着装或者发型上的瑕疵。
It’s a job few would sign up for. Yet we’ve expected our first ladies to do it all, without benefit of a paycheck, or even a budget for clothing: While the first lady’s office has a budget, her role is considered an “office of honor,” which is fancy for “you’ll get nothing and like it.”
Michelle Obama made it look not just glamorous but effortless, and if she was ever peeved that her work went uncompensated, she never complained.
Now Mrs. Trump’s absence raises an interesting question — if this is labor, shouldn’t we be paying for it? It also exposes the problem feminism has always had with housework, in the White House or elsewhere.
In the 1960s and ’70s, second-wave feminists sought to get women into the workplace. Many insisted that housework was mindless drudgery and that fulfillment could be found only outside of the home. In 1970, Gloria Steinem said that “housewives are dependent creatures who are still children”; Betty Friedan said, “No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor.”
在20世纪60和70年代，第二波女权主义者试图让女性进入职场。很多人坚称，家务是不动脑的苦差事，她们的成就感只能在家庭之外才能找到。1970年，格洛丽亚·斯泰纳姆(Gloria Steinem)说“家庭主妇是依赖者，她们仍然是孩子”；贝蒂·弗里丹(Betty Friedan)说，“没有女人会在擦厨房地板时获得高潮。”
And so, instead of on-site day care, flexible schedules, parental leave for men and women and a path to the top that did not punish parents for spending time at home, feminists made their priority the rights of women to get the same education, work the same long hours, earn the same wages and make the same difficult choices between work and family as men.
Some women assimilated, donning shoulder pads and faux-ties, becoming, as Ms. Steinem memorably put it, the men they were once supposed to marry, earning law and medical degrees, becoming corporate executives and Fox News contributors.
But housework is famously intransigent. When Mom and Dad both work, someone still has to buy the groceries and schedule the doctor visits.
Sometimes, in middle-class and upper-middle-class homes, that someone is a nanny or a housekeeper, a woman — frequently a minority woman — who tends to the house and the children so that both parents can hold paying jobs. Because our culture has devalued domestic work, caring for houses and children remains low-paying and unregulated.
In 2012, the National Domestic Workers Alliance found that 23 percent of workers were paid below their state’s minimum wage. Fewer than 9 percent of families in the study paid the Social Security tax on their domestic help’s salary.
2012年，美国家庭佣人联盟(National Domestic Workers Alliance)发现23%的佣人的薪水低于他们所在州的最低工资。研究还发现，只有不到9%的家庭为其佣人的工资缴纳社会保障税。
Not all working women have made their gains on the backs of an underpaid maid or nanny. Some women never worked outside the house, either because they didn’t want to or because it didn’t make sense financially. Others resigned themselves to putting in the so-called second shift after getting home from the office.
The White House is different — it’s not as if Mrs. Trump will be picking up stray Legos, begging, “Can I please just have five minutes to myself?” while her husband asks if she’s gotten the dry cleaning. But being first lady is, essentially, being the White Housewife, taking on all of the White Housework, which includes so much travel and public speaking that Ronald Reagan once joked that with his wife, Nancy, “the government gets an employee free; they have her just about as busy as they have me.”
Now that our first lady has just said no, desperate times call for desperate measures. If we want our White House to continue to function as the people’s house, if we want that Christmas tree lit and those Easter eggs rolled, it’s time to pony up.
“Free Melania”? If she’s willing to do the work, let’s pay her instead.